Published on 08 October 2021

The saint of paint

When Hackham West’s Neville Radford joined City of Onkaparinga’s Graffiti Removal Volunteer Team in September 2012, he had no idea of the impact it’d have on his life and the community.

Almost a decade later—and some 4770 hours, removing an incredible 29,500 pieces of graffiti—Neville is hanging up the paintbrush for some much-needed R & R.

“The first reason [he joined the team] was through being on the dole, but once that finished, I just kept going because I liked doing it,” Neville says.

“You get out and meet new people, friends. Over the time there’s been about 15 people that have come and gone and quite a few of them I keep in contact with.”

City of Onkaparinga’s Graffiti Removal Volunteer Team, which includes around 24 people, operates from Monday to Friday using fully equipped graffiti removal vehicles.

Their work, combined with that of a contractor that does pressure cleaning and elevated work, covers every inch of the City of Onkaparinga. Neville’s patch was mostly in the north of the city, covering suburbs such as Aberfoyle Park, Flagstaff Hill and Morphett Vale on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Asked if he felt he’d made a difference, Neville responds immediately.

“Oh yeah,” he says.

“It’s [graffiti] been getting less and less. That’s what we’re out there for. It gives you fulfilment, that you’re cleaning up the area. It gives you a sense of wanting to be there and wanting to do it.”

Neville’s work has seen him recognised with multiple awards, including a 2020 Premier’s Award for Outstanding Achievement by Volunteers, and the Amanda Rishworth’s 2018 Annual Southern Suburbs Volunteer Service Award.

City of Onkaparinga Asset Protection Officer Graffiti, Geoff Molloy, says Neville has been an invaluable asset to the team and to the community.

“He’s been one of the most reliable volunteers,” Geoff says.

“Every week, we don’t have to tell him what to do, and he works with everybody and anybody on the team.

“He took on all the trainees too, teaching them the where, what, why and how, and all our guidelines.

“Graffiti concerns everyone in the community because it’s costly, unsightly and it makes some people feel unsafe.

“Neville’s work has helped make our city a better place to live and visit.”

His time with the team now at an end, Neville says he’s now simply going to enjoy himself.

“The old legs are just about buggered, so I’ll do a bit of fishing when my mate’s here, watch the Crows… just relax” he says.

Enjoy, Neville—you’ve earned it!

Learn more about City of Onkaparinga’s graffiti management program at council’s website, where you can also see the latest volunteering opportunities that are available.

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Neville Radford stands in front of some green foliage wearing a high-vis paint-splashed shirt and a cap.