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Four Corners: Riot and Revenge – The 2005 Cronulla Riot: the triggers, the aftermath, and the impact on Australia

23/07/2021

June 25, 2021

One Sunday in December 2005, five thousand Australians gathered at Cronulla, singing and waving the national flag as they “reclaimed” the beach. Fuelled by drink, the crowd became a mob, hunting down and beating anyone who looked Middle Eastern.

That night and the next, carloads of hundreds of young men of Middle Eastern descent headed for the beach suburbs to launch similarly random and savage acts of revenge.

The shocking TV images flashed across the world. At home, Australia’s ugliness was disowned as “un-Australian”. Political leaders called it a problem of law and order rather than racism.

So what should Australians make of the Cronulla explosion? Was it a nation-defining event that should sound the alarm about growing racial division? Or was it something less, a turf war, or a clash of tribes that some have likened to the ’60s rumbles between rockers and surfers?

Four Corners looked for answers not from social commentators but from the participants – the young men in the Shire who joined the seething mob, those who took part in revenge attacks, and the police who were stuck in the middle.

From these and other testimonies award-winning reporter Liz Jackson presents the definitive account of the riot at Cronulla and its aftermath, as told by those who were there.

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