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The Cronulla Race Riots Case Study


Analyse a recent event (such as the Martin Place siege or Cronulla riots) through two different theories of power. Which theory of power offers a more compelling explanation of the event? Why?


The study focuses on a popular event, Cronulla Riots which occurred in Australia. The riot occurred between the Lebanese and Aussies groups. The riot was relentless, damaging, and had a negative effect on the Australian economy as it led to a loss of property and many lives in Australia. An in-depth analysis of the Cronulla race riots would be presented to understand the factors influencing the riot and its effects on the community and economy as a whole.

Cronulla Race Riots

On 4th December 2005, an argument occurred between volunteer lifesavers and four guys of Middle East descendant at North Cronulla, after which the Cronulla race riots broke out. The North Cronulla surf lifesavers were attacked by the Middle Eastern youth. A physical confrontation broke out between both the groups over the possession of the Cronulla beach leaving one lifesaver unconscious as he was brutally bashed (Evers 2008). The print media influenced the public negatively by hiding the whole unpleasant incident of Cronulla race riots which led to the local residents getting exasperated. Furthermore, the nation and its economic growth were badly affected due to the Cronulla race riots that brought unease on racial grounds as well as ethnic issues. The violence of the Cronulla race riots would cascade resulting in 13 people being injured on Sunday 11 December 2005 ( 2015).

The result of the wrangle between these two groups mounted the tension over ethnic and racisms issue. The riots would quickly turn from a riot to once fueled by Religion where the Muslim community stood united against the Australian Christian community (Reid 2010). For the Cronulla race riots, the media provocated in Australians as it circulated text message that resulted in involving 5000 people of Australia to repose the Cronulla Beach. By completely ignoring the Australian law, both the groups of different communities were fighting violently and Australian culture was severely infected. For Australian force, it was a tough time to control the Cronulla race riots ( 2015).

Theories of Power

Pluralist Theories of Power
In the case of Cronulla race riots, both the parties from Lebanese people and Australian people held responsible for the using power. With the intent to fight, they both made their own groups from their respective communities. Where on one hand, Australian people provoked their people to fight against Arabs people, similarly Arabs by misusing their power, influenced Arabs people to stand together against Australia (Poynting 2006). While on the other, being Muslims Lebanese community did not hold much power as compared to Aussies. They both, Lebanese as well as Australian people used their power wrongly to get the ownership of Cronulla beach.

To stand against the Lebanese group, Australian political group influenced about 5000 people to unite and fight against them for acclaiming Cronulla beach. To add fuel to the fire Media like Daily Telegraph played a negative role that provoked people of Australia, which resulted in aggravating violence (Smith 2006). Cronulla race riots took the form of such bad violence in which many people of both the groups were injured. The Lebanese Australian disrespected the Australian Law and its culture. Although, it was evident that being more in number, the Lebanese group held more power at the time of conflict between the lifesavers and Lebanese group ( 2015).

Elite Theory of Power
As per the elite theory, the government, military, organizations, big companies, and rich individuals had the possession of the main power. In Cronulla race riots, Australian military was in charge to manage the violence occurred in Cronulla beach during this whole unfortunate incident (Stratton 2011). To control the violence, Military force or police mistreated the people and people were beaten poorly. On 11th December, 104 people got injured by getting brutally beaten by the police. People who were creating disturbance and violence were arrested by the police and were locked up in the jail. The loss of life of few people made the people more violent towards the military and police of Australia (Evers 2008).

To cool down the violent environment a significant number of people got arrested and locked in jail for a couple of days. The media of Sydney contributed its role in a wrong way by influencing racial and ethnic tension in people that aggravated the violence in Lebanese and Aussie people to fight against each other (Reid 2010). The tension due to Cronulla race riots in Australia was widespread across the world that many countries cautioned their people for not visiting Australia. To fight for the ownership of Cronulla beach became the matter of pride for both the parties and they took the wrong advantage of their power to fight for it. However Australian military and media too used their power to handle the situation ( 2015).

Suitability of the Elite theory of power during the time of Cronulla race riots
There is a theory called as an Elite theory in which wealthy people and big organizations enjoy the power in the society. Such individuals or big companies are popularly called as economic elites. In 2005, the time when Cronulla race riots took place in Sydney between the lifesavers and young Lebanese group. The theory of elite shall provide a proper insight for the cause behind the fight that happened due to racism and wrong use of words between two people to the extent of a severe fight across South Wales and Australia (Stratton 2011). There are two models one is Elite theory and the other is a pluralist theory, both the theories have a vast difference in their approach. Aussies used the Elite theory model to fight against the Lebanese by using the wrong language with the Muslim Lebanese ( 2015).

The real cause of this confrontation all across the nation Sydney in specific was well explained in the Elite theory. The Australian locals, who are also elite and the European natives, enjoy the elite rule in Australia. These economic elites of Australia are famous for their racist behavior or attacks who, are considered as the ruler of their native place (Evers 2008). Such behavior of Aussies is confirmed by the chants of Australians like Kill Lebanese, bash lebs, and go home Lebby Sucm. The crowd was using these words during the protest.

Due to such elite group, a huge number of people got easy escape from the punishment and the imprisonment even after beating the other group i.e. Lebanese. These big people had shown their massive power that they could rule the migrants in Australia with no boundary of law. This incident of Cronulla race riots took a shape in such a way that changed the foundation and approach of Australian Advance Fair, which encouraged fighting against the police for the riots (Smith 2006). The crowd was uncontrollable even by the police of Australia as the ones who were against Aussies assembled in Lakemba mosque. However, all the allegations against Australian people for being racist and losing ethnicity were condemned by the Australian minister. It was justified by the statement that the Australians are far away from these abusing people for the race and it is not the culture of Australia.

Australian Muslim students of the age group of 15 to 18 years living in Sydney were in the terror from the month of July 2006 to 2007. On 7th December, the elite group again attacked the Lebanese Australians by tagging them as the thugs and cowards on 2GB Talk Back hosted by Alan Jones. Although, the Muslims of the country were more curious about the incidents in which the Australian people’s power is shown against one of the Lebanese who was based by the attackers of Australia, in order to prove their point regarding power and using race war as defense weapon (Poynting 2006).

This is so unfortunate that Sydney could not find the people who were responsible for these Cronulla race riots and the reason for it. This clear injustice with the minority group resulted in such a big violence between the locals and the Muslims living in Australia. The prime support or foundation of these powerful local people in Australia is being decided based on their wealth, religions, traditions that use their power as the weapon ( 2015). These elites use their power to support the locals blindly in the name of being religious, hence damaged the culture (Reid 2010).

In the case study, Cronulla race riots were a series of events and racial violence took place in the Sydney harbor beach. To show the power of economic elites of Australia there have been plenty of proofs that explained how this small argument converted into violence that caused harm to people and the nation. In this case, a claim converted into a counterclaim from both the parties, resulted in the extreme violence signifying the racist relations in Australia. The chants pronounced during the riots turned into the nation’s anthem in respect and pride of White Australians. However, the others were in the apprehension of disgrace and terror. It is clearly seen, that Australian elite group rules the nation at large in the name of tradition, religion, and money.


Evers, C. 2008. 'The Cronulla Race Riots: Safety Maps On An Australian Beach'. South Atlantic Quarterly 107 (2): 411-429.

Poynting, S. 2006. 'What Caused The Cronulla Riot?'. Race & Class 48 (1): 85-92.

Reid, Carol. 2010. 'Will The 'Shire' Ever Be The Same Again? Schooling Responses To The Cronulla Beach Riot'. Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 2 (1): 47.

Smith, Tony. 2006. 'The Cronulla Chaos: Five Gloomy Explanations'. AQ: Australian Quarterly 78 (1): 9.

Stratton, Jon. 2011. 'Non-Citizens in the Exclusionary State: Citizenship, Mitigated Exclusion, and the Cronulla Riots'. Continuum 25 (3).

Websites:,. 2015. 'Cronulla- Five Years On',. 2015. 'The Cronulla Riots- The Sequence Of Events'.,. 2015. 'Theories of Power,. 2015. 'The Cronulla Riot: How One Newspaper Represented The Event'


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