Warning: This resource may contain references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may have passed away.

Australia in the 2000s

The Cronulla riots

In December 2005, a series of racially motivated disturbances, assaults and riots took place in Cronulla and the surrounding suburbs of south-western Sydney.

Early in December, a group of predominantly Middle Eastern youths assaulted three off-duty surf lifesavers. Police said the attack was partly racially motivated. Members of the local community called for a public demonstration in response.

This call rapidly spread via SMS text and talk-back radio. On Saturday 11 December 2005, up to 10,000 people gathered in response. Initially peaceful, violence subsequently broke out and individual passers-by were ethnically targeted and assaulted. That night, subsequent police action locked down Sydney beaches and nearby areas in surrounding suburbs.

On the following days, retaliatory assaults took place, with cars and windows being vandalised across other Sydney suburbs of Bankstown, Punchbowl and Ashfield.

Cronulla riots, 2005

A snapshot of 2008

  • January
    • The United Nations General Assembly chose 2008 to be the United Nations International Year of Planet Earth.

  • February
    • An official apology by the new prime minister, Kevin Rudd, to the Stolen Generations was made the first order of business of the new federal parliament.

  • June
    • Australia ended its combat operations in Iraq, withdrawing approximately 550 troops from the region.

  • July
    • World Youth Day (WYD), the largest youth event in the world, attracted 223,000 pilgrims to the event held in Sydney.

  • September
    • The Global Financial Crisis began having a serious effect on the Australian economy.
    • Quentin Bryce was sworn in as the first female governor-general of Australia.


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