We began our visit to Cronulla at Ham Harry & Mario where we had their breakfast plate: kind of a European deli take on the Australian big breakfast: prosciutto, avocado, sliced tomato, ricotta, boiled egg and good sourdough toast with a drizzle of olive oil over the lot. Tasty, filling and just a little bit different. Coffees were good; service was fine given the busyness of the hour.
We’ve visited Cronulla once before in this project for beach number five, Blackwoods, back in March 2010. Today we were visiting the main Cronulla beach and, as with Coogee a few weeks ago, we found it crawling with nippers.
For a fuller discussion of nippers and surf life saving see my last post.
Cronulla Beach is 22km/13.6m from home (our new home, so new measurements).
Like Coogee before it Cronulla is a familiar beach to us as we have been many times over the years. The name is derived from kurranulla meaning ‘place of the pink seashells’ in the dialect of the Gweagal people (Wikipedia).
The coast line was explored and mapped by Matthew Flinders and George Bass in 1796 and European habitation began in 1835.
The train line to Cronulla was first built in 1885 and it is still the only of Sydney’s surf beaches serviced directly by the train which makes it accessible to a broader swathe of Sydneysiders than say Bondi or Manly.
The area is on a peninsula and is part of the Sutherland Shire. The Shire, as it’s known, has a reputation as a bastion of old mono-cultural (Anglo-Irish) Australia — the reputation seems to mostly be upheld by the people you see on the streets away from the beach: nearly all white, primarily northern European, but some Mediterranean people as well.
I’m trying to sidle up to the touchy and a bit complex issue of the 2005 Cronulla Riots. I like this rather straightforward one-sentence definition offered by the Dictionary of Sydney:
Series of clashes and mob violence which escalated from a verbal confrontation between life savers and a group of young men of Middle Eastern appearance.
Frankly I don’t want to dwell on it and Wikipedia does a fine job summarising the events. My two-cents: little in life is as black and white as mainstream media portrays it. This event was fuelled, I think, by young men, pumping with testosterone, in a space of cultural conflict; add summer heat, lots of alcohol and the intentional fanning of the fires by race-baiters, shock jocks and tabloid journalists. Oh and police caught off guard and unprepared for the chaos. Ta da: Race Riots.
I’ll admit to feeling a bit bad for the mainstream majority of Cronulla who were tarred as a bunch of red necks because of what happened. Frankly I think train access means all of Sydney arrives on their doorsteps on hot summer days; our city is amazingly multicultural, which is wonderful, but that means within our population we sometimes have widely divergent standards of behaviour. I have on good, trustworthy authority that there had long been conflict on Cronulla’s beaches around the way some groups of young Muslim men behaved toward non-Muslim women and girls. It’s not a condemnation just a realisation that some conflict is natural in a multicultural society; the challenge is how we address and diffuse that conflict.
Let’s get back to nice pictures from the beach.
Cronulla Beach is in the Sutherland Shire, the state district of Cronulla (Mark Speakman, Liberal) and the federal division of Cook (Scott Morrison, Liberal).
I found this cool image on the Dictionary of Sydney website Saturday arvo, Cronulla, 1961 by Jeff Carter:
There I also found this fascinating story of the Shark Arm Murder … which I’ll leave for you to explore on your own.