Will the 'Shire' ever be the same again? Schooling Responses to the Cronulla Beach Riot

Carol Reid


Abstract

In the aftermath of the Cronulla riots, schools were faced with the fallout of social conflict, including having to deal with widespread fear and confusion both in their local communities and among students. This was especially the case for schools in the Sutherland Shire and in the local government area (LGA) of Bankstown. Apart from the presence of many young people in the initial riot and the revenge raids, some schools, like churches, had been the target of attacks (Leys and Box, 2005: 1; Daily Telegraph, 2005: 5). Schools were also targeted as places to battle the consequences of cultural division: the then Prime Minister John Howard, in his Australia Day speech just over a month after the riots, complained that the teaching of Australian history in schools needed reform to properly foster the core values that would bind a nation together (Sydney Morning Herald, 2006). At all levels of government, a raft of programs designed to ease local tensions were introduced, many of which focused on young people or on schools (see Board of Studies New South Wales, 2007; Surf Life Saving NSW, 2006).

This article outlines the contexts for understanding the role of schools: both in terms of the spatial dynamics of the ‘Shire’ and in terms of the changing nature of educational policy. It then focuses on a National Values Education Project (NVEP) involving five schools in south and south-western Sydney as a direct response to the Cronulla riot. It suggests that these contexts produce both a degree of cultural heterogeneity in young people’s social lives and a degree of segregation amongst young people in schooling which delimits ‘what is possible’ in terms of schooling responses to the Cronulla riot.

Keywords

racism, multiculturalism, values education, educational policy, space

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