You are going to investigate the role that racism played in the violence in Cronulla in December 2005, and consider what individuals and communities could have done to avoid the violence and ill-feeling.

The Cronulla riots

1. Where is Cronulla?

Use or Google maps to find Cronulla on the map of Sydney. You can do that by entering ‘Cronulla’ and choosing ‘New South Wales’ in the search engine on the website. Use the zoom in and zoom out bar to establish its location within Sydney, then as a part of New South Wales and Australia.

This site will give you street level, three-dimensional, satellite images of the area you select.

2. The riots

On a warm Sunday in December 2005, mob violence erupted at one of Sydney’s most popular beaches. In the days leading up to the incident, the young people of nearby suburbs were being encourage to ‘reclaim the beach’ and force beachgoers of Middle Eastern appearance off ‘their’ beaches and out of ‘their’ suburbs. It was claimed that the violence was a reaction to previous incidents involving members of the Lebanese community, which had caused some local residents to feel intimated when visiting the beach. There was evidence that SMS messages were used to encourage the violence, and to coordinate the attacks.

Police were called in to restore order, as mobs of youths patrolled the surrounding suburbs. The area was eventually ‘locked down’ for a period of time by the authorities, which meant that people from outside the area were not allowed to enter until police were satisfied that order had been restored.


What is racism? Poster

  1. You may have heard of racist behaviour, or even experienced it. Begin this investigation by writing your own definition of what racism is, and then comparing or brainstorming it with the definition of others in your class or group. Once you have completed this exercise, rewrite your definition. An Affinity Diagram may be useful for the group/class brainstorm.
  2. Visit website of the Australian Human Rights Commission and find out what the legal definition of racism is in Australia. You may want to read the relevant part of the Racial Discrimination Act with the help of your teacher.
  3. Compare your definition to the official definition. Does yours include aspects that the official definition does not include? Which is more workable for your investigation?
  4. Now, design a poster for the class that depicts different situations in which racism is present, and which illustrates your definition. [Hint: cartoons are a good way to illustrate situations]. Remember, you will use this definition in your investigation, so get to know it!

What happened at Cronulla? Creating a Flow Chart

Now that you have arrived at a definition of racism, you can proceed to the next step of the investigation. In this phase you will focus on investigating the incidents at Cronulla Beach in 2005. First, you should find out a little about Cronulla and then what happened there, by referring to easily available resources.

At this stage, you are interested in just a brief summary of the facts. Read the following sources, and build a Flow Chart of what happened, by placing the important events in the correct order.

'Mob violence envelops Cronulla' (Sydney Morning Herald)

'Racist furore as mobs riot' (The Age)

Download a flow chart template.

From your definition of racism, can the events at Cronulla be considered racist? Why? Why not?

You may chose to answer this question by just focusing on how the events made you feel, and recording your ‘hunch’, before justifying it with evidence from the articles.

Debate: Racism was/was not the cause of the Cronulla riots

Set up a debate in which half of the group or class takes the view that racism was not present at Cronulla Beach, while the other half of the group argues the affirmative. Remember to use the evidence in the articles.


Introduction | Background | Researching | Analyzing | Reporting | Resources