How a vandal’s bizarre reaction to climate banner could be a sign of voter anger

When Nathalie Gits put up a “Climate Action Now” sign outside her home on Sydney‘s quiet and leafy upper north shore she didn’t think anything much would happen.
The busy small-business owner said she saw it as a way of doing her bit to raise awareness about climate change.

She definitely never expected to see the bizarre words “demon cultist” graffitied across her front picket fence.

The graffiti spray painted on Nathalie Gits' front fence in response to her climate sign.
The graffiti spray painted on Nathalie Gits’ front fence in response to her climate sign. (Supplied: Nathalie Gits)
While the vandalism in Gits’ case is extreme, other residents have reported climate change signs being torn down or stolen during this federal election campaign.

Several independent candidates’ have had campaign materials defaced, along with some from Labor and the Liberal party.

The bewildering backlash all began for Gits about a week ago when the climate action sign she put up in early May was stolen.

A “Climate Action Now” sticker on her son’s car window was also removed.

Undeterred, the Thornleigh resident put another sign on her front lawn.

A few days later, on Sunday night, the vandal struck, spray-painting the strange message on her fence.

Gits said she was left both stunned and baffled.

“I was shocked but at the same time… I’m still not sure what it means,” she said.

“We’re not part of any demon cult, I’m just a small-business owner. It’s just really weird.”

Climate Action Network Australia makes the Climate Action Now signs, which are distributed by various organizations.
Climate Action Network Australia makes the Climate Action Now signs, which are distributed by various organizations. (Nature Conservation Council of NSW)

Gits said she reported the matter to police and put a white sheet over the fence to temporarily cover the graffiti.

But the next morning she discovered the sheet had been stolen too.

“It’s now moving into bullying and harassment for me because it’s not just a single act. We’re starting to feel unsafe in our home,” she said.

Although she and her family had been shaken by the vandalism, Gits said she was determined to keep the climate sign up, at least until after the election this weekend.

“I don’t want to have bullies dictate my life,” she said.

“If they want to have a conversation about why they did that and why they are so anxious about the sign they should just knock on the door and we can have a friendly chat.

“They can explain their position and we can just discuss it like adults.”

‘Our signs are apolitical’

Sam Johnson, from Annandale in Sydney’s inner-west, is part of a small team that has distributed some 5,000 “Climate Action Now” signs across New South Wales as part of a Nature Conservation Council of the NSW campaign.

Johnson said climate signs had been stolen from outside his own home twice, and he’d heard of it happening to others too.

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“I had one sign up, that got ripped off and then I put up two more and those were ripped off,” he said.

“I’ve now got three in total now, including one on the door, that are yet to be removed.”

Johnson said he had heard reports from the organization’s sign distribution hubs of the materials getting stolen or ripped down.

“I’ve heard there are lots of signs of being ripped down,” he said.

“I’m also being told – time and time again – that lots of businesses and residences aren’t putting the signs up because they’re scared that there may be some kind of backlash, especially in those communities where there’s potentially isn’t much understanding about the issue. “

Dai Le's campaign posters in south-west Sydney have been vandalized in Fowler.
Dai Le, an independent candidate in south-west Sydney, is just one of many candidates to have vandalized signs. (9News)

Johnson said while climate change was no doubt a big issue this election, the signs themselves weren’t political.

“The interesting thing is our signs are apolitical, they’re not really telling anyone how to vote,” he said.

“The signs were up before the election and will stay after the election.”

Is the vandalism worse this election?

Reports of candidates’ corflutes being defaced and stolen this election have been rife.

Earlier this month, Queensland police said more than 1,000 corflutes were stolen from the marginal far north electorate of Leichhardt.

Coalition sitting member Warren Entsch said more than 400 of his signs, each worth about $ 8, had been stolen.

“They have been stolen in previous campaigns but not to this level, ever before,” he told the ABC.

Independent candidate for Kooyong Monique Ryan has had her signs defaced, as has her opponent Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
Independent candidate for Kooyong Monique Ryan has had her signs defaced, as has her opponent Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. (Facebook)
Independent candidate Dai Le, who is running for the south-west Sydney seat of Fowler, has also spoken about her signage being defaced and graffitied.

Corflutes with her face on them have been cut up and scrawled with writing in Vietnamese accusing her of being an “evil killer” and a “communist”.

Dr Maxine Newlands is a political scientist and lecturer at James Cook University.

Newlands said campaign material was vandalized at every election but it seemed to be more widespread this year.

That could stem in part from the polarization of politics, which has been happening since about 2016, she said.

“At the extreme, people get really annoyed and so if they see something they don’t like, they sort of reject it,” she said.

“The way politics has gone it’s either you’re in this camp or that camp.

“People are annoyed and they’re reacting and they may be annoyed because politics has become so polarized.”

Newlands said the public acts of destruction could simply be a sign of “frustration boiling over”.

“People don’t think their voices are being heard, and it’s not enough to kind of make comments online, or they don’t want to go on social media and make comments, so they use different forms to express themselves,” she said. .

Contact reporter Emily McPherson at

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