Cronulla 05

Here are twenty-five sometimes passionate posts written during the Cronulla affair of December 2005. I see this period as something of a watershed for Australian multiculturalism. There will be some links that are no longer viable after two years. See also Four Corners: Riot and Revenge (March 2006).

1. Bad blood boils in the Cronulla stomp – National – 2005-12-08

This was my first entry on this affair which, with its sequels, attracted an amazing amount of attention during December. For details, go to the December 2005 archive.

Ugly scenes at my old beach.

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When I began teaching at Cronulla High 1965 (prac) and 1966 (appointed), the main street looked like this.

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This is a recent pic, but I recognise it and can almost hear and smell the sea and the Norfolk Island pine trees.

…racial tension resurfaced at the beach when a group of young men started brawling with three locals outside Cronulla’s lifesaving club, then turned on a news photographer as police intervened. Police arrested a 20-year-old man from Riverwood and charged him with smashing the photographer’s camera. They were still looking for the rest of the men last night and said they had not ruled out a link between yesterday’s violence and Sunday’s attack.

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Erika Lamour, 18, was at the beach yesterday when the violence broke out. "I saw a group of ethnic people come down as usual and try to start a fight," she said. "They always do it. I didn’t actually see the fight. But I saw everyone running towards the club." Ms Lamour said the gangs that roamed the beach targeted the locals. "They always come down trying to start trouble. It’s the only reason we don’t want to come down, because we know we will get harassed."

She said she had received an email asking locals to come to the beach this Sunday. "I got an email this morning saying that all the [Sutherland] Shire people should come down on Sunday and we should reclaim the Shire."

After Sunday’s violence, lifesavers said gangs had been intimidating them and beachgoers in the southern and eastern suburbs for two years. The State Opposition says police cannot respond to the violence quickly enough because they have lost 18 officers in the Cronulla area.

Chief Superintendent Robert Redfern said yesterday’s violence started at 4.20pm when three local youths made a comment to a group of about six Middle Eastern-looking men at the beach. The comment sparked a fight. "As a result of the fight, one of the males coming off the beach received a cut to the face and some bruising," he said.

Detective Inspector Steve O’Grady said one of the men involved in the fight had left the beach before police arrived. He said tensions were still high when they got there.

Worth highlighting that couple of sentences, though this is not to deny that the "usual suspects" often act out their own stereotypes only too well. Or some groups within their communities do; probably most do not. Testosterone too has a lot to answer for, as well as, perhaps even more than, culture. Judging from ABC Radio 702 this morning, the police do seem to be handling things well now and the locals would be well advised to leave it to the police.

Judge for yourselves the email doing the rounds in Sutherland Shire. And here is what a right-wing piece of shit does with the story. This one is more balanced, from a girl who is a lifesaver at Elouera, "300m walk tops" from North Cronulla. But one cannot help sympathising with Larissa:

Tuesday, December 6

This is just disgusting.

These guys volunteer to help keep people safe. They give up their free time to make sure no one in their local community gets injured and also give up their lives to save people like these louts.

As someone who’s grown up in Cronulla it angers me that people come and do this.

Don’t bring your sort of lifestyle to our area, just because you’re bored with yours mean you should do that here. Either play nicely or stay away.

Mind you, there have been earlier, and worse, incidents, such as this one reported in NSW Hansard in February 2001.

[Cronulla] is an outpost, an area where the population increases dramatically during the summer. As my correspondent has said, there is gang activity. On Thursday 15 February the Commissioner of Police was interviewed on radio by John Stanley. The transcript of that interview reads, in part:

John Stanley: And your problem is, if you sent more police to Cabramatta, they would be taken from areas like Cronulla, where we had all those calls last week about that gang problem, that I think you are aware of. These people are coming in from other parts of Sydney, into Cronulla and are causing big problems there.

Commissioner Ryan: They are causing huge problems there.

One of those huge problems occurred two days after Christmas. Following a dispute at a Sutherland nightclub, a gang of 30 Lebanese Australian males arrived at Cronulla railway station with baseball bats, iron bars, knives and guns. They open fired on a rival gang, spraying more than 20 bullets over a 50-metre area. Such behaviour and activity are totally foreign. The Premier would be aware of the writings of a former New York senator, Patrick Daniel Moynihan. Back in the 1960s he wrote an essay entitled "Defining Deviancy Down". That summarises these appalling standards of behaviour. Previously, this incident would have made headlines all over Sydney…

Mr George: Throughout New South Wales.

Mr KERR: Indeed, throughout New South Wales, but it did not because it is so commonplace. The mayor of Sutherland shire wants surveillance cameras, and there is no reason why the council cannot put surveillance cameras in the places sought by the mayor, although the problem exists throughout the Sutherland shire. The Carr Government has failed in its basic responsibility to maintain an orderly society and should therefore make a financial contribution towards the cost of the cameras. On behalf of the people of the Sutherland shire I ask the mayor to indicate when those cameras will be installed in Cronulla.

While I freely admit that troubling, troubled, and trouble-making (and usually virulently homophobic) groups of "middle eastern appearance" are an unlovely feature of Sydney life, it is very important to keep a sense of proportion on this: see Tunnel Vision: The Politicising Of Ethnic Crime by Paola Totaro (2003) for such a perspective. For much more detailed argument, see (PDF file) Scott Poynting Living with Racism: The experience and reporting by Arab and Muslim Australians of discrimination, abuse and violence since 11 September 2001 (2004).

It should be noted that, in the ideology of racism, categorical confusions between ‘race’ (eg ‘Middle Eastern Appearance’), ethnicity (eg Arab), nationality of origin or background (eg Lebanese), and religion (eg Muslim) are common, and distinction in practice between racism directed on ‘racial’, ethnic, or national grounds is not always possible or valid. This is all the more problematic currently, for over about the last decade, especially since panics from 1998 over ‘ethnic gangs’, over ‘race rapes’ in Sydney in 2000-2001, and asylum seekers and then the terror attacks from 2001, we have seen the emergence of we might call ‘the Arab Other’ as the pre-eminent folk devil in contemporary Australia (Poynting, Noble, Tabar and Collins, 2004). The links that are made between these events, the ‘perpetrators’ involved and their perceived communities, depend on the racist imagining of a supposedly homogenous category which includes those of Arab or Middle Eastern or Muslim background. This is not a singular category, of course — it includes people from diverse ancestries and with very distinct histories — but it is seen to be a singular category. A common factor is found through blaming whole communities for criminal acts, but also in labelling as ‘deviant’ certain actions — such as seeking asylum — and a range of other practices whose key feature is their visible and threatening difference — such as building a prayer centre (Dunn, 2001).

The extent to which the categories of race, ethnicity (culture) and religion are conflated in the ‘common sense’ of racism* is an aspect which needs to be studied, especially in as much as it determines the scope of legislation and the targeting of anti-racist initiatives and resources…

Poynting’s long article has much to commend it, including some disturbing personal stories.

* Here is a typical example of this confusion of categories, though this blogger at least is "not stupid enough to go down on sunday and get my head kicked in."

2. Views from Towradgi: Race rumbling ! 2005-12-08 1:43:00 pm

This version of what has happened at Cronulla is worth taking into account. The people who act like this are truly morons, whatever their background might be, but then so are the senders of the "let’s have a war on Sunday" messages.

This comment is eloquent in its way: …wogs dont start shit..its only a select few lebs that do it and then everyone of us cops it…really sad…. its should stop…ppl shouldnt have to get hurt.

Migrant Matters : Blog Archive : Ethnic issues hit the headlines

This blog criticises the media for reporting on the vigilante-style message circulating in The Shire. I, on the other hand, earlier today linked to that actual message, and have just done so again. I really hope you look at it, because it reveals more than enough about its author. Jason Ford, a sixteen-year-old Shire boy, not the author but one of a number who have published the message, says the right thing in his commentary, and I congratulate him on having a clear head. I hope lots of young people think as he does.

3. Police warn over beach ‘war’ – The Nation – Breaking News 24/7 – surfer Koby Abberton has called for peace. 2005-12-10

This is interesting.

The big-wave rider from Maroubra, a Sydney beach that has experienced its own troubles with gang violence, said the ‘Bra Boys’ gang would not support any revenge attacks against Middle Eastern groups…

Abberton, who was convicted last month of perverting the course of justice in relation to a murder charge against his brother, Jai, who was acquitted, said many of his friends had Lebanese backgrounds.

"There are Lebanese guys in the Bra Boys, Samoans, Aboriginals … we open our arms to them," he said. But Cronulla locals said they were expecting trouble on Sunday when "Aussies" from suburbs including Bondi were planning to fight with Lebanese groups at 2pm.

They have an interesting history too. Ask anyone around Oxford Street in the early 1990s, and see Dr Paul White:

This same approach runs through the coverage of the shootings of four criminal identities in South-Western Sydney during 2003-2004. Would the ethnic origins of the perpetrator and witnesses of these offences have been mentioned had they been Anglo-Australians living in Maroubra, Manly or Bondi? To ask this question is to answer it. This is evident from the radically different media treatment of Anglo white gangs in Maroubra and of Melbourne’s comparatively chronic gangland killings of recent times.

Maroubra’s "Bra Boys" gang is led by a young man described by one of his peers as a rapist, murderer, drug dealer and "maggot". This gang and other Maroubra gangs are notorious for their senseless violence – including attacks on police officers and rapes.

In December 2002, the Bra Boys injured at least 30 off-duty police officers, including female officers. At the time of this incident, Commissioner Dick Adams denied the Bra Boys were a sinister gang, merely a collection of board riders with a drunken hooligan element. Lexington Place in Maroubra South has experienced ongoing assaults of Asian shopkeepers, the bashing and robbery of a family of three, racial abuse and other offences, including a murder and a malicious wounding.

Kai Abberton, a Bra Boys founder, was charged in August 2003 with the shooting murder of another local, Anthony Hines. Significantly, the ethnicity of gang members is never mentioned in media reports of their infamous exploits.

Koby Abberton’s recent difficulties came from that crime of his brother; you can read the details — and the mitigating circumstances — on Australian Story (07 November 2005).

Man of Lettuce, the Sydney cabbie blog, is very interesting on this, and he attracted a heap of comments that are well worth reading, including some from gang members themselves. Some added there in the last couple of days are very scary, and lead one to speculate on how much influence Koby Abberton actually has these days on younger gang members.

** Adrian, the cabbie, has had more to say on this today. His blog, while right-wing, is one of the most interesting ones in Sydney, enjoyable even when, as is not infrequent, I may not share his views — but I really admire his writing for its style and authenticity, and even wisdom.

Check the comments on both of Adrian’s entries.

Jason Ford’s blog. Well said, Jason!

4. My English and ESL Blog: Korean Student Forum 8 September 2004

I refer you to this as an example of the kinds of positive action that can address such matters as "ethnic gangs", in this case Korean. The Korean community itself initiated this action.

This very valuable day was organised by the Consulate-General of the Republic of Korea, the NSW Department of Education and Training, the Australian-Korea Welfare Association, and Korea-Australasia Research Centre (KAREC) at UNSW. In his opening remarks, Dr Chung Suk Suh from the University of NSW set the task: to identify issues concerning Korean students and to begin exploring collaborative strategies to address these issues. The day was characterised by great openness and frankness. Dr Chung memorably reminded us at one point that diversity is not a problem to be solved, but a rich resource to be tapped…

In the "behaviour" workshop one of the police officers said something that adds perspective. He said that if we see a group of young people kicking a soccer ball around a park we feel positive about it, but if you take away the soccer ball and have the same group a bit later at night, or at a mall, people start saying "It’s a gang." There’s something in that…

Today’s editorial in the Sun-Herald is very good.

THE bashing of two lifesavers at Cronulla last Sunday has rightly elicited general outrage. The story got progressively worse during the week. The alleged bashers turn out to be of Middle Eastern background, and not from the Sutherland Shire. Moreover the alleged events fit a pattern of misbehaviour by crowds of similar youths – less serious, but nonetheless objectionable. Talkback radio and website blogs have been running hot with the comments of angry or alarmed residents of the area, and with calls for vigilante action. Police patrols have been stepped up and helicopters are hovering over the sand and the surf, watching for signs of trouble. It is time everyone calmed down.

Testosterone-fuelled misbehaviour at beaches – not just Cronulla – is common. That does not excuse it, but it should be placed in context. The beach is where Australians relax, but it is also where cultures mix at leisure. Or they should. In practice it does not quite work like that. The beach culture tends to dominate as those who live nearby gradually acquire a proprietary attitude towards the beach itself. "This is our beach," said one inflammatory text message circulating this week. Our beach? Who are "we" here?…

…Quite apart from the events of last week, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that indeed some do rove in packs and on the beach their behaviour can be ill-mannered in the extreme. The fact that they may feel excluded by the beach culture, and that their exaggerated aggression springs from a feeling of inferiority, is no excuse. Nor, however, is it a reason to demonise a whole ethnic group. Soon enough the hoons will learn acceptance is gained by behaving as if they are accepted, not by mindless self-assertion. The beach belongs to everyone – in-groups and out-groups alike.

Well said.

5. Scuffles break out at Cronulla – National – 2005-12-11 3:08:00 pm

"Scuffles have broken out after about 5000 people, some yelling racist chants, converged on Sydney’s Cronulla Beach amid fears of more violence there. Two men of Middle Eastern appearance were seen being pursued and attacked as they tried to flee the crowd. One of them was later escorted away by police, with blood streaming from his brow. As the second man fled, his shirt was torn by an angry group pursuing him on foot… Broken beer bottles scattered Elouera Road, with many in the crowd drinking heavily… Others in the crowd, carrying Australian flags and dressed in Australian shirts, yelled ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie … Oi, Oi, Oi’."

The word "bogan" does come to mind. A mob is a mob is a mob — whether it’s 5,000 self-styled "Aussies" or 30 to 50 Aussie "Lebs". And racism, whatever the provocation, really really sucks big time. That includes the racist talk and actions of the young hoons who bring their families, culture and religion into disrepute by, for example, inexcusably attacking lifesavers, as well as the intellectually challenged senders of seditious (yes, they are) emails and text messages that encourage scenes like that on the left.

Seems, doesn’t it, that attacking ambulance officers is OK — as long as you are a tanked-up Aussie, of course.


Look at those raised arms and imagine swastika flags… Yes, the Aussies really worried me that day, and I am sure my father would have seen the imagery with considerable disquiet. He would also recall the New Guard of the 1930s, for whom he had no respect whatsoever. This is not patriotism: this is mindless jingoism and tribalism. Nor is it what the bulk of Cronulla-ites had in mind when that day began. Unfortunately, neo-Nazis and sheer bogans from as far away as Penrith and Campbelltown (not a rumour — I have read their blogs) joined in the general anarchy. I have no more time for them than I have for the hoons who have been wrecking enjoyment at the beach, some of whom attacked those lifesavers. But that’s OK, isn’t it: "our" bogans attack ambos and attempt to kill innocent bystanders, no questions asked…

The problem with the entry below** is the quote is ironic. I wouldn’t have touched most of this crowd with a barge-pole personally, and THAT is a patriotic point of view in my opinion. I am the citizen of a country that is a bit more grown-up than the one some of these people seem to want.

** #9 below.

6. :: View topic – Another brawl at Cronulla 2005-12-11 4:59:00 pm

Not everyone on this thread is a bogan, I am happy to report — but you’ll find the bad and the ugly there as well. Interesting though. Here is one thoughtful sample:

I don’t condone any of this violent crap, f*cking immature antisocial self-propagating bullsh*t. At the individual/gang level it’s a bottom-up approach that will only add fuel to the fire.

However, a comprehensive top-down approach with the police cracking heads on both sides to keep peace may be the only fight-fire-with-fire short term approach. Medium to long term needs some education begetting tolerance. Some of the more disappointing posts on race related topics on this forum demonstrates a need for this approach. Though any ideas that will work better I’m open to.

Here in Surry Hills’s "Little Lebanon" all is quiet. Except for the traffic. There are Lebs and Lebs of course. Our state Governor, Marie Bashir is a Leb — or an Aussie. Depends how you look at it.

MiSs BlOnDe — promise not to make any more blonde jokes, and I won’t criticise the spelling either. Good for you, Vickie: I agree. As you say, GET OVA YA SELVES N DONT RUIN DIS SUMMER 4 ME N EVERYONE ELSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Think about this too. A colleague at The Mine today was checking this for his History class. Seemed uncomfortably relevant.

7. Cronulla: mob violence in The Shire 2005-12-11 7:36:00 pm

I have had a lot to say on this in the last few days, because this is where I grew up. You can take the boy out of The Shire, but you can’t take The Shire out of the boy. Except now, some might rename it The Shite, as there was a lot of that around down there once the bogan pisshead racists got going. The majority of Shire people are not like that. In fact, they were protesting against other bogan racists, who call themselves Lebs, who had behaved intolerably on too many occasions culminating in the recent unjustifiable attack on a couple of young lifesavers, and the activities of this sad little group of adolescents occur not only in Cronulla. But they do not represent or sum up either the Lebanese community, or the Muslim community.

Yes, I do understand the anger — up to a point, but racism I neither understand nor condone.

8. Lime Kettles: Mob violence envelops Cronulla – National – 2005-12-11 10:39:00 pm

"Absolute disgrace… It is "un-Australian" to act like that… I don’t care that a life saver was bashed… no need to take vigilante action based on race. Bigots the lot of you." So says Clay on the blog linked above. Davie writes: "For the first time ever… i am so ashamed of being from the shire. this is disgusting. you cant blame an entire race for what happens at cronulla. i am not even proud of being from australia right now." Splat Guy in Canberra writes: "To be honest with you, I was quite surprised that such a group of chavs and bogans was able to organise themselves, let alone through the weak social network of SMS. The anthropological implications are fascinating. But more seriously, the ugliest thing of all was the use of symbols of the unity of Australians – all Australians, not just Anglos – like the flag, national anthem, and sports cries as a sort of racial identifier. Really unsavoury, really unacceptable, really unaustralian."

On the other hand there are ugly, ugly posts out there too. Check Technorati.


"chav" That’s a new word to me!

And there, with luck, I will leave my old home, Cronulla, to its devices. See the next entry for a handy guide to my other rants on the subject.

9. Thugs ruled the streets, and the mob sang Waltzing Matilda – National 2005-12-12 7:55:00 am

"Steely" – who did not want to identify himself "for fear the Lebs will come and shoot up my joint during the week" – said his children had been scared by Lebanese Australians coming in from the western suburbs.

"I’ve got a four-year-old girl and a boy who’s 11, and they see these bastards come here and stand around the sea baths ‘cos their women have got to swim in clothes and stuff, or they see them saying filthy things to our girls," he said. "That’s not Australian. My granddad fought the Japs to see Australia safe from this sort of shit, and that’s what I’m doing today."

…Paul Wilson, a local accountant who wants to start a political movement he has called Sons of Anzacs, led the mob with a couple of megaphone chants but said he was disgusted at the abuse of Lebanese immigrants.

He said the protest was really just an extension of the sorts of things Pauline Hanson was warning about when she entered national life in 1996.

"Nobody listened to her really and look what’s happened. Mind you, it’s a shame that it came to this. I don’t agree with the racist stuff. It frightens a lot of people off but it still a true reflection of what being a real and proud Australian is to many of us. You deny that, you’re mad," he said…

My father and uncles fought the Japs and the Nazis so that mobs wrapped in national flags would not take over the streets, actually… Think about it.

10. The Mine and the Islamists 2005-12-12 1:26:00 pm

Since I am at work today, I dropped in at lunchtime on the Islamic Students’ Society. They have had the occasional bit of controversy around them, as you may see above. I was interested to see what they, as intelligent teenage Muslim boys, felt about Cronulla and all that.

The gangs like the one(s) that have been causing trouble for years in Cronulla they utterly reject. "Leb arseholes." (They mean of course those indulging in antisocial behaviour in groups in public. None of these young Muslims I spoke to today could be accused of bad manners, inconsideration, insensitivity, racism or sexism. But then they are confident, intelligent, and genuinely religious.) "Some of them are really bad people." (That from a boy who knows the Lakemba/Campsie/Punchbowl area well.) As much to do with Islam as the Hells’ Angels are to do with Christianity. Definitely not practitioners of Islam. "They worry us as much as they worry you."

The boys have heard around the traps that more bad things are going to happen…

I told them the Uniting Church in Redfern had prayed yesterday for tolerance and understanding between Muslims and other Australians. They told me the same had happened in their mosques. Let us all get behind those prayers. And reach out in friendship and respect.

They forgave me for growing up in Cronulla 😉
(revised 13 December)

11. My weekend: Larissa 2005-12-12 3:51:00 pm

Larissa, that’s her on the right, lives in Cronulla. She kindly left a comment on my site earlier today. Read her heartfelt and very intelligent reaction to the weekend’s events.

12. PM refuses to use racist tag – National – 2005-12-12 4:10:00 pm

Our PM has spoken at last, refusing to use the R-word when there can be no doubt whatsoever that racism of the crudest and dumbest kind was a big part of what happened yesterday, just as it haunts the psyches of the gang-members, or many of them, to whom the folk of Cronulla rightly object. OK, I would not say all Australians are racist either. I’m not, I hope, though I have had my moments, as we all have. But JH is and always has been namby-pamby in his reverse political correctness on the issue of racism. A bit of "ticker" would have gone down well on this occasion.

13. man of lettuce: A Wild Night 2005-12-12 7:00:00 pm

The backlash, including at least one stabbing in Woolooware, has been as vile as the events before it. The shame of the Lebanese community must be total given the activities of these car-loads of alleged humanity and what they think proper. OK, that makes me feel better, and make no mistake in judging the depth of my detestation for these gangs and all they stand for. But this is not really Lebanese culture, nor is it essentially Islamic. Certainly none of this, including the activities of too many of those "defenders" of "Aussie values" earlier on, is Australian, or should be condoned in Australia.

Let us hope they all cool their testosterone-drugged senses of inferiority and let the community at large heal. Support all who work for that healing, whoever they are, including the police who really do need to be supported in cracking down on street offences from whomever they come. Why, I might even agree with a colleague today who proposed a return of National Service, military or otherwise, to instil some discipline and to break ghettoites, "Aussie" bogan or "Leb" bogan, from their dysfunctional attitudes and activities. Or boot camps for offenders. Oh, and one might say, thanks a lot to the rapper/homeboy/gang culture of the USA, which is probably a more relevant influence than Islam.

See, I can be a fascist. And yes, John Howard should have named racism as part of the problem, but he is also right to affirm again that this is not really who most of us are, whatever our backgrounds.

Adrian’s account (link on entry title) of a night in Maroubra is utterly authentic.

It has been a mad blogging day here, and internationally "Cronulla" has been TOP SEARCH on Technorati for most of the day. George Bush comes in at number 10. My own blog has gone ballistic, pushing 200 today as I write this.

14. Woglife: A plea post Cronulla 2005-12-12 7:37:00 pm

Those here looking for further fuel for racist fires best look elsewhere. That’s not what this website is about. We are unashamedly Australian and stand for inclusion and understanding.

All racism, no matter who the perpetrators or victims are, no matter the group being vilified is wrong and evil. There are no exceptions.

All violence, no matter who the perpetrators, victims or circumstances cannot be tolerated. There are no exceptions.

I urge all of us to make an effort to promote peace and calm, and to do so as a matter of great urgency.

Do not allow yourself to become involved in any form of racism, violence or hatred, we all have a right to voice our opinion, but we all have a right to live our lives in peace.

Try and promote peace and understanding today, we need it desperately.

AMEN to that!

15. Pacific Highlander: Australian Racism 2005-12-12 10:50:00 pm

Duncan Macleod critiques John Howard’s rather tepid response to the current situation in Cronulla and other suburbs with much more thoroughness than I could muster. Do read him.

16. Seda is upset 2005-12-13 6:28:00 pm

My Cronulla entries have attracted a string of comments from Seda, and I really do sympathise.

I am sick of hearing about "poor australians" being harrassed with racial remarks.

I have lived in Penrith (mainly australian families) most of my life and every where i go you here "f"n wogs" or "osama’s cousin" and i have coped these types of remarks since kindy. I was called a choco for years and i didnt know its meaning till recently!

I think australians are the most racist people in the world and i hear what they say to my asian friends, european friends and my fellow middle eastern friends and family! I am sick of it.
This country wouldnt be what it is today without the immigrants from many countries…..we helped build this nation if they want to believe it or not…

I am a female and because i am muslim and middle eastern looking my car gets searched each weekend or i get questioned why i am here and what are my intentions.

So as a middle eastern i am sick of being the "target" and i am sick of having my faith, country and family and friends put down by politics, society and the media for what i am!

So find something else to fight about thats worth all this hate coz we are f@#kn human beings!!!!!!!!!!!

I couldn’t agree more about that last bit.

Mind you, Seda sometimes seems to misunderstand where I am coming from, so I will amend a couple of entries.

And accept my best wishes, and my hope, as I said in one reply to one of your comments, for better times for us all.

17. Some of my lessons from Cronulla 2005-12-13 7:12:00 pm

Let’s face it: I became as excited as anyone else by the ongoing sorry mess that began in Cronulla when those lifesavers were attacked by antisocial youths a week or so back. Some of what I have written since seems to stand up, some of it less so. So here’s an attempt to sum up.

1: The most sensible thing I have found and reproduced here so far is the plea from Woglife, which I also posted on my Tripod English and ESL Blog, where it will remain a sticky entry for some time to come.

2: The people of the Sutherland Shire are in general not to blame for any of this, most of them. Nor is any community group you may care to name. Who is to blame then?

Well, first, the Australian government for creating over the past ten years a climate where, in their anxiety to appease rednecks and bigots, actual racism and racist language have not been treated as the evils they are. Thoughtless words too easily become thoughtless deeds.

Second, the government again for trading, despite disclaimers which the ignorant do not notice anyway, on fear of terrorism, fear of Islam, and fear of "the other" in general. See Massaging the Asylum Seekers for one thread in this. Fear has served this government well. The consequences have not always been helpful.

3: The issue is not "people of Middle Eastern Appearance" or "Muslims" or even "bogans". The issue is solipsistic, antisocial and anarchic behaviour, most often manifesting itself in testosterone-driven teens and twenties males of a variety of backgrounds. We must all get behind the law enforcement agencies and any other agency seriously addressing these behaviour issues and their causes. If that had been done more effectively in Cronulla, and Maroubra, and Oxford Street, and in western suburbs shopping malls, we may all be better off today. Yes, that is my personal fascist opinion, but there you go. So long as the policing really is even-handed, and real consideration of genuine social problems is also happening.

4: Consider extremists of whatever variety to be dangerous, dangerous, dangerous. This applies particularly to the right-wing scumbags who are trying to hijack the current events to their cause.

5: A mob is a mob is a mob. People in a mob start acting like animals. Doesn’t matter what they look like individually, the outcome is never good.

6: That Australia is a country with a better record than most with cultural diversity remains a fact. In this respect I support both John Howard and Kim Beazely. To back away from an intelligent multiculturalism is to embrace flat-earthism, so resist the siren voices of the monoculturalists, whatever woodwork they come out of, like the devils they are. Monoculturalism is neither desirable nor even possible in 21st century Australia, indeed it is not possible in a 21st century world. However, what IS possible is not a wishy-washy feelgood inclusivism, but a hard-headed consideration of just how the human right to culture and identity can be sustained while at the same time creating a workable society. And for starters you have to actually get beyond individualism and embrace COMMUNITY, SOCIETY, and SOCIAL JUSTICE. Amin Maalouf, a French Leb, is an excellent starting point. And the post I put up yesterday from Salman Rushdie is pretty good too.

See also Gerard Henderson in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:

What occurred in Sydney last weekend is a police matter which should be resolved in the courts. It is especially serious because the crimes which took place have been motivated by troublemakers, Anglo-Celtic members of the lunar right and alienated cultural Muslims alike.

For the most part, multiculturalism in Australia has worked well. The violence of last weekend was not evidence of the breakdown of multiculturalism but, rather, its absence.

7: Don’t bother reading the Daily Telegraph, and deeply despise the more seditious and bigoted side of talk-back radio. There is far too much poison in both these. See One-way radio plays by its own rules.

8: An extra lesson, partly prompted by Seda (see entry above). Do not discriminate against or denigrate anyone on the grounds of appearance, race, culture, religion, gender or sexuality. Do not indulge in violence, physical or verbal, against people you see as "different" from yourself or your family or group. Strive to live in harmony and respect the rights of others. So obvious; so easily forgotten.

I guess eight lessons are enough for one day. This has come to you from "Little Lebanon" in Surry Hills, where the felafels are fantastic and the people, with or without hijab, are generally friendly.


These lessons were expressed rather differently, perhaps more forcibly, just now by a sixteen-year-old Australian, "Indian by blood, Australian by design.." I have preserved the flavour, so some may appreciate a l*ng*age w*rn*ng:

Accept the land you live in. Grow the fuck up. Learn to get along with everyone here, regardless of their race, colour or creed. And if you won’t…GO HOME FOREIGNER! AND BEFORE YOU DO, KISS MY BROWN ASS!!!

If your going to speak out about this bullshit, don’t single out the ENTIRE Middle Eastern/Italian community, or any other community of people for that matter, not necessarily the two particular ones I’ve been going on about, as it can also apply to other races. Look for the dickheads that are acting up, and get at THEM. Know your enemy…

I blame John Howard for fucking with your fears. It all traces back to him. Seriously. Take me to Parliament House in Canberra. I’ll throw the first fucking bottle at him.

I didn’t say that…

Sounds like he doesn’t need lessons 🙂

18. It’s essential to clean up this mess: Ben Saul 2005-12-14 8:16:00 am

This UNSW Law academic makes a point that occurred to me as early as Sunday.

The new crime of sedition is committed where a person urges one racial, religious, national or political group to use force or violence against another group. The urging must also threaten the peace, order or good government of the Commonwealth.

The author of the text message which inflamed racial tensions last week committed sedition by writing: "This Sunday every f—ing Aussie in the Shire get down to North Cronulla to help support Leb and wog bashing day."

Also seditious is this retaliatory text: "all arabs unite the aussies will feel the full force of the arabs as one/brothers in arms unite now/let’s show them whos boss/destroy everything."

The intent of the messages is clear: to urge one racial or national group to use violence against another.

Not only text messages, but the chants of mobs at the beach may also be seditious, given the surrounding context of violence.

A person can also urge violence against another group without speaking. Waving the Australian flag in the midst of violent attacks on another group may be intended to encourage that violence, in defence of the flag and what it is thought to represent.

He is, I might add, an opponent of the new sedition laws.

19. This is Cronulla Lesson 9: Pauline Hanson 2005-12-14 10:53:00 am

As reported in The Sydney Morning Herald today.

The former One Nation leader Pauline Hanson said she was disgusted by the violence on both sides in the clashes.

"I’m very upset by it," Ms Hanson said. She said that while she had long warned that frustration with multiculturalism could boil over, she condemned any form of violence.

"It doesn’t get anyone anywhere," she said. "We all have to live here in this country.

"I don’t advocate violence, because it’s the average people who are going to suffer – the people who fear walking down the street or going to the beach.

"We don’t need these hooligans here. I don’t care whether they are white Anglo-Saxon-Celtic Australians, or from another country, it is unacceptable for Australia and we don’t want it on our streets."

Ms Hanson, who found success on a platform opposing multiculturalism and immigration policies, said some migrants fuelled tensions by refusing to adapt to "the Australian way of life".

Seriously, I am glad Pauline also opposes violence. However, and this is Lesson 9, she is a victim of language bewitchment. As are many.

There is no-one on any side of these present troubles who is not an Australian. Those "Leb gangs"? Send them back to where they came from. Punchbowl, maybe. Pauline’s linguistic trap is that she STILL thinks there are Aussies and there are Thems. Sorry, Pauline. It just isn’t so. The problem is an Aussie problem, and I repeat, all of us involved in whatever way are Aussies. That’s where we have to start.

20. Is there a deep subplot in Sydney right now? 2005-12-14 12:08:00 pm

I have been chatting to someone who knows the dark side of Sydney better than I do. His view: "Wait for the drug story to emerge." Is there a turf war buried here somewhere? Have certain people decided, on the other hand, that the current state of unrest is bad for business? It is all too murky for me. But here are some dots to join, with the warning that you could be adding 2+2 and getting 7.

…distribution and manufacture of illegal drugs… Comancheros …; …car theft and gun and drug crime by criminals of Middle Eastern background…; …Maroubra’s ‘Bra Boys’ gang is led by a young man described by one of his peers as a rapist, murderer, drug dealer and ‘maggot’…

Do check each of those for context of course, as I do not want any of my readers to run to unsupported generalisations about any group.

21. Sydney: Tongan Church Hall torched in Auburn. 2005-12-14 6:23:00 pm

…The minister of an Auburn church destroyed by a suspicious fire disputes Premier Morris Iemma’s suggestion it might be linked to Sydney’s race riots.

Four men were seen near the Uniting Church hall, which is next to an Islamic centre, before the fire broke out about 1.30am (AEDT) today…

But the Reverend Glenys Biddle, the church’s minister, said: "There was nothing to anticipate this happening. Our relationship with the community is good and peaceful." She said the church’s 100-strong mainly Tongan congregation were shocked and saddened their hall had gone just before Christmas. "The hall is used for meetings, Sunday school activities. The Tongans have kava there," she said. "That’s where the Tongan men sit around and sip kava and talk together. And there was a small chapel where a small group of people worshipped as well."…

Let’s hope Reverend Glenys Biddle is right, because if she is not, the criminals responsible should never shelter behind cries of "racist persecution" because they will have demonstrated to absolutely everyone in the Sydney community that they themselves are of one mind with the greatest neo-Nazi racist scum your nightmares can conjure up. This, if not an accident, is just not on. If there are perpetrators, if they claim allegiance to any religion whatsoever, they stand before God as disgraces to that religion. The same would be true if it were a mosque or a synagogue targeted.

ABC Radio National’s Religion Report has put up a timely transcript.

…Meanwhile the premises of the Islamic Council of Victoria in West Melbourne were vandalised yesterday, while in Sydney, shots were fired outside a Catholic primary school Christmas carol service. Obviously if this isn’t yet a religious conflict, some people are keen to make sure it becomes one.

Well we thought we’d put together a forum this week to try and untangle some of these issues of race and religion. Reverend Richard Humphrey is the minister at St Andrews Anglican Church in Cronulla, he’s had a lot of the violence taking place outside his front door. Also uncomfortably close to the action has been Graeme Cole, a former Christian youth worker in the Cronulla Shire, and now the Public Affairs Manager with the Wesley Mission in Sydney. And I’m also joined by Keysar Trad, founder of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, who’s been talking with some of the local groups of surfers, including the Bra Boys at Maroubra, and trying to establish grounds for dialogue. Graeme Cole, I’ll begin with you: what have you been seeing over the past few nights?…

Do read on.

22. Duncan Kerr argues Australia and the Howard Government must take steps to prevent the breakdown of our community. – On Line Opinion – 14/12/2005 2005-12-14 7:18:00 pm

Well worth reading, but let us reflect on three pieces of good news.

1. The Islamic School next to the Auburn Uniting Church hall which burned down today have offered their premises to the Tongan Church to use. Relations between the church and the Islamic School have always been good, a spokesman for the Islamic school said, for years side by side "like brother and sister". The Islamic School had used the church hall in the past.

2. Representatives of the Lebanese Islamic Community and the Cronulla Board Riders met today and hugged each other in a gesture of reconciliation. See ABC News:

Middle Eastern and surfie groups have held discussions this afternoon at Maroubra and peace talks will continue this evening at Cronulla. The men say there are no ringleaders organising the violence and have revealed they are now distributing text messages urging an end to the violence.

The representatives have issued a joint declaration of tolerance.

Brad Whittaker, who described himself as a representative of the wider beach culture community in Cronulla, says the violence must end. "We would like to apologise for the behaviour of some of our members on Sunday, December 11," he said. "The day began as a show of solidarity against behaviour of ethnic gangs that have been harassing the public on our beaches over a period of seven years. It escalated out of control under the influence of right-wing racists from outside this community, and [the influence of] alcohol."

Bankstown man Tony Nasser has told reporters that the media have played an inflammatory role in the unrest. "Like some people have already told you, you want to take a long hard look at yourselves, at what you have accomplished in the last week," he said. "Because you are among the people that have hyped this up and that’s not the way we should handle situations like this."

3. The same news item adds:

Representatives of Sydney’s Arabic community have called for a voluntary curfew on all Lebanese youth this weekend, to help prevent further race-related violence. It was among a series of proposals agreed on during a meeting last night at Lakemba Mosque, in Sydney’s south. The proposed curfew is from 9:00pm on Friday and Saturday nights, and all day Sunday.

Parents will be asked to confiscate cars and mobile phones.

Elie Nassif from the Lebanese Community Council says the measures should help reduce the tensions. "We are all Australian, we have to protect Australia no matter where you come from or whether you’re born here or you come from overseas, and we all have to protect our country under the law," he said.

A youth representative on the Prime Minister’s Muslim Community Reference Group says a curfew will not work. Instead, Mustapha Kara-Ali has urged community leaders to set up a public forum. "Ultimately, the only thing that can help the situation is for these youth to be heard," he said. "I would’ve hoped that these community leaders would offer these youth some public forum and be handed the microphone so they can be listened to directly, rather than being told what to do and what not to do."

Let MORE GOOD come from these events.

23. Reporting Religion : Blog Archive : Media Mob accused of attacking Muslim Youths 2005-12-14 9:49:00 pm

I am blogging this for myself as well as you; it is an analysis well worth reading. "An article in the Daily Telegraph on December 7th after the bashing of two Life Savers at Cronulla can be seen as an example of how the Telegraph spun an incident into an issue. The article was written on the Wednesday before Sunday’s riot, the headline alone ‘Gangs turn Cronulla beach into war zone’, can be seen as inciting the upcoming weekend’s violence." See, I told you not to read the Daily Terror!

24. Surfers say sorry, condemn violence – National – 2005-12-15 8:55:00 am

Further to last night’s good news stories:

CRONULLA surfers have apologised for their role in Sunday’s race riots, saying they were ashamed by the violence and vowed not to allow a repeat.

Shire surfer Brad Whittaker released the written apology last night after two days of talks between senior members of the beach’s surfing community and representatives of Sydney’s Lebanese community. The statement said the surfers unequivocally rejected any form of racism and was accompanied by apologies written by younger surfers who took part in the riots.

"The day began as a show of solidarity against the behaviour of ethnic gangs who have been harassing the public on our beaches over a period of several years," the statement said. "It escalated out of control under the influence of right wing racists, from outside this community, and alcohol. As senior members of Cronulla’s surfing community, we will be doing everything within our power to ensure there is no repeat of Sunday’s violence and we would expect those of influence in the wider community, including the Islamic community, to do the same.

"The beach is for all to use and enjoy, with everyone showing respect and consideration for each other. Our sincere hope is that some good can come out of this unfortunate episode, with all groups within our society displaying more tolerance and greater willingness to engage each other as Australians."

NRL players Hazem El Masri and Jason Stevens yesterday joined forces to condemn last weekend’s violence. El Masri, the Bulldogs’ goal-kicking superstar with a Lebanese background, has been coming to Cronulla with his family for 20 years.

"Both ends are in the wrong," he told the Ten network yesterday. "It’s a public beach, it’s open for everybody, but by the same token you’ve got to respect others and respect yourself and that’s the best way to go about it."

Stevens, a Cronulla local and ex-Shark, said: "It’s obviously hard seeing it, being in the place that you live and the place that you love."

Responsible reporting of responsible adult viewpoints. AT LAST 🙂

25. Rampaging through the usual suspects – Opinion – – Miranda Devine 2005-12-15 9:06:00 am

Miranda Devine is a columnist whose rants have probably done more than most, the maddies at The Telegraph and on Radio 2GB excepted, to undermine harmony and distort thinking on multicultural issues. In the light of that, I found this column actually rather curious. On first reading I thought "Here she goes again!" But on second reading I began to wonder whether her intelligence is actually kicking in. First she lists her suspects thus ironically:

Who you blame will depend largely on your personal prejudices, life experiences and the effectiveness of your grasp on reality.

These are the prime candidates:

1. John Howard. The Prime Minister let the "racism genie" out of the bottle…

2. The media. Radio 2GB talk-back host Alan Jones stands accused of condoning vigilante barbarism and tacitly urging antagonism to young men of Middle Eastern descent last week before Sunday’s conflagration in Cronulla…

3. Inadequate law enforcement. Criminals and thugs have been emboldened by years of timid, "community-based", statistics-driven policing while ever-more draconian laws have made NSW like a police state for law-abiding citizens…

Political correctness has suppressed reporting of the growing problems between Lebanese Muslim youths and Cronulla locals, while allowing the problems to fester….

4. Multiculturalism. This line holds that there is an essential incompatibility of large unassimilated communities of Muslims with Australia’s ostensibly Judeo-Christian culture and secular society. Against the backdrop of Australia’s alliance with the US in the war against terrorism, which has been interpreted as a war against Islam, the grievances of Australian Muslims and the fear and resentment from non-Muslims has become toxic.

5. Testosterone. Young men will continue to behave in violent ways, despite more than a generation of attempts by education authorities to stamp out these tendencies. Gang violence is a male rite of passage, from Sydney’s razor gangs of the 1920s, through bodgies, widgies, mods, rockers, bikies, westies and surfies.Talk of a "clash of civilisations" is hysterical fear-mongering.

She concludes, however:

Take your pick. There are probably elements of truth in all the arguments. But like a festering boil that needs to be lanced before healing can begin, it may have taken the ugly scenes and soul-searching of the past week to challenge people to finally reassess their own private fears and prejudices.

Including her own? Let’s hope so.

And yes, there was more!

Those twenty-five posts were not the end of the matter by any means. Search this archive under Cronulla, or use the tag in the tag cloud "Cronulla and The Shire". But I will add just one by way of conclusion:

Cronulla: Fighting back with message of love – National – 2005-12-18 9:18:00 am

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Yes please!

KRISTIE Hammoud is missing North Cronulla. The Catholic grew up there, and last March married her Lebanese husband Taleb there. It’s home.

But the recent violence has meant that the 26-year-old does not feel safe eating dinner by the beach or jogging on the esplanade. Dreams of buying a family home at North Cronulla are also on hold.

"We love this area and we would definitely like to live in Sutherland Shire," she said yesterday.

But right now she feels scared for her 28-year-old husband, who was born in Australia, and herself.

"We couldn’t believe what we were seeing," she said about the violence. "We have felt nervous, sad and in disbelief at what’s happening."

The Hammouds returned to North Cronulla yesterday, but did not feel comfortable talking about their experiences outside the surf club and instead chose a spot away from locals’ earshot. "The people who think they can take the law into their own hands are ruining it for everybody else," Mrs Hammoud said.

At family barbecues, her parents eat Lebanese food brought by the in-laws. Australians who reject Lebanese culture miss out, she says. But she acknowledges that establishing a life together, after she and Taleb met playing touch football, brought challenges. When Mr Hammoud’s family spoke Arabic, she sometimes felt left out of conversations, even when her husband translated for her. But she overcame that problem by learning Arabic. And at Ramadan she gives up soft drink and junk food in support of her fasting husband.

Mr Hammoud, in turn, declares himself a model househusband. He gets irritated at the idea that he would not respect women’s rights. He said: "It’s completely false. Sometimes I get home a bit early and I do all the housework."

One of my Shire cousins is married to a Lebanese Muslim woman: both families have survived.

This whole sorry week or so is a sharp reminder to all of us to embrace tolerance, understanding, respect, and careful (but not pedantic and dishonest) use of inclusive language and avoidance of language that acts to divide and demean.

For example, labelling Shire people as inevitably racist is just as wrong as labelling Lebanese as always undesirable, or making rash generalisations about Islam.

I commend this move by the Australian government and others: Cultural program to ease Sydney tensions:

Nearly half-a-million dollars will be spent promoting respect and understanding between ethnic groups, after a week of racial violence in Sydney.

A total of $440,000 will be spent over three years on projects that provide cross-cultural experiences for young people from Sydney’s Sutherland Shire district and Lebanese communities.

The federal Minister for Multicultural Affairs, John Cobb, says Australians of ethnic background will be encouraged to become lifesavers.

"We want to have a program which basically educates everybody in how things work on the beach," he said.

Further details are in The Australian:

Designed to support young ethnic Australians wishing to become involved in surf lifesaving, the program is a joint initiative of the federal Government, Sutherland Shire Council, where most of the recent violence has taken place, Surf Life Saving NSW and Surf Life Saving Australia. A full-time co-ordination officer will be provided to ensure the participants are fully incorporated into surf clubs.

Mr Cobb said he hoped the program would encourage friendly relations between Australia’s different ethnic communities.

"I hope that this unique program will convert the participants into ambassadors for the Australian beach culture in their own communities and promote new understanding and friendships between communities," he said.
He congratulated community leaders working to find solutions to the recent violence, which has rocked the suburbs of Cronulla, Maroubra and Brighton-le-Sands.

Federal Liberal backbencher Bruce Baird, whose Cook electorate takes in many of the southeastern Sydney suburbs affected by the violence, welcomed the initiative, saying it would have a "meaningful effect on inter-cultural relations in Sydney"

I noticed Nada Roule (I think that is her name) from The Islamic Council of NSW was very visibly part of this move too. Anything she lends her support to you can be sure has been well thought out. I met her in my travels as an ESL teacher and she is one impressive woman.


See Lines from a Floating Life, and go to the Compass story linked there.


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