A beach whose name will long live in in­famy, thou­sands of young, sun-kissed Aussies throw­ing them­selves into bat­tle, blood on the ground, fight­ing un­der, and for, the flag. If An­zac was the mod­ern birth of our na­tion, what were th­ese riots? A self-in­flict

GQ (Australia) - - NEWS -

It’s nearly a decade since De­cem­ber 11, 2005, a bloody, bru­tal day that changed every­thing – a line in the golden sand we can never uncross. It wasn’t just the in­no­cents who took a beat­ing on that hot and hate­ful day – it was our in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion, our re­la­tion­ship with our fag, our na­tional iden­tity. You’ll prob­a­bly re­call the TV news re­ports – 5000 beery blokes howl­ing for Le­banese blood in the streets – and that sink­ing sense of shame and dis­be­lief watch­ing them. But what you may have for­got­ten is just how vi­cious and vile the vi­o­lence was. View the footage again and it squeezes the breath right out of you. It’s not pos­si­ble to watch, and lis­ten to, th­ese bel­liger­ent bo­gans, shirt­less and daubed with words as war paint – ‘We grew here, you few here’, ‘Love Nulla, Fuck Al­lah’ – their chins thrust for­ward, fsts raised and fury pour­ing off them like the heat from their sun­burn – with­out shak­ing your head. You’ll also re­call the footage of po­lice­man Craig Camp­bell lay­ing into the liquored louts on a train, shocked all over again at the sav­age beat­ing of two in­no­cents he was try­ing to put an end to. It was a scene rem­i­nis­cent of World War Z – mind­less zom­bies pour­ing over each other des­per­ate for a piece of fesh. How so many peo­ple were driven to such white-hot rage in the same place, at the same time, is hard to un­der­stand. Be­cause it wasn’t anger fash­ing in those young men’s eyes – it was hate. Gen­uine, blood-bay­ing hate. It’s frightening, mys­ti­fy­ing and some­thing we’d have eas­ily la­belled un-aus­tralian be­fore that day. So how did it hap­pen – how did a bea­tup turn into a bash­ing, one in which our en­tire iden­tity, and fag, took a fog­ging? Ten years on, aca­demics, politi­cians and the good and peace­ful peo­ple of Syd­ney’s pre­vi­ously quiet Shire re­gion are still try­ing to ex­plain it. And plenty of them are wor­ried it could hap­pen again. Would the Cronulla riots, and the days of reprisals and fear that fol­lowed, seem even more tragic if it was all started by a lie? Or at least a tall tale that spi­ralled out of con­trol and on to the air­waves? The event that set in place a week of ma­lig­nant me­dia cov­er­age and thou­sands of text mes­sages call­ing for a “wog-bash­ing day” was al­leged to have taken place on North Cronulla beach on De­cem­ber 4. The hun­grily adopted ver­sion was that a group of Le­banese “thugs” set upon some un­sus­pect­ing Aussie icons – two young life­savers go­ing about their job. It was an out­rage. And yet, ac­cord­ing to Mac­quarie Univer­sity’s Pro­fes­sor Cather­ine Lumby, who was tasked by NSW Po­lice to an­a­lyse the role of the me­dia in the lead-up to the riots as part of the Strike Force Neil in­ves­ti­ga­tion, it was a fght that never hap­pened. “It was a myth and one that was re­ported as fact by even the more ra­tio­nal me­dia,” says Lumby. “But as I un­der­stand it from the po­lice, it wasn’t true, there never ac­tu­ally was a con­fronta­tion be­tween a myth­i­cal Mus­lim man and a life­saver. “But that’s the story that went around – this chal­lenge at the very heart of Aus­tralia, the beach. And it went vi­ral and ramped up the An­glo-aussies in Cronulla.” Dr Amelia Johns, the author of a book about the riots, Bat­tle for the Flag, also chal­lenges the al­le­gor­i­cal ori­gin story. “I spoke to some life­savers and it was just a skir­mish be­tween some Le­banese boys and an off-duty life­saver – he was defnitely off duty, he was plain clothes. It was taken out of con­text and made into an as­sault on an icon and broad­ened into a bat­tle of cul­tures,” says Johns. At a dif­fer­ent time, this spark prob­a­bly wouldn’t have been enough to light the fames of fury that were fanned by me­dia fa­nat­ics over the next week. But Aus­tralia had changed since Septem­ber 11, 2001. “Peo­ple ask why it erupted then, but 9/11 was a real trig­ger point. And then you had the Bali bomb­ings in 2002, and there was this real ig­no­rance and fear about Mus­lims, but more gen­er­ally just about peo­ple who don’t look like ‘us’,” says Pro­fes­sor Lumby. Ji­had Dib was a teacher at Punch­bowl Boys High School at the time, and re­mem­bers all too well the ugly shift in the air. “All of a sud­den, I had to jus­tify who I was. The way peo­ple looked at you changed con­sid­er­ably, and you can only know what that’s like if you feel it – at the footy, at the train sta­tion, at the beach,”

says Dib, who moved to Aus­tralia from Le­banon aged two, and has since be­come the frst Mus­lim MP in the NSW State Par­lia­ment. “I feel Aus­tralian. I mean, I know that I’m dif­fer­ent – it’s hard not to be with a name like Ji­had. But I’m Aus­tralian, not any­thing else, and sud­denly I had peo­ple ask­ing me, quite openly, whether I was loyal to the na­tion? “It was ter­ri­ble, peo­ple felt they could say what they liked, ask you what they liked, it was like the start of the world’s longest apol­ogy – apol­o­gis­ing for things that aren’t your fault,” Dib trails off. “Racism was just more open, like the foodgates were open­ing.” Nowhere were those foodgates spew­ing forth more bile that week in 2005 than on talk­back ra­dio. Pro­fes­sor Lumby was asked by po­lice to ex­am­ine specifc tran­scripts of what was said on air at the time, as the story of the life­saver bash­ing took on a life of its own. “I was shocked to my core by what a num­ber of talk­back hosts were pre­pared to say, as well as what their call­ers were say­ing that the hosts would im­plic­itly en­dorse. I can­not be­lieve how vi­cious the talk­back com­men­tary was,” she says. “And I’m hor­rifed by what Alan Jones had to say, ab­so­lutely hor­rifed. For younger gen­er­a­tions, talk­back is ir­rel­e­vant, but for the older peo­ple, if Alan Jones says some­thing it’s like the Bi­ble. There’s no ques­tion it was a big in­fuencer, and that’s the view of the po­lice as well. It ramped peo­ple up, par­tic­u­larly the opin­ion lead­ers in that com­mu­nity.” An­drew Quilty, a pho­tog­ra­pher who found him­self in the mid­dle of the melee that De­cem­ber day, and whose sub­se­quent pho­tog­ra­phy of the un­fold­ing events were splashed across Time mag­a­zine, agrees. “There’s a fne line be­tween re­port­ing on what’s hap­pen­ing and en­cour­ag­ing what’s to come, and Alan Jones crossed it and was more ef­fec­tive than any bare chest and pair of fsts in ril­ing up the mob that day,” Quilty tells GQ. Jones kicked off the week de­scrib­ing the per­pe­tra­tors of the ‘bash­ing’ as Mid­dle-east­ern “grubs” and “hu­man pol­lu­tion”. He was only warm­ing up, later adding, “Th­ese peo­ple know one thing, they hate us and they’re go­ing to take over.” Just days be­fore the riots, Jones then read out a text mes­sage ask­ing peo­ple to join the “Leb and wog-bash­ing day” that com­ing Sun­day. Af­ter his broad­cast, more than 270,000 text mes­sages along a sim­i­lar theme were cir­cu­lated. His fnal gam­bit was to read out a sug­ges­tion that bikie gangs be in­vited to Cronulla. “It will be worth the price of ad­mis­sion to watch

th­ese cow­ards scurry back on to the train for their re­turn trip to their lairs, and wouldn’t it be bril­liant if the whole event was cap­tured on TV cam­eras and fea­tured on the evening news so… we can see who th­ese bas­tards are.” On Sun­day De­cem­ber 11, bikies were at Cronulla train sta­tion, but were swal­lowed by the size of the mob. Speak­ing to GQ, Jones says the re­port­ing of his role has been marred by “rank in­ac­cu­ra­cies”. He then ex­plodes on be­ing read his quote about the bikie gangs. “I did not say that, but I can’t stop peo­ple who call in, that’s the democ­racy of the open line, peo­ple made in­fam­ma­tory com­ments, but that is their view,” he snaps. “I’m not here to be in­ter­ro­gated by you, I’m not an­swer­able to you, I’m not re­motely in­ter­ested in plough­ing over old ground from 10 years ago, it’s not worth com­ment­ing on again. “My mem­ory is that I in­vited the Pre­mier at the time, Mor­ris Iemma, on to the pro­gram three times that week and he and I urged peo­ple not to take the law into their own hands. And that’s never been re­ported.” Jones was later found to have breached the Aus­tralian Communications and Me­dia Author­ity (ACMA) Code of Con­duct for com­ments “likely to en­cour­age vi­o­lence or bru­tal­ity and to vil­ify peo­ple of Le­banese and Mid­dle-East­ern back­grounds”. He la­bels the charges “dis­grace­ful”, claim­ing com­plaints about him were made by peo­ple who’d never lis­tened to his pro­gram. As Dr Johns says, “Jones was charged and found guilty, but he was straight back on the ra­dio and, 10 years on, I can’t see that it’s af­fected his ca­reer that much.”

Things are difer­ent in The Shire, a com­mu­nity the rest of Syd­ney refers to as be­ing ‘white bread’, a pass­port needed to cross the Ge­orges River and into the en­clave. An Aus­tralian pass­port. Home to Kur­nell, where the frst white im­mi­grant, Cap­tain James Cook, landed, 75 per cent of Suther­land res­i­dents iden­tify as ‘western Euro­pean’ or ‘Aus­tralian’. De­spite the idyl­lic green lawns and golden beaches, it has long been a scene of con­fict. Life­long Shire res­i­dent Lee How­ell, 53, is the di­rec­tor of youth de­vel­op­ment at North Cronulla Surf Club. He says there have al­ways been turf wars along the stretch of south­ern Syd­ney sand. “It’s been like that for years with dif­fer­ent surfng groups tak­ing each other on, but that was more Aussies v Aussies. In 2005 it was dif­fer­ent, there was [sic] a lot of is­sues, th­ese Le­banese guys star­ing

at girls in biki­nis and grab­bing their cos­tumes, play­ing soc­cer on the beach and kick­ing the ball at peo­ple,” he says. Pro­fes­sor Greg Noble, from the Univer­sity of Western Syd­ney’s In­sti­tute For Cul­ture and So­ci­ety, in­ves­ti­gated the area’s simmering his­tory to edit a book on the Cronulla riots, Lines in the Sand. “There was al­ways ten­sion be­tween peo­ple in the Cronulla area and peo­ple from [south-western Syd­ney sub­urb] Bankstown. If you look at lo­cal pa­pers go­ing back 50 years, there was a his­tory of clashes in and around Cronulla, the lo­cals against the ‘Bankies’, as they were called then – it was even in [the 1979 novel] Pu­berty Blues,” says Noble. “It’s in­ter­est­ing how some peo­ple say the riots proved that mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism is a fail­ure – that some groups can’t be as­sim­i­lated. But you have to look at why they hap­pened. The riots didn’t hap­pen some­where cul­tur­ally di­verse, they hap­pened in this over­whelm­ingly An­glo area, and we’d never seen any­thing like it be­fore. “Aus­tralia doesn’t have a his­tory of race riots, and when we see them over­seas it tends to be a mi­nor­ity ris­ing up against the ma­jor­ity, but here we have a cul­tural ma­jor­ity at­tack­ing a mi­nor­ity.” How­ell claims the re­ports of the life­savers be­ing at­tacked were true, but says they were far from the only fghts on the beach. “I’ve spo­ken to the two guys in­volved, who were on pa­trol, in their red and yel­lows, and there were a cou­ple of guys play­ing soc­cer, of Mid­dle-east­ern back­ground, and one of our guys asked them to stop, and he said, ‘You look like an id­iot in that outft,’” says How­ell. “And he shot back, ‘We might look like id­iots but it’s id­iots like us that save dick­heads like you.’ And there was a bit of a fare up, some testos­terone and then there were about six of them against our two guys, and I think one of the guys lost his bal­ance and fell for­ward into one of the life­savers and he got a bit of a shove back. There was a bit of re­tal­i­a­tion, just your stan­dard beach scrap, re­ally. We’ll never know for sure what hap­pened.” He adds that the two life­savers in­volved, who were in their early 20s, have never pub­licly spo­ken about it, and never will. Qui­etly spo­ken, with a face that’s worn the weather of years on a beach, How­ell’s adamant that what turned a lo­cal scuffe into a na­tional dis­grace was the work of out­siders. “I saw the texts go­ing around and I think they came from other ag­i­ta­tors, peo­ple out­side of the area, and lots of the guys who were spo­ken to by the po­lice on the day of the riots, they came from the outer-western sub­urbs, from dif­fer­ent White Aus­tralia kind of groups. They were the ones try­ing to fre peo­ple up,” he says. “I don’t think there was enough an­i­mos­ity among the lo­cals to cause what hap­pened with­out those racist ag­i­ta­tors whip­ping them up.” This is Cronulla’s ver­sion of events. A lo­cal dis­pute blown out of pro­por­tion, ripped out of their hands and turned into a big­ger, uglier in­ci­dent by out­side in­fuences. They just went along for the ride.

Former sergeant Craig Camp­bell had seen plenty of vi­o­lence, blood­shed and ha­tred in his 20-year ca­reer, but noth­ing pre­pared him for the scale of the Cronulla riots. “As a cop­per you get a sixth sense about th­ese things, and you could tell, early that Sun­day, that it was a pow­der keg and it was all go­ing to turn to shit,” he re­calls. “It was muggy, that kind of en­ergy-sap­ping, itchy hu­mid­ity. I saw a girl drink­ing a Cruiser at 8am, and beer, ev­ery­body was drink­ing so much. It started out with this real car­ni­val at­mos­phere, peo­ple hav­ing bar­be­cues, but I just knew it was go­ing to go off. What can you do? You just try to con­tain it.” Re­ports dif­fer as to what started the vi­o­lence. As part of her re­search, Dr Johns in­ter­viewed one of the young front-row wit­nesses who was ar­rested on riot and af­fray charges. “He said that a Mid­dle-east­ern youth con­fronted one of the pro­tes­tors who was wrapped in a fag, pulled it off him and said, ‘Look, this is my fag too.’ And that footage of the frst two guys be­ing at­tacked by the crowd, that’s what started that al­ter­ca­tion,” she says. Quilty and his cam­era were in the mid­dle of it, and he re­calls how many peo­ple were smil­ing, ac­tu­ally en­joy­ing the spec­ta­cle. “I re­mem­ber be­ing rat­tled see­ing mobs set­ting on one or two guys and the sea of bare backs, sin­glets and fags food­ing through streets, lit­er­ally thou­sands of mostly young men swarm­ing to where ru­mours of ‘wogs’ might be, knock­ing over any­thing in their path – bins, mo­tor­bikes, cin­der-block walls, what­ever,” says Quilty. “I saw a guy wear­ing a T-shirt say­ing, ‘Mo­hammed was a camel­rap­ing fag­got’. The pres­ence of skin­heads was shock­ing to me, too. Th­ese are the guys you hear about but rarely see given an op­por­tu­nity in the spot­light. They had the spot­light that day, and they knew it. “And the cops that found them­selves among it were pow­er­less, the crowd just fowed around them like they were a peb­ble in a food.” Sergeant Camp­bell was one big peb­ble. His frst ar­rest shocked him the most, forced to cap­sicum spray a 60-year-old lo­cal man who was lay­ing into a se­cu­rity guard. “He was a de­cent bloke, but he was just swept up in it all. That anonymity of the mob, peo­ple do things they’d never nor­mally do, and when we took him away to clean him up [at the sta­tion], he was em­bar­rassed, and scared of his wife,” says Camp­bell. “He couldn’t be­lieve what he’d done.” How­ell says it was a com­mon re­frain among the lo­cals – many lost to a feel­ing of group hys­te­ria. “I could see guys that I knew, peo­ple who weren’t like that, and they would say, ‘I have no idea what took over me, I was pissy, and we were be­ing revved up by th­ese peo­ple with mega­phones, but still,’” he says. “They said they were mes­merised, their minds else­where, they were just so whipped up, and they re­gret­ted it, it’s like, ‘How did I do this?’” Just af­ter lunchtime, a rip­ple went through the noisy beast of 5000 an­gry souls, as word passed that a bunch of Le­banese thugs was at Cronulla train sta­tion. Pho­tog­ra­pher Craig Green­hill, whose shots would carry the Syd­ney Daily Tele­graph’s ‘Our Dis­grace’ front page the next morn­ing, fol­lowed the mob onto a car­riage, where he saw two young, in­no­cent men be­ing at­tacked by wave-af­ter-wave of fsts, feet and fy­ing bot­tles. “The rage was un­be­liev­able, th­ese guys get­ting kicked and bashed and punched, I had to put the cam­era down and say, ‘Get the fuck off, you’re go­ing to kill him,’” Green­hill has said. “They paused, looked up at me, saw I wasn’t re­ally a threat to them, just kept go­ing. And then there was Sergeant Camp­bell, old school, with his ba­ton, [he] just started whack­ing ev­ery­one. “They wanted blood and that’s what they got, and th­ese guys were just so happy with them­selves for what they did.” Camp­bell had a nick­name for his ba­ton: “Milo, be­cause it’s amaz­ing what a dif­fer­ence Milo makes.”


“They would have died, those young blokes, or been very se­ri­ously in­jured, if we hadn’t got­ten there when we did, they were just curled up in a ball, peo­ple hit­tin’ ’em,” he re­calls. “I yelled out to peo­ple to stop, but no one wanted to take heed, so I had to give them a rea­son and I gave them 134kg of an­i­mal con­nected to 26 inches of spun alu­minium. That got them mov­ing, and they weren’t happy.” Camp­bell man­aged to get the badly-beaten vic­tims off the car­riage and into a sta­tion lunch­room. He then had the train sent off down the line so the mob would think they’d left. “You just have to play a smarter game than the pissed dron­gos, so we ac­tu­ally put them in the guard’s cabin on the next train and got them out of there. They were pissed off and shaken up, but they were grate­ful. “One of them was born in The Shire, and the other one was Rus­sian. To me that’s the worst part of the whole day, that it was race based. Some of the peo­ple down near the surf club were Ital­ian and they were beaten just for hav­ing olive skin. Ridicu­lous.” Camp­bell’s ac­tions saw him put for­ward for a com­men­da­tion for brav­ery. He never re­ceived it and within six months started suf­fer­ing night­mares and mood swings. It took un­til May 24, 2007, be­fore he was di­ag­nosed with chronic post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der. Four days later he had a breakdown, at­tacked his wife of 30 years, knife in hand, and woke up in a psych ward. “It’s ab­so­lutely hor­rid, the ef­fects it has on you, one minute you’re happy, the next you’re cry­ing and crawl­ing into a cor­ner some­where,” says Camp­bell, who now lives alone in a car­a­van on the NSW South Coast on a $440-a-week po­lice pen­sion. “With the riots it was just the amount of high vis­i­bil­ity – there was me flog­ging peo­ple on the news for the next 18 months. And see­ing the footage, you have to re­live it,” he says. “Then there’s the in­tense scru­tiny, ev­ery­one knows who you are and you feel like you have so many eyes on you. “I just try to get on with my life. But I do feel sorry for the peo­ple of Cronulla. They’re good peo­ple.”

The day af­ter the riots, a Mon­day, was a school day at Punch­bowl

Boys High for Ji­had Dib. He turned up to face the fear and ques­tions from his stu­dents, all shaken by what had gone on. “I still have images I can’t get out of my head that re­ally were an in­dict­ment of the day; the aw­ful im­age of what hap­pened on the train that cap­tured such a mo­ment of ha­tred,” says the now La­bor mem­ber for Lakemba. “It was be­yond sad­ness and dis­be­lief, I never thought I would see that in my coun­try, ever. I saw the flag, my flag, be­ing used for na­tion­al­ism, a kind that di­vides, not a na­tion­al­ism that unites. And I had stu­dents com­ing to me, ask­ing what do we do, how do we deal with this, why is this hap­pen­ing? “There was a lot of anger, ru­mours, they were say­ing, ‘Sir, they grabbed this girl with a hi­jab and ripped it off and slapped her,’ and I was like, ‘No, they didn’t.’ I just told them, ‘Don’t get into trou­ble, don’t do any­thing stupid.’ “But the re­venge at­tacks came any­way, and the ret­ri­bu­tion was just as ugly. Aus­tralia woke up that week and thought, ‘What the hell is go­ing on?’” Again, thou­sands of text mes­sages were sent, this time call­ing the “Lions of Le­banon” to fght back. Over the next few nights, gangs of men poured from Syd­ney’s west to east, ram­pag­ing through beach­side sub­urbs not blocked off by po­lice, smash­ing parked cars and shop win­dows, bash­ing and even stab­bing sev­eral lo­cals. “Ten years on it’s all about the riots, that one day, and not about the reprisals. I had a friend stabbed with a screw­driver for walk­ing along the street, peo­ple had con­crete blocks thrown at them, and that’s all been writ­ten out of his­tory,” says How­ell, emo­tion ris­ing in his voice. “When they came for re­venge, they didn’t come for a fst fght, they came with knives and ma­chetes and guns. It’s a shock that no one was killed.” It took a week for calm to be re­stored, some­thing that hap­pened in spite of, rather than be­cause of, po­lit­i­cal lead­ers. “What you need, in a time of cri­sis, are lead­ers who un­der­stand that their job is to bring peo­ple to­gether, and that not say­ing some­thing is al­most as bad as say­ing some­thing in­flam­ma­tory,” says Dib. “The Prime Min­is­ter, John Howard, said he was sur­prised that he didn’t see it com­ing. Come on, re­ally? Go back to when this sense of na­tion­al­ism started to come in, when you had some­one like Pauline Han­son say­ing stuff and not be­ing pulled up on it. Then you start de­mon­is­ing mi­grants, hav­ing a go at refugees, it puts into peo­ple’s psy­che that th­ese peo­ple are dif­fer­ent.” Pauline Han­son sees it dif­fer­ently. She re­mem­bers the Cronulla riots as or­di­nary Aus­tralians stand­ing up for their coun­try. “And then af­ter that I was at [south­ern Syd­ney sub­urb] Brighton and I saw Mid­dleEast­ern peo­ple burn­ing our flag and noth­ing but ha­tred and vi­o­lence from them, it dis­gusted me,” she tells GQ. “There was only one Aus­tralian who was per­se­cuted [sic] and charged for what hap­pened the frst day, and yet the vi­o­lence the next few days was non­stop. “There’s not enough cov­er­age on that, the me­dia to this day, they cover up how Aussies feel about is­sues, they pro­tect the mi­grants and they sen­sa­tion­alised the story and sent the wrong mes­sage to the rest of the world. “I felt bad for the peo­ple of Cronulla, they’d put up with th­ese peo­ple on their beach for years, and the bub­ble just burst that day.” Han­son adds that mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism sim­ply doesn’t work. “I’ve been say­ing that for years. They need to re­alise there’s an Aus­tralian way of life and if they don’t like it, please fnd an­other coun­try that suits your cul­ture.” Po­lice ac­tu­ally charged 51 peo­ple over the riots, and 53 over the reprisal at­tacks. One of those charged with riot and af­fray was the young man Dr Johns in­ter­viewed a year af­ter the riots. She found his at­ti­tude re­mained un­changed. “There was no re­gret from him, but there was pride there,” she says. “He thought it was a bad thing that hap­pened, for Cronulla, be­cause peo­ple stopped go­ing there, so it was bad for busi­ness, but for the young peo­ple in­volved, they felt a sense of pride and of a com­mu­nity com­ing to­gether. “In­ter­view­ing young peo­ple in the area, they still said it wasn’t about pa­tri­o­tism or na­tion­al­ism, it was about ‘Shire pride’ and ‘Shire iden­tity’, and na­tional things got ap­pro­pri­ated into that. “The Aus­tralian flag, af­ter Cronulla, be­came very much a sign of in­tol­er­ance, and it’s hard to take those mean­ings away from it.”

For Pauline Han­son, an­other race riot, some­where in Aus­tralia, is not

just in­evitable, it’s im­mi­nent. “It will hap­pen again and you can see it com­ing,” she says, her voice climb­ing. “Now is the frst time we’ve got peo­ple protest­ing against the build­ing of mosques and against Is­lam in our coun­try. Aus­tralians have never stood up against an­other re­li­gion like this. And lead­ers can’t tell me it won’t hap­pen again, be­cause it will.”

Jones, mean­while, is slightly more cau­tious. “The riots were so­cially un­ac­cept­able, but 10 years on, we would be fools to imag­ine that there aren’t le­git­i­mate con­cerns about cul­tural clashes – you just have to look at what’s go­ing on in Europe,” he warns. “But the po­lice are more aware now, the in­tel­li­gence wasn’t up to it back then. The po­lice should have been there [in Cronulla] in num­bers, and they weren’t.” As for Pro­fes­sor Lumby, she be­lieves the dan­ger of an­other ex­plo­sion of hate is real, and it’s be­ing fu­elled by politi­cians. “I do think, and I say it with a heavy heart, that it could hap­pen again, be­cause there’s real ig­no­rance about the Mus­lim re­li­gion and I think our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers should be ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple in­stead of dog whistling,” she says. “I would say that Cronulla brought racism to the sur­face, and the Adam Goodes thing brought it up again re­cently, but there’s a deep de­nial at the heart of An­glo Aus­tralia about the in­va­sion of this coun­try. “If you’re a white Aus­tralian, you took some­one else’s coun­try and you fear that some­one else will take it off you, and so ev­ery suc­ces­sive wave of im­mi­gra­tion – the Chi­nese, the Viet­namese and now Mus­lims – is frightening to us.” De­spite her words, Lumby fnds some hope in the way Aus­tralians re­cently ral­lied in Mel­bourne to op­pose Op­er­a­tion Bor­der Force, in which peo­ple were meant to have their im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus checked to prove their le­gal sta­tus. She also cites the pos­i­tiv­ity of the #ill­ride­with­you cam­paign that fol­lowed the Syd­ney siege. Ever the teacher, Ji­had Dib MP also looks to re­flect on the learn­ings of that day. “The pos­i­tive thing is, it brought [racism] out into the open, it forced peo­ple to talk about it more, and to get an un­der­stand­ing of one an­other,” he says. “Peo­ple like my­self, we’ve got to step up, we’ve got to build bridges, be­cause we’re all Aus­tralians. We have a slightly dif­fer­ent her­itage but the way those back­grounds in­ter­weave makes the beau­ti­ful fab­ric that is our great coun­try. “Cronulla was a turn­ing point, and we have to deal with it, and we have to move on and fo­cus on the power of pos­i­tiv­ity.” If things had gone slightly dif­fer­ently, if Sergeant Camp­bell per­haps hadn’t caught that train in time, the 10th an­niver­sary of the Cronulla riots would have a dif­fer­ent tone. It would likely be a me­mo­rial for lives lost – the flag, flown and worn in anger that day, would be at half-mast. The lucky coun­try got lucky be­cause no one died. But our sense of self, of what Aus­tralia is, sus­tained ca­su­al­ties. Lest we ever for­get. n




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