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Public art to scrap metal

A protective fence surrounds what remains of Not Without Chomley, a deeply loved artwork in Gasworks Park. Something was missing.

In November 2023, the perky free standing bronze dog that formed part of Not Without Chomley was stolen. Created by ‘avid’ dog lover and sculptor, Anne Ross, it has endured over thirty years as a perfect fit for this dog loving park.

Not without Chomley, Anne Ross, Gasworks Park 2014

When Gasworks Park was still emerging as a park, the City of South Melbourne held a public sculpture exhibition where the sculpture was exhibited.

Mayor Shane Dowling purchased the sculpture as a gift to the people of South Melbourne. At that time, it was made of ciment fondu1, a fragile material but all that the artist could afford.

One night it was smashed to pieces with a sledge hammer. The community distress at the vandalism prompted the Council, then under the leadership of Mayor Frank O’Connor, to have the sculpture recast in bronze This was the beginning of the Gasworks public sculpture collection.2

The City of Port Phillip is making an insurance claim for the stolen dog.

In 2022, the weather vane was stolen from the roof of the Mission to Seafarers in a brazen act of vandalism. The weather vane, more properly a finial, had been on the pinnacle of the Mission since 1917. Its purpose was to direct captains preparing to leave port. The bronze and copper finial weighed at least 30 kg and was worth about $50,000.

It was also a beautiful object. Sue Dight described it: “the metal of the sails curve as though billowing in the wind, the bulging hull of the ship, and the delicate rigging details make it quite a special object for something that is also structurally robust, and was intended to serve use as a meteorological instrument”.3

The sculpture has never been found. It is likely that it has been melted down.

Metal theft of a more pedestrian but no less damaging kind has been occurring throughout Melbourne in recent years. While plans for Fishermans Bend envisage the area as peopled and lively, at this time, especially at at the western end, it is far from it. Todd Road in Fishermans Bend is a bit of a no man’s land. Vehicles and Port traffic pass through, and cyclists, but few people walk this way. The large former Herald and Weekly Times (HWT) site on Todd Rd is vacant. The gatehouse is empty. The tennis court and rotunda grow weedy.

Copper wiring has been stripped out of the Herald and Weekly Times buildings. A security guard on Todd Rd told me that she is there because thieves were bringing in machines to winch lengths of copper wire from underground pits.

Copper is commonly used in electrical motors, wiring, and anything that requires electricity.  It has a wide range of uses including powering homes, in mobile network technology, and streetlights. 

Anyone who deals in scrap metal in Victoria must be a registered second-hand dealer. Melbourne Copper Recycling advertises rates between $7 and $11 per kilo for different kinds of copper scrap: Copper Burnt/Tinned, Copper Candy, Copper Domestic, Copper Millberry, Insulated Scrap copper wire, insulated copper wire (medium grade) Insulated copper wire (low grade).

Copper theft is a problem regionally and globally. Thieves put themselves and the community at risk of electrocution and death, by leaving wires exposed. It also disrupts vital services such as power supply.

Thieves from the HWT site broke into Westgate Biodiversity: Bili Nursery & Landcare’s compound. They broke down the gate and stole the trailer and several chainsaws. The small community group can ill afford to replace them, but their work depends on this vital equipment.

This is what has been happening in Port Places, but what do you make of it?


1 Ciment Fondu is a hydraulic binder with an alumina content of approximately 40%. Composed mainly of calcium aluminate phases, The primary mineralogical phase is calcium aluminate (CaAl2O4), which imparts excellent mechanical strength to mortars and concretes. (source: Newtons Building and Landscape)

2 Gasworks: Not Without Chomley

3 Mission to Seafarers: Ship to Shore, Issue 1: 2022

4 Melbourne Copperscraps


  • Heather Wheat

    We are surrounded by miserable unthinking people who simply don’t understand what it is to belong. Trite perhaps but I can’t think of another explanation . Sad

  • Anne Callaghan

    I am very disappointed in our community; this was a piece of artwork designed by artist I know well. I’m sure this had very little to do with its monetary value. Disadvantaged people don’t do this sort of thing; the Murdoch Press would have us believe otherwise, but we need to resist this kind of baseless thinking. I firmly believe this was the action of an anti-LGBTQI+ actor, NOT someone looking to make a quick dollar. Of all the people I have talked to about this - and believe me the community is very angry - none believe this is anything other than an anti-LGBTQI statement being inflamed by recent statements from overseas “internet personalities’’. Thank you Janet for bringing this to more people’s attention; I feel you are now almost the sole working journalist covering topic of interest to most Port/South Melbournians.

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