Photojournalism: Cronulla, under the surface

Cronulla sand dunes. (Photo: Nate Warburton)

I have lived my whole life in Cronulla. My grandfather was a member of the Cronulla Polar Bears. A group of ocean swimmers who swim exclusively in the heart of winter. My father swam for the group after and then I happily broke this tradition, choosing to sleep in instead.

I went to Cronulla High School. I have memories of us carrying a skateboard ramp from our school to the sand dunes. We positioned it at the base of a massive dune before sliding down on a bodyboard head first, launching ourselves into a lagoon. One of my friends missed the ramp and split his lip open. The cut went from his nose to the end of his top lip, the whole thing was caught on film and made part of a body boarding video which was shown at the Dendy in Newtown the following year.

A large part of my class travelled to school by boat. The Bundeena ferry would arrive on the hour at Cronulla wharf, trafficking kids across the port hacking river.  My friend Mitch chose to drive his small inflatable boat to the wharf instead and would tie it to a nearby pylon. One day Mitch finished school and returned to his boat, only to find that it  had popped and sunken on a shelf of oysters when the tide went down.

I grew up in an Indian household and was one of the few brown kids at school. Although this did serve as a base for my identity in high school I never received any racism or hate towards me or my family. In fact I had never viewed Cronulla with this stigma until the riots happened. In fact, during the time of the riots the most popular kid at school and school captain was Abdullah Kassab, a Lebanese Muslim boy with a heart of gold, and so was the principle, Mr Ibrahim. Not to say that racism doesn’t exist in Cronulla; it does, but it also doesn’t. Welcome to my home.