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Old 12-11-2006, 01:22 AM   #1
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Cronulla Riots: One Year On

Today marks the one year anniversary of the (in my opnion) darkest days in Australian history.


Cronulla 2: the non-event
Friday, December 1, 2006
With the Cronulla riots still resonating, NSW police will be all over the beaches this summer, but critics say this is a political overreaction and that Anglo-Lebanese tensions are easing anyway. Adam Shand reports.
At the height of last summer's tensions at Cronulla a text message circulated in Sydney's Arabic community conveying a darkly humorous vision.
The NSW government was said to be building a new freeway between Punchbowl and Cronulla - The Middle Eastern Distributor. The inference was that an army of Australian-Lebanese would descend on the beach for regular battles with the so-called Sons of Anzac.

On December 11 last year, as 5000 people gathered for one of modern Australia's worst racial confrontations, it was easy to believe that this was just the beginning. The well-organised "revenge attacks" by Australian-Lebanese youth heralded a descent into open warfare.

A year later, the worst fears of the community have not so far been realised. Despite a concerted effort by sections of the media to set the stage for Cronulla 2, there are no indications that hostilities are set to explode again. And if they did, the NSW police are far better equipped to handle it.

Operation Beachsafe is the most visible evidence of that readiness. Eighty officers will be patrolling the beaches; there will a dog squad, and police on horseback and in golf buggies cruising up and down the sand.

Yet enforcement alone will not avert a repeat of the violence and hatred that was beamed around the world. Officers involved in the riots were well aware of the threat that day and could do little to prevent what took place. Assistant Commissioner Mark Goodwin, the officer in command that day, has challenged the findings of the Hazzard report into the riots, which found that the police had been taken by surprise by the scale of the mob. In a letter to Police Commissioner Ken Moroney, Goodwin says the risk assessment was raised from medium to high two days before the riots. A range of standard measures were taken to meet the heightened challenge. Still, the police could not fully contain events, which were fuelled by alcohol and white supremacist rhetoric, he says. Nevertheless the commissioner has opted to boost the visible force on the ground.

Manning levels have been increased in the Cronulla area. Thirty officer cadets fresh from the Police Academy will be stationed there next year. As a result, Bankstown will now receive only 16 new officers, compared with an earlier estimate of 30, say local officers.

Some officers say this is political policing. Beachsafe officers will spend the summer working on their tans rather than catching crooks.

Certainly with an election due in March next year, the government cannot afford a repeat of the riots and the political fall-out which led indirectly led to the demise of Police Minister Carl Scully.

Senior police also recognise that to prevent "Cronulla 2" requires a deeper grassroots response. The Anglo-Saxon and Australian-Lebanese communities had to be reconciled, not simply held apart by a thin blue line of police. A team, led by Acting Inspector Nigel Webber, has been liaising between community leaders in Cronulla and Bankstown.

Police Ethnic Liaison Officer Gandhi Sindyan has been leading parties of Arabic youth leaders such as Fadi Rahman of Lidcombe Youth Centre on familiarisation tours of the Cronulla beaches, where they meet local police and surf lifesavers. The tours are designed to help both sides get to know each other, to bridge the gap of ignorance that helped to create the riots.

Rahman is a hero to a generation of disaffected Australian-Lebanese kids in Sydney's west. A one-time bad boy, he says that until recently he did not have the confidence to tell Muslim youth they could trust police.

"After going down to Cronulla with the police, I have much more confidence to pass on a message that community-based policing is working and promoting harmony," says Rahman.

"The police are reaching out now and listening to our problems. We are getting to know each other. It's still not perfect; it's a gradual process of building up trust and cooperation but we are far ahead of where we were last year."

It would be much easier now to prevent a retaliation force travelling from Bankstown to the beaches if there was a repeat of last year's violence.

Sindyan, who works in the Campsie local area command, says the level of cultural awareness of police when dealing with non-English speaking people is far higher now.

A community-based policing approach in the region has helped to cut crime and deal with disaffected youth. "If incidents occur we can quickly get on the telephone and get to the heart of the problem with the key stakeholders in the community," he says.

Police Citizens Youth Clubs in the south-west are also playing a key role with beach-oriented programs. Groups of Muslim kids from Lakemba are learning to become surf lifesavers on Cronulla beaches. Others are involved in sailing lessons with "Aussie" kids.

"There are bonds forming between the kids that were simply not there before," says Sindyan.


Calm after the Cronulla storm
December 9, 2006

Last year's racist violence devastated Cronulla's businesses but the community is working to recover, writes Damien Murphy.

Come Sundays, hundreds of Lebanese-Australian families used to arrive by train, people movers and mosque buses to picnic at Gunnamatta Park.

It was just a short walk from Cronulla station and they could bathe in the swimming enclosure without fear of rips or waves. They had the park almost all to themselves. The locals were either over at the surf beaches or home for lunch.

Now they've all but abandoned the park. Until two families appeared last weekend, no Lebanese-Australians had been spotted picnicking among the gum trees overlooking the safe waters of Port Hacking since that dumb Sunday afternoon last December.

The shop across the road from Gunnamatta is going broke. "We depended on the families to get us through the winter," says the proprietor, a Chinese Fijian with a Lebanese husband. She doesn't want her name in the newspaper. "This is a racist place if you don't have blond hair."

Read the rest of this entry… »

Her shop is in the Amaroo flats, an early 1960s building of red brick and white-painted iron balconies. On one balcony, faded small Australian and Cronulla Sharks rugby league team flags hang limply victorious.

In the days before and after the December 11 riot last year Cronulla was Sydney's Australian flag capital. They fluttered defiantly off high-rise balconies and in the windows and verandahs of old brick flats. Now only 20 or so flags fly around town, like patriotic diehards remembering a lost war.

Yet if much of Cronulla has become ashamed of such flag-waving, in the stairwells of some old blocks of flats Australian flags hang inside glass front doors, hidden and unfaded.

Monday is the first anniversary of the Cronulla riot, when about 5000 people - overwhelmingly younger than 25 - took control of the North Cronulla beachfront and nearby streets. The riot began as a payback protest against the assault on local surf lifesavers by young Lebanese-Australian visitors two weeks earlier but spun out of control.

Occurring on a hot Sunday afternoon, the riot was custom-made for television news. It received intense overseas coverage, especially in the winter cold of Europe, where many saw the sun, the beach, the waves and the bikinis and wondered, amid their Muslim train bombings and rioting Muslim youth, what in the world had made Australians that angry.

IN SYDNEY the riot shaped events and issues that crossed the year, from rape sentences and terrorist fears to the comments of Sheik Taj el-Din al Hilaly.

Institutions and governments have poured in millions of dollars to address problems but, a year later, the cost for Cronulla remains high.

Business has tanked. Seven restaurants have closed. In Cronulla Bicentennial Plaza a few shops remain unleased for Christmas and traders have little alternative but to hope that the good times return.

The experience of the restaurateur Ray Bradbery, the president of the Cronulla Chamber of Commerce, shows how bad racism is for business. "People started calling the day after the riot - the Monday - and cancelling Christmas bookings and it's been down ever since," he says. "We all just want it behind us so we can move on. But many haven't made it. Some businesses went under, some lost their homes."

Many locals say one unintended positive was that it made Cronulla's beaches less crowded. Almost all said those charged with offences were not from Cronulla.

Some mentioned that angry Glen "Steely" Steele, the "face" of the riot, was not a Cronulla resident. A former Cronulla Sharks player, Steele had his 15 minutes of fame that Sunday afternoon by posing for television cameras in blue boardshorts and bare feet, his chest and back covered with spittle and beer, bellowing "F— off, Lebs" as he struck a simian pose.

Steele was lent on by embarrassed locals. He subsequently apologised to the Lebanese community and blamed alcohol but soon fled. He has been spotted surfing around Culburra since.

The nuances of the Cronulla peninsula are easily lost on visitors.

While the riot occurred around the North Cronulla beachfront park before the horde raced up the plaza to beat a few hapless young Lebanese-Australians attempting to flee on a train at the railway station, Cronulla is a series of tribal areas where boardriders, sunbakers and tribes of youths, retirees and shift-workers occupy different "hang" spots stretching from Wanda Beach north of North Cronulla through "End of the Wall", "The Alley", Cronulla Point, "Shark Island" and Shelly Beach down to "Sandshoes", near the mouth of Port Hacking.

In the early 1960s newsreel teams would film the arrival of youths from Sydney's western suburbs at Cronulla railway station. Back then they were called "Rockers" and they engaged in pitched battles with locals who the media christened "Surfies". As ever, the fight was about ownership, wealth and class. Now ethnicity has been added but it is still very much about ownership. Yet Lebanese-Australians are not the only ones to abandon Cronulla since the riot. At Shelly Beach the Palestinian-born proprietor of the shop looks across the road to the park dotted with mature Norfolk pines and laments: "That grass would be filled with Islander families at weekends. Not now. Even they've disappeared, and nobody in the riot was worrying about Islanders."

Nobody seems to know where the people have gone. Many can understand the reluctance of Lebanese-Australians to come back but, if the parlous state of business is any indication, Cronulla's fellow residents in the Shire have been slow about coming back, too.

"Maybe it's because they don't want their kids at risk of being near violent behaviour or they just don't want to be around," Bradbery says. "But one thing's for sure - it's hard to get people to come back."

At Bundeena, across Port Hacking, Cronulla's loss seems to have been the Royal National Park's gain. The owner of Cafe Manna, Jeff Tarrant, says: "Since it's started getting hot a couple of weeks back, it's been unusually crowded here in Bundeena."

OFFICIALDOM has been moving mountains to try to remake Cronulla.

Tens of millions of dollars from the public purse have been spent on Cronulla because of the riot.

The Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs has given $600,000 to Surf Life Saving Australia and $260,000 to Sutherland Shire Council for projects called On the Same Wave. They are aimed at promoting lifesaver training among youth with migrant heritage, particularly Middle Eastern youth.

The first four lifesavers recruited from the western suburbs are expected to pass surf bronze qualifications and be on patrol by Christmas. More are expected by summer's end.

It could have happened earlier as other surf lifesaving clubs have crash courses for surf bronze certification. That said, the program's ethnic liaison officer, Suzie Stollznow, says focus group studies among western suburb high school students found many would feel better at the beach if clubs used Lebanese-Australian lifesavers.

The Iemma Government is spending big on increased police numbers patrolling Cronulla. In addition to the estimated $20 million spent on police overtime in the days after last year's Cronulla riot, Operation Beachsafe launched last October put hundreds of general-duties officers, the dog squad, highway patrol, helicopters, mounted branch and motorcycle units, and detectives from the Middle Eastern organised crime squad into Sutherland Shire and neighbouring St George.

Backing up the law, the shire has expanded alcohol-free areas around Cronulla's beaches. In a related move, Rockdale Council this year began a campaign of loudly playing middle-of-the-road rock music in car parks along Botany Bay to discourage outsiders gathering late at night.

Adding to the feeling that life has returned to normal, the inaugural Cronulla Olympic Distance Triathlon and the NSW Surf Life Saving Championships will be staged around Sutherland Shire beaches in March.

But not everybody is rushing to solve problems resulting from the riot.

The Australian Broadcasting Authority is still dithering over complaints about the riot and comments by 2GB's Alan Jones and Brian Wilshire. "The two inquiries are close to conclusion," a spokesman says.

Before the riot started, hundreds gathered on Prince Street overlooking North Cronulla beach, drinking beer and eating sausages from a barbecue set up on a truck's tray beneath a sign reading "No tabouli".

Many old flats along the beachfront road sported Australian flags that morning but today only one remains. The young man who lives in that apartment says nobody has complained and he would not care if they did.

"It's all good, mate," he says in that odd beer-advertisement language designed to stop communication. "Have a good one."

Two doors up Prince Street a first-floor flat slyly pokes fun at the whole sad mess: an East Timor flag flies in a small window. Multicultural or postmodern?

No tension ahead of riots anniversary
Jamie Pandaram
December 8, 2006

Riots? What riots?

Nearly one year on from the infamous racial mob violence that brought the worst kind of attention to one of Sydney's best beaches, locals and tourists say Cronulla has gone back to the future - it's as though the riots never took place.

"If I hadn't seen the footage of the riots back home in Canada, I wouldn't know it happened," said tourist Chris Rollett.

As American and Asian tourists, schoolgirls of Lebanese descent, and suntanned surfies strolled along the beach yesterday, there was no sign of apprehension with the first the anniversary of the Cronulla riots four days away.

Locals say everyone should feel safe and welcome.

Read the rest of this entry… »

"At the end of the day I don't see problems happening [this weekend], there are plenty of police here and everyone feels safe," cafe owner Robert Schroder said.

"I think the day-to-day things are getting back to normal, and people are coming back down to Cronulla and visiting.

"It's a bit of a headache, there was way too much exposure … it was blown out of proportion. I think it was bad, don't get me wrong, but if there was no alcohol involved it would have been a peaceful day."

Police have planned a major operation to prevent violence at Cronulla and eastern beaches this weekend, including the use of helicopters, dogs, highway patrols and hundreds of officers from general duties police, the riot squad and detectives from the Middle Eastern organised crime squad.

Lindy Klarenbeek, born in Cronulla but now living in Canberra, was visiting yesterday with American friend Liz Holzemer and found the "same town" she left.

"I don't think the town has changed at all," Ms Klarenbeek said.

"I think in the daytime it feels like a safe place, I know it's not quite so safe late at night, I wouldn't wander around Cronulla at midnight on my own … but that applies to females in any city in any country."

But the reasons behind the mass rally on December 11 last year have not been forgotten.

"It wasn't between Middle Eastern people and Australian people, it was between people who cause violence on the beach and people who don't," Mr Schroder said.

Ms Klarenbeek added: "I think it was something that had to happen, I knew there was a lot going on here … friends telling me their daughters were getting hassled.

"I wasn't surprised there was a flare up, but I was surprised at how big it got."

Teenage sisters Michelle and Samantha Tadrous, who live in Revesby, said there had been no "Cronulla bashing" in the Bankstown municipality.

"We love Cronulla, everyone says nice things about it. In the holidays we all like to come down here," Samantha said.

Michelle added that she felt welcome when in Cronulla: "It's pretty good, I don't feel racism, I don't feel uncomfortable."

For the past year, teenagers from the Bankstown, Belmore and Sutherland PCYCs have been mixing together under a program called Ride the Wave of Respect.

The Bulldogs Rugby League Club donated surfboards to the Cronulla Surf Club two weeks ago so youths from Bankstown PCYC could use them at the beach, after many members stopped going due to the riots.

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Old 12-11-2006, 04:28 AM   #2
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I know, it was a hell of a mess what was going on then, but if this was the "darkest days" in Australian history you could be very happy about your history.

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Old 12-11-2006, 04:54 AM   #3
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Both parties are just as fucked up as eachother.
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Old 12-11-2006, 04:55 AM   #4
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It was a shameful day, regardless of being Lebanese or anglo. Dont agree with darkest.
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Old 12-11-2006, 07:15 PM   #5
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Clarification: it was ONE of the darkest days in Australia history.
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Old 12-12-2006, 05:17 PM   #6
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We have worse riots when neonazis and lefties meet each other or play their strange game Demo-Counterdemo

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