|.. amazed that the
conventional dream factors (freedom and speed etc.) remain in the
advertising companies’ arsenal, given that you get ample opportunity
to study these billboards and see them for the infuriating lies they
are when you’re caught up in some traffic snarl on a so-called
I’m going to change my focus to politics now, so be warned.
Believe it or not I’ve got a modicum of respect for little Johnny
Howard’s legacy, i.e. the gun laws and the well-intentioned
Murray-Darling Basin Authority, but in two important social areas
at least he seems to have been wholly seduced by the American capitalist
system, a system that can appear to us Aussie socialists, as socialists
we are whether Labor or Liberal supporters, to be skewed towards preserving
the privileged way of life of the very rich.
One of these was the introduction of private medical insurance to
exist alongside the previously perfectly acceptable public system
we already have, and the other was to undermine the free school education
system, by encouraging families to send their best and brightest to
magnificently endowed (by philanthropists and the government) private
schools. Then there was the introduction of pay-your-own-way University
degrees replacing the free tertiary education that Gough Whitlam introduced
in the ‘70s, that discourages and disadvantages bright kids
from poorer Australian families.
Both of these measures are manifestly class based and characterised
by the promulgation of fear by the government to the vulnerable middle-classes.
Of course, all this is the stuff of debate, but one of the visual
symptoms of the competition for our money now encouraged in the school
system is billboards, usually strategically placed on the fence-line
of the school itself, but occasionally further afield in other student
Coming from the subdued tree-lined circuits of Canberra where private
schools are relatively few, Maria was astonished at the numerous school
billboards attempting to lure paying students (well, paying parents
really) to their unsurpassed facility when she took up residence in
Melbourne. This isn’t the student-catching time of the year,
but I’ve managed to take a few pics to give you an idea of the
sort of thing the fearful parent has to deal with.
The first pic is of a billboard on the corner of Mountain Hwy and
Boronia Rd advertising the previously unsuspected advantages of attending
Billanook College. As mentioned, this is out of season, so either
they’ve had a flood of deserters (in which case, ‘Things
are crook in Billanook’ would be an appropriate slogan) or they’ve
got a great deal on the billboard. Their chosen motto ‘Belong
at Billanook’ ranks with ‘Victoria the place to be’
as the weakest motto - evah.
The second billboard pictured is an invitation to paedophiles and
bike-seat sniffers to attend a guided tour of the noble girls’
school of Siena in Middle Camberwell, moments away from my old pad
in Surrey Hills. The board (perhaps not big enough to qualify as a
billboard) features an Asian student and is a conspicuous expense
– most schools wouldn’t be that elaborate for the tourist
Not too many actual billboards advertising school wares to discuss
unfortunately, but Forest Hill College (pic 3) has incorporated
their billboard sentiment on the side of the school itself where it
may conceivably lurk for a decade or more. It’s a fairly lofty
motto – ‘To inspire passionate, positive and curious learners’
– and it sounds like it’s the result of a parent committee
meeting and incorporates all the ideas left on the table.
There was a billboard even loftier than the Forest Hill mob near the
Caulfield campus of Monash University that featured some elevated
thought befitting the attention of a prospective tertiary student,
but it’s been withdrawn in the meantime and I’ve forgotten
the exact wording. Undeterred I’ve plumbed the Monash website
and made an educated guess.
I think the billboard included the enigmatic ‘Progress doesn’t
accept answers, it questions them’ and the more phlegmatic ‘New
problems, new thinking’ slogans. (Pics 4 & 5) With
the first I’m assuming that the university sees its clients
as Progress and the suggested questioning the status quo is not a
bad starting point for a University education I suppose. However,
I surmised from the second that the new problems mentioned might actually
be the result of your new thinking last time around.
The last billboard photo is of a board that Maria pointed out as we
were driving home in Bulleen Road, Bulleen. This was just after she’d
identified the Veneto Club as a fine, if spoiled example of brutalist
architecture,* (and as she was driving at the time you have to wonder
where her attention was).
We’d just been to see the very fine Diane Arbus exhibition at
the Heidi Museum of Modern Art, where I’d tempted Fate with
a memorably flawless cappuccino (this is despite or perhaps because
at the time I was wearing a twenty-four hour Holter monitor (pic
7) to check for possible heart aberrations).
According to the no-frills sponsored billboard they’re looking
at 2019 already and want conscientious Catholic parents to consider
a Catholic school named after a lesser-known Roman saint to keep their
off-spring on the straight and narrow - as prescribed by a church
very publicly struggling with its own demons involving caring for
young school children. Good luck with that.
* By Italian émigré architect, Ermin Smrekar
happy boys and girls at Billanook College looking for some playmates
2) A common enough invitation at this time of
3) How passionate, inspired
and curious do you want me to be? 4) You're mixing with the big boys
now and flirting with uncertainty
5) I reckon
there are some old problems that could do with some new thinking 6)
Now's a good time to start worrying about next yer 7) Welcome to my