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What is graffiti?

Graffiti means anything that is marked, stamped, drawn, scratched or otherwise used to deface property. It is only graffiti if the marks are not easily removed by wiping with a dry cloth. It includes material that is burned or affixed (so pasted onto property, like a notice, sticker, poster, stencil or transfer).

Graffiti implements (tools)

There are 2 different categories of graffiti tools:

  • spray-paint (a prescribed graffiti tool)
  • anything that is capable of being used to make graffiti.

The distinction is important because different laws apply to spray-paint. It is an offence to possess spray-paint in some areas without a lawful excuse. The Act allows for more graffiti tools to be treated in this way, but currently only spray-paint is prescribed.

Is an item a graffiti tool?

This will depend on the context. The definition is very broad and police may take a hard line on this. If this is in dispute, it will be up to the court to decide.

For example, a set of keys could be a graffiti tool if there is damage to paintwork nearby and the colour matches shards of paint wedged in the key grooves. So a graffiti tool could also be a sharp stick, a can of paint or glue, a texta, paint tube or pencil, shard of glass, lighter, burned cork, shoe polish or any other item with the potential to leave a mark that can not be rubbed off with a dry cloth.

It is illegal to have spray-paint in some locations

People are prohibited from possessing prescribed graffiti tools on, in or adjacent (close and visible) to property that belongs to a train or bus transport company. People are also prohibited from having prescribed graffiti tools if they are trespassing on any property, that is, if they are on property without permission to be there.

Police may search for spray-paint in or around transport property like railways stations, rail carriages, bus shelters and bus depots in some circumstances.

The law reverses the onus of proof so that if spray-paint is found, the person will need a lawful excuse.

See 'Search and seizure of graffiti tools' (below)

More information


Graffiti Prevention Act 2007 (Vic)

  • s. 3—defines graffiti, graffiti implement, adjacent public place and graffiti offence
  • s. 7—offence of possessing a prescribed graffiti implement

See Graffiti Prevention Act 2007 (Vic)(opens in a new window)

Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) (Conduct on Public Transport) Regulations 2015 (Vic)

  • r. 37—graffiti
  • r. 20—damage to property
  • r. 38—scratching or burning

See Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) (Conduct on Public Transport) Regulations 2015 (Vic)(opens in a new window)

Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic)

  • s.3—gives definition of public place for the purposes of search for prescribed graffiti tools

See Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic)(opens in a new window)