Modia Minotaur

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Cronulla: A Local Perspective

I've been interstate for the past day, but it was with a dreadfully ill heart that I saw last night's news reports about the race riots in Cronulla.

I grew up in the Sutherland Shire and spent roughly the first 20 years of my life in the area. My mother grew up in the Cronulla area, and herself spent her childhood there, at a time where it was slowly but surely changing from a sleepy seaside town to the slightly more urbane area we all remember from the movie `Puberty Blues'. By the time I was a teenager, it was a poor second cousin to inner city beaches such as Bondi and Maroubra. This was exactly why locals liked it. That meant they could keep it to themselves.

You'll hear Sutherland Shire called `God's own country'. Once upon a time, it really was. Sydney, for those who do not live there, is divided along the lines of the compass. The North and East are seen as affluent and leafy. The West is seen as poorer and more working class. And the South? The South, when I was growing up, was not seen as anything at all - it was almost as if it didn't exist, except to those who did this - again, this is exactly how locals liked it. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was something cosy and pleasant about this fact. In the fullness of time, it has led to a damaging insularity.

The Sutherland Shire was once solidly working class; an area where young families built their first homes where such a thing was still in the reach of young families. In the years it has taken for one of the two Federal seats in the Shire to become solidly Labor (held by Keating government Aboriginal Affairs Minister Robert Tickner) to solidly Liberal (held by Howard government former Vets Affairs Minister and legendary blunderer Danna Vale), the Shire has become the absolute epitome of an aspirational area - money, property investment, money, white bread, money, money, and money. The local council is used for little more than facilitating property development and mustering support for the NSW Opposition,

To watch riot police run down very familiar streets on the news last night - to cringe and hope I saw nobody I knew - to know a suburb I grew up in has now become part of the cannon of names; not only amongst Redfern and Macquarie Fields, but of names to be chanted by all the racists in Sydney as a slogan of victory - just made me feel absolutely ill. I heartily endorse NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney's disgust at the whole ugly incident. I'm well aware that it was not only locals who participated - but the fact that it was locals at all makes me pine for the Shire I remember - a pretty innocent place that wouldn't have known a race riot if you smashed a beer bottle on its head.

One person I would like to give an almighty slap to is John Howard. Even to an unashamed partisan like myself, his performance on this issue has been as weak as cold tea. To say that 5,000 drunken men and women running down a suburban street bashing innocent bystanders and vowing to `get rid of wogs and Lebs' demonstrates no fundamental racism in the national psyche? You weak, weak bastard, Howard. Stop using fear and racism as a political tool to achieve your means and do something about it.

All in all, an intensely disturbing development which I'm still trying to get my head around ...


At 3:46 am, Blogger Kayelene Murphy said...

It's a sad, sad day

At 5:07 am, Blogger King Of Chavs said...

I'm sorry if this offends anyone, but I am a Canadian citizen and, while I've never been to Australia, I've travelled all over the world and spent a lot of time with Australians.

I'm very confused at what I'm seeing on the news lately, it does not seem to reflect the attitude of any Australians I've spent time with.

But what I am noticing that I find quite disturbing is a defensive tone in the Australian media. There seems to be a real ignorance to the kind of hate and hostility that some people in your country feel.

In Canada I almost feel we are too hard on ourselves when it comes to issues involving race.

Why are Australians so defensive and loathe to admit that the country has a serious problem with rascism?

At 3:11 pm, Anonymous Kate said...

I feel the same way. It's horrifying.

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