‘There’s nothing to celebrate’: Cronulla Riots 10 years on

President of the Cronulla Chamber of Commerce and Head Surf Coach, Mark Aprilovic at Cronulla Beach says “there’s nothing to celebrate” about the 10 year anniversary of the Cronulla riots. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

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Ten years ago the word went out that the boys of the shire would be taking back the beach.

“This Sunday every f—ing Aussie in the Shire, get down to North Cronulla to help support Leb and wog bashing day… Bring your mates down and let’s show them this is our beach and they’re never welcome back”.

Five thousand people rallied in the North Cronulla car park, and in the chaos that followed there were violent assaults, beer bottles hurled at police cars, and racial profanities shouted.

But as the 10th anniversary of the infamous riots approaches, president of the Cronulla Chamber of Commerce and head coach of Surfing Cronulla Surf School, Mark Aprilovic said there was nothing to celebrate.

“Love thy neighbour,” he says simply. “There’s nothing to celebrate. The community doesn’t want to know about it.”

The riots fractured the unique place Cronulla held in Australia’s cultural imagination and the aftershock, spurred on by shock-jocks and a jumbled web of far-right parties, spread across Sydney.

“I think the amount of publicity that was directed at us was probably not fair,” says Cronulla-Burraneer local Belinda Smith.

“Not all of us were involved in the riots, in fact only a small proportion of the community were involved on that day. And most of us were ashamed of the behaviour that went on and want no part of it”.

“I find that when I’m out and about and when I introduce where I lived and where I come from, as soon as I say the word Cronulla it’s now associated with the riots,” says Ms Smith.

“That upsets me a little bit because it’s not associated in any way with my family or the way that we feel or the way we brought up our children.”

Associate Professor at Macquarie University’s Centre for Research on Social Inclusion, Dr Amanda Wise, grew up in the Shire and says those outside the area were wrong to class the riot as a ‘Shire’ thing.

“Racism exists in the Shire,” she says, “But it is by no means just a Shire phenomenon.”

The police, Sutherland Shire Council, the RSL and the Life Savers Association are united in their opposition to a planned weekend ‘memorial’ at Cronulla, hosted by the ultra-right, anti-immigrant fringe group Party for Freedom.

“It’s just going to give Cronulla a bad name again,” says 18-year-old Tom Boyd, a member of the North Cronulla Surf Club.

While anti-Islam protesters have set their sights on Cronulla, Mr Aprilovic wants them to heed the community’s zero-tolerance for ‘bigots’ and ‘racists’.

“Bigots, racists keep away – we don’t want to know about you,” he said. “Leave us all alone”. What the locals say

“The community doesn’t want to know about it.”

Head Surf Coach and President of Cronulla Chamber of Commerce Mark Aprilovic.

“We come from a family where we believe everyone deserves a fair go and we don’t care about colour, creed or religion. Most of us are ashamed of the behaviour that went on that day.”

Belinda Smith, Burraneer.

“Racism exists in the Shire, But it is by no means just a Shire phenomenon.”

Dr Amanda Wise, who grew up in the Shire.

“It’s going to give Cronulla a bad name again.”

18-year-old member of the North Cronulla Surf Club, Tom Boyd.

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