Three days have passed since the now infamous ‘Coogee Beachside Rave‘ revved up and wound down, leaving in its wake a thick slimy layer of beer bottles, plastic bags, plastic cups, broken glass, urine, vomit and ‘nangs’ (nitrous oxide whipped cream canisters). The sand was left whiffy with alcohol, soft drink, mushy food, disintegrating beer cartons and I estimate, at least 50,000 empty glass beer bottles, a good 10% broken.

Two days have passed since I went out there at night to see what I could do to help clean up the mess. I collected 18 bags of bottles from the beach, and two fishermen and a partygoer helped me with 2 more. Not too shabby an effort – it helped clear half the beach and it got to the news.

Me with 10 of the 20 bags collected, and buns of steel from the million squats to pick up the bottles!

Who’d have thought that the act of not putting your rubbish in the bin can be so explosive! The resulting chaos was disgusting, and horrifying for me as an eco-campaigner. The aftermath on social media between drunken partygoers, fuming locals and those in shock all over Australia bubbled up a shitstorm of vitriol, abuse, name calling, racism and other horridness that we really don’t need, over and above the abuse the natural environment has endured these past few days.

What we need instead of ignorance and blame, is a plan.

That’s where this post comes in. I’m in an interesting position in amongst this mess, pun intended. I’ve talked to lots of people the past few days… representatives of some main characters in this drama.

I’ve spoken to the DJ, the partygoers, the backpackers. I’ve sat with the locals, environmental groups and news reporters. I’ve witnessed the council cleanup crew in the dead of night. I spoke to their on-site manager in person, standing there in amongst the garbage at 1am on Boxing Day. I’ve watched (and know) the Surf Life Saving Club governor on the news, and have followed the Randwick City Council’s actions closely. 

Here’s what I have learnt since, from actually chatting to, and observing, these stakeholders.

I’ll explain their viewpoints, and my thoughts on how it can be fixed. You’ll see that this issue isn’t black and white. We can’t just sweep this under the rug, so I hope to open the discussion for solutions that hopefully are more effective than the straight-out alcohol ban that has been introduced this week.

Player 1: The Council

Randwick City Council is the caretaker of Coogee Beach. They’re a pretty slick operation most days of the year. Their garbage collection crew is large enough for the whole area and they’ve shown a lot of initiative when it comes to dealing with issues and improving public areas.

They provide a beach clean most days with a beach cleaning truck. Its dragnet attachment sifts the sand, collecting litter early in the morning. We all benefit from the clean beach and are more than happy to pay our rates to keep this amazing beach, amazing. The parks and surrounding areas are dotted with some bins (for everyday use and volumes) and they’re emptied often. It is well known by Council and locals that the current quantity can struggle during weekends in Summer and for every public holiday celebration.

Today, Council has instilled a total ban on alcohol for the rest of summer as a reaction to the litter caked on the park and beach. Mayor Noel D’Souza’s media statement is here.

“Cheers Mayor!”…oh. Nevermind.

Viewpoint: “We already set out an alcohol restriction (between 12pm and 4pm) to try to mitigate any risks of a blowout like this, but that still didn’t work so we’re tightening it 100%.  The public outrage has been phenomenal, and we want to protect our locals, as is our duty. It’s disappointing to take a strong stance but we need our community to feel safe when visiting Coogee”

This all makes sense, but it is a blanket, and some would say, a knee-jerk reaction. It affords no nuance to the solution, no innovation or creative thinking, no investigation into other possibilities. It slaps the wrist of visitors and locals indiscriminately. It doesn’t allow adults to prove that they can #adult, and doesn’t discipline adults who have acted like pigs.

Most importantly, in my opinion, slapping on a total ban doesn’t allow the community or the council to explore the social and cultural structures within which something like this can occur, so it can be mitigated to never happen again. They fixed the symptom, not the disease. 

It is a quick fix that has already backfired…because the locals can’t enjoy a vino now, either! I think this reaction can be better massaged into a more effective solution, as I’ll go into, below.

Player 2: The DJ

My post on Facebook was tagged by a mate, with the name of one of his mates. It turns out he was the DJ that put the music on that day. So I wrote him on Messenger.

As he wrote me, he didn’t ‘put a party on’. It was not an event organised by him. There was no money changing hands, no compiling of a DJ list or set lists, no release of invitations…it was just him getting his decks down to the park and, with good intentions, gifting the park with tunes. I liked this idea, it has a ‘Burning Man gifting’ air about it. For those unaware, the Burning Man Festival is an 80,000 people strong, very respectful, ‘leave no trace’ festival in the desert in Nevada. It has run sustainably and respectfully for around 25 years.

Burners collecting MOOP (Material Out Of Place) on the last day of the festival….and doing it happily. Credit:

Now, I don’t know how this correlated with FB event invites going around to ‘go party at Coogee’, but I believe that he, 100%, didn’t know it would be this massive, and was utterly devastated at the result of all the litter.

He was bullied, harassed and insulted the entire next day, and it’s likely continuing right now. I went into messaging him with a heap of curiosity and hoping not to argue to a douchebag, and I was rewarded with a decent local bloke who was in deep regret about creating an atmosphere that bore that kind of destruction.

Viewpoint: “I’m not the one representative of the tens of thousands of people who brought down their own rubbish and didn’t take it away. I wanted to provide a free music session – a gift – something small to make everyone’s day a bit better. I didn’t know I would cause all this trouble, and now that it has, I feel terrible”

Let’s leave the guy alone. He is not everyone’s mum. Everyone was old enough to drink so they should be responsible enough to chuck bottles in the bin too.

Next time, let’s hope for more of a Burner party than a typical festival party, with a clean up session integrated into the party. Council can learn about MOOPing too!

Player 3: The Council Cleanup Crew Manager

This chat was the biggest eye-opener for me. This man and his crew are silent eco-warriors, no overstatement. But since they work under the cover of night, no one knows just how hard they work. When’s the last time you spent hours with an on-duty garbo? Try it sometime 🙂

The park by 2am in the morning…the Council cleanup crew still going strong.

That night I saw it first hand. I trotted down to the park to check out if there was a crew cleaning up. There they were approx 20 men, each with 4 bins on quick rotation, bending, picking up, stabbing rubbish with collection sticks, working their way through a football field-sized garbage pile a half a metre thick. Trucks lined up in a quick-fire relay, back and forth from the park to the tip/recycling centre.

They had been there since around 6pm and worked all night and the next day. Remember, this is Christmas evening, family time, and here these men were, away from families, working on one of the lowest status jobs so we can all enjoy the high status of public spaces with pristine cleanliness.

They were concerned for my safety down on the beach, collecting rubbish; they checked up on me regularly and helped me with bags.

The manager was, not surprisingly, stressed. He had to manage this carnage, the time frames, the workers shifts, and contain the clouds of flying plastic garbage whipping up the main streets. They were there for HOURS in the park and were busting a gut to pick up enough rubbish to reveal grass, at 9pm.

When I arrived and chatted with him, he told me about another logistical issue he had to sort out. The beach cleaning truck would be coming in the morning, but it would likely break many of the thousands of glass bottles on the beach. A safety nightmare.

The bottles all have to be hand picked out of the sand. I’m trying to figure out if we have the manpower to do that.

This sentence, spoken with a tone of deep concern, was the impetus for my collection on the beach.

Viewpoint: We worry about your safety. We don’t want to involve the public, we do our job because it needs to be done. Even though it was Christmas night, we had a large crew, doing their very best to fix the issue swiftly. We are proud of our jobs and try our best. We worked until it was clean again.

There have been so many negative things said about the council crew. “They should have more people, they should’ve done more through the day, they didn’t leave the bins out, fuck em, we pay them to clean” but Christ, did you SEE the mess!? How do you think it all disappeared overnight? It wasn’t Santa or Jesus!

It was Christmas day too – nobody should have to spend time away from their families for that long a time because they’re cleaning up other people’s mess. I think they’re due credit and respect for acting as quickly as they did.

The only thing that could’ve improved the whole situation was a risk assessment or contingency plan that erred on the side of caution, so the shock of it all was minimised. These strategies are actioned months beforehand by Council, not by the guys on the ground that night.

Player 4: The Backpacker/Traveller/Reveller

I spoke to the revellers and walked through the party between 12 and 2pm. I checked it all out, had a dance, sung ‘All I want for Christmas Is You!’ with the best of them, and kept an eye on the rising rubbish levels. I chatted to sunburnt, tipsy dancers and saw my fair share of flashed boobs! But I digress…

From what I witnessed, and from the stories they told me, the majority of the revellers were visitors, mostly from the UK, Ireland, and Europe. I don’t know if they were all backpackers, cashed up glampers, business trippers, whatever….they were in large majority, young visitors to the country. I spoke to fruit pickers, hospitality folk and those on their last smidge of a well-timed visa to soak in an Australian Summer before heading back to the 5 degrees and rain of home. I’m glad everyone had fun and were relatively well behaved with each other.

The crowd just keeps on going into the distance…

I mention their mother countries not to cause a xenophobic ‘anti-tourist’ war. The vitriol, hate, ‘those people’-ing and name-calling have been more toxic than any garbage could ever be. The blaming, high-horsing and ‘patriotism on steroids’ I’ve read on FB was so aggressive, I wanted to shrivel up, pack my swag and go camping in the middle of nowhere. Tourism is an important part of our beaches economy and I’d say the 606,000  backpackers (minus the ones who left their trash!) that graced our shores this year are pretty damn great.

There is no righteousness in my words. None at all intended. At times I felt shame for Australians, we stooped too low; but many times the visitors did too. I was called a ‘retard’ by an Irishman, who told an Asian Australian that she was a cunt and came on a ‘banana boat’, told to get a life and that I’m a fucking idiot from other visitors, and worse. Not the nicest of encounters, to be sure, to be sure… 😉

I just write this to shine a light on the obvious – there is a lack of education of visitors towards our expectations and standards of cleanliness. Moving past the argy-bargy, the fact is, this isn’t acceptable, but they don’t know that. They lack the wisdom of our culture and attitude towards clean spaces…or they do have it but don’t think it applies here.

When you’re a backpacker, and your priorities are:

  1. Having fun
  2. Having no responsibility (the definition of a holiday amiright)
  3. Getting as much sunshine as possible (why else take a 22-hour flight?)
  4. Getting loose – drunk or high, or both (helps most with 1 and 2)
  5. Being independent and having total freedom
  6. Seeing as much of this country as possible and moving on fast, after finding out how bloody big Australia is!

…it is pretty clear that a priority for maintaining cleanliness of the host country is absent entirely. At no point in the ‘arrival-holiday-departure’ cycle is the importance of individual responsibility for rubbish expressly shared with visitors. Sure, it may be screened as a boring little ad on the airplane’s TV, but not much more than that. That’s why it blows their minds watching us collect OTHER PEOPLE’S RUBBISH. Like we’re all mad, or stupid!

Have fun kiddies! Don’t make the locals bite ya!

It also holds a mirror to what we’ve had instilled in us. Aussies have had upbringings where if you’re told to ‘Do the Right Thing’, we know exactly what that right thing is. We, culturally, have ‘pick up after yourself, especially in public‘ drilled into us from birth via successful environmental and social campaigns. It’s important to us. It’s a priority. How wonderful is that!

*edit: I’ve been educated that the UK has a similar campaign! So, I don’t know what to make of that…the rules are the same, but they seem to fly out the window when you’re overseas. And yes, I include some Aussies in that too…everybody take a breath and calm down. 

What any Aussie says when we’re presented with a filthy park or beach. (Copyright cyncoco – not to be shared or copied)

That rave was a moment in time where worlds and cultures literally collided in a really visceral sense. It was a steaming pile that screamed, “We don’t know your ways, or we do but they don’t apply here!”

Viewpoint: I’m here for fun! I travelled half way around the world to get away from it all, ok. I don’t even realise what my actions cause, let alone all the others there. From what I heard, they come after to clean it all up anyway. Plus there weren’t any bins free! The bottles are heavy and I’m kicking on to a party…I’m not lugging my rubbish all over the eastern suburbs to be able to throw it away. I’m drunk, sunburnt and tired…and you expect me to carry heavy bottles? Fuck. that.

I see the solution here is threefold:

Education on arrival and throughout the holiday: Let’s just put it straight to them – Don’t anger the locals. Don’t bring shame upon your country’s people. Don’t leave rubbish behind. Everybody collects their own and if the bin is full, you pop it in your car or bag and dispose of it at home. There are fines. There is jail time. There are no alcohol zones. Don’t ‘take the piss’ in timed alcohol zones. No glass bottles on beaches or in public spaces with kids and barefoot crowds – FFS that one is obvious! You cannot, must not, will not, dirty our home. Show some respect.

A Cultural shift around drinking: This one’s harder, read: #2 in the list above, but it’s the critical piece of the puzzle. Why is everyone getting SO fucking sloshed?

Can’t stand up sloshed.

Sexual assault sloshed.

Not give a shit about the rest of humanity sloshed.

Swimming/drowning in the shore dump sloshed.

Falling asleep on a half-inflated plastic Santa on the beach, naked, with a towel on your shoulders and lap sloshed? (This was the guy I walked around for hours as I did my beach cleanup at 2am. I hope you’re ok dude!) 

What’s wrong in your life where you want to lose that amount of self-control any fucking day? In the sun too! Ouch. Rookie mistakes guys. I hope it teaches you a bit of a lesson, even if we can’t…

Being effective hosts: When expectations are not made clear, via the use of ‘sticks’ (force), education or ‘carrots’ (encouragement), we will continue to be trapped in a cycle of shock, disappointment and rage, a cycle created by our own inaction and impotence. We need to influence them like we have been influenced. Let’s share our clean beach culture, not blast their ignorance…no matter how great that might make you feel 😉

Player 5: The Locals

The locals have risen in a mighty wave of disgust, shock and anger. And so they should. It’s a reaction to the insane and unprecedented rubbish on the Coogee grass and sand.

Now, they are all feeling one more thing – the sting of an indiscriminate slap on all their wrists, without even a sip of the alcohol or the rhythm of the DJ’s beats to numb the pain.

The total alcohol ban affects the locals too, so family gatherings at the beach will now be reduced down to nanny-ish no-alcohol zones. Even 80-year-old Grandpa isn’t allowed a single end-of-year port. Mum and Dad can’t cheer by drinking anything their kids can’t drink. Lovers can’t celebrate an anniversary with a champers. No. No. NO, says D’Souza. All in the naughty corner right now.

We say welcome, but please respect the place.

I hope that the anger subsides and the intelligence, calm and logic simmers to the top, fast. This is a crowd that is very easygoing until there’s a violation of their values and freedoms. This has now happened and we’re all highly uncomfortable with the tar we’re all now brushed with.

The locals treasure the park and the beach. It’s a special place, a place of community and a haven to gather with friends and family, pump tunes, laze about, have picnics, have a celebratory wine or beer and relax. Countless locals (and visitors!) use the barbeques, bring their musical instruments, exercise, acroyoga, tightwire walk, dog walk, and muck around every day.  It’s a busy, happy place.

While not all locals do the right thing, at the very least there’s a constant high level of basic respect for clean land, air and water, so rubbish is managed well.

Screen shot 2016-12-28 at 1.49.52 PM.png
Tony Waller, gov of the Surf Life Saving Club, firefighter and local legend.

Viewpoint: “We live here. It’s our home. We pay rates and we treasure this part of Sydney. We are FUMING that such disrespect has been paid to our backyard. It’s the backpackers/tourists/others fault. They should pay. They should’ve picked up their rubbish. They drink too much.

I’m scared for my safety and my children’s safety. I’m angry that I feel scared walking my kids to the park. It’s the council’s fault. They should have more bins around. I pay rates so I expect it to always be clean, and cleaned by someone else.

I’m disappointed that the total alcohol ban has been put in place. It’s so frustrating because locals are being punished for something they didn’t do. The majority are being punished for a potent, destructive few. Kick out the backpackers and return the place to locals”

In a nutshell, there’s a fierce pride in the environment, a high value on freedom, safety, relaxation and an expectation of perfect levels of public services in return for rates paid. These attributes can be used for good (calm, kindness, earning respect, and a strong sense of community, both local and broader) or they can flip to entitlement, anger and righteousness to the exclusion of all others. Let’s go with the former.

I think the only things that were in the locals control that could’ve improved the situation, were:

  • an earlier and loud, but controlled, factual and calm complaint from the locals before it got to that stage, and more importantly…
  • a proactive, cooperative chipping in to help clean up. The party hours and Christmas Day were no time to hold white rage and nationalist pride. They were the time to act, MINIMISE and resolve the issue. Lead by example.

The party came as a shock to everyone, though, and few came outside to check on their backyard. Few knew the problem until it was too late. Again, it’s Christmas day so that time is spent with family.

I’m saddened that many had to furiously action solutions to the party fallout, like the lifesavers that had to use resuscitation equipment approx 10 times to save drunkards from drowning.

10 of my 20 bags. A drop in the ocean of crap, up in the park.

So, where to from here? Some suggestions:

As I said earlier, what we need is education, and a plan. A clever one. A holistic one.

A combination of the following would really make an impactful, positive change.

Get Tricky with the rules

Rules can be more nuanced than “NO ALCOHOL FOR THE WHOLE OF SUMMER” *shakes finger in face*. Talk about black and white!

How about:

  • no alcohol in glass containers?
  • No beer cases?
  • Maximum 6 pack per 2 people?
  • No alcohol for large groups of adults?
  • Designated areas for alcohol and alcohol-free zones?
  • High fines for littering single-use plastic and glass bottles?
  • Confiscating alcohol for the whole group if a breath test is over 0.05, for example?
  • Must consume food with alcohol?
  • Equal alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks/water being brought in and consumed?
  • Fines for littering or moving away from your litter?

Some might sound silly, but they’re a brainstorm, and a brainstorm always brings innovation to the table. there are no wrong ideas at the first stage, so let’s all throw some around.

An improved cleaning strategy


  • Erring on the side of caution – overmanage and over-expect, then tame down the rosters, and action plans as the day wears on. early marks for cleaning crews are much more fun than a call at midnight to come in for emergency cleans.
  • An oddball solution – The locals from near the beach and park all bringing their bins down to Coogee beach to be filled and used on NYE and Australia Day. Ha!
  • More rostered cleaning crew. Double or triple it. A problem shared is … a crew that gets to sleep.
  • Bins on the beach! This is so important because if we can count on people to be anything, it’s lazy.
  • More bins. We now know there were 15 tonnes of rubbish. That’s 6-10 skip bins. That is not hard to plonk on Coogee and collect that night. 5 on the beach. 5 on the parklands. Done! That was simple.
  • Specifically, more RECYCLING BINS. The effort to correct dispose of a recyclable item is the exact same effort as throwing something in the bin, but the long-term effects of that act are HUGE. Please Council, more recycling bins everywhere.
  • Trickle Cleaning – my personal favourite idea. Council cleaning crew wander through the crowds, ask how revellers are going, have a laugh and ask for their help. With a wheelie bin in hand, they can have the party people throw their rubbish away in a convenient bin that is bright right up to them. They could even have a particular rubbish type to collect eg. glass, plastic, food or paper.
  • Handing out a white council bag, or bin, per large group of people.
  • Educating every Coogee visitor on MOOP. Material Out Of Place. A Burning Man principle that should be enacted everywhere. It is leaving no trace, and calling on everyone, at the same time, to collect all litter from their area, and dispose of it all at the same time. The lifeguards can call this out on the PA!

Education, sticks and carrots

  • Calling an emergency meeting of all backpacker hostel managers, hotel managers and tourist accommodation and outlaying a ‘strong stance’ educational campaign. The campaign should widely inform all visitors on the expectations Australia has of all its citizens and visitors when it comes to the natural environment. (edit: I am not saying that they should be responsible for the travellers, just brought on board as ‘front line educators’)
  • Significant fines.
  • Confiscating passport or visa (edit: not sure this is legal! Legal eagles, please advise)
  • Jail time for large environmental offences. It works in Singapore, just saying.
  • Confiscation of alcohol if littering or inebriation occurs.
  • Time-outs – back of paddy wagons for those too drunk to look after person or place.
  • 10c for bottle and can returns, at the bottle shop, NOT at a central recycling location.
  • Freebies for those who do the right thing.
  • Acknowledgement and respect given for those doing the right thing.

Getting cool, sharing the burden, and communicating

There was an FB event doing the rounds. It was, obviously, shared amongst the backpacker community and it spread from there.

Get into it, Council!: Council and the public need to open up a dialogue on these events. Let the council know that there’ll be a party that could get quite large. Council, get in there and put your ears to the ground. Don;t stop a party – manage a party. Employ someone who’ll know the beating pulse of the place. Don’t be surprised again! Score the invite and listen in on the planning. #eventsareoftenhashtagged #justaheadsup

Community’s Face: Police and council workers, you are more than welcome to jump in earlier and change the dynamic of a public event, without force, before it gets out of control. You did a great job but know that you’ve got our support to wander around and tell people in a friendly way to take 5 minutes to clean their shit up. You’re our face to them, teach them about how this community operates, please!

Dancing Sardines: Alcohol bans on particular beaches push revellers to the beaches with fewer, or no restrictions. This squeezes more madness into a smaller space. It is no surprise that every person under 30 came to Coogee – why wouldn’t you if there was that much fun!? Communicate between LAC’s and focus on where the most trouble will likely start – where there’s alcohol and massive crowds. If the crowd is there, crowd control should be there…and the cleanliness is as important as the peace. Both breed respect for place and person.

You’ve read this far, so thank you. I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions too. Please, no racism, prejudice, anger or hate here guys. You can do better than that. Aim high.

Peace out, and Merry Christmas! x

Posted by:cynthiac

23 replies on “Coogee Christmas Chaos – Where to from here?

  1. Fantastic article and response. I feel your struggle as some of what you write shares a strange parallel to what I am up against with anti cyclists and a government punishing rather than educating to get an outcome everyone would be happy about. Keep that up Cyn xx


  2. Fantastic article. As you said the Burning Man leave no trace philosophy has shown that 70,000 people can party for a week and leave the place spotless. That is an education. It works. Maybe the Burners without Borders crew could tackle this? Education through hostels, tour groups, and social media. You’d never leave Moop on the Playa! Why here?
    Thank you for all your work in clearing up. What a beautiful gift to our beautiful community


  3. A really insightful and thought provoking article! I’m from the UK and have been living in Australia for a little over 2 years now. I would like to advise that in the UK we are also as a nation expected to ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ so that education you’re referring to shouldn’t be hard to drum home to the backpackers. There’s even a logo that they would recognise that is placed on the back of most packaging. Perhaps incorporating this into some local signage might help.

    I am horrified, ashamed and embarrassed by my fellow Brits that have shown such blatant disregard for the locals and the environment. Fortunately the press in the UK were also publishing the disgraceful scenes so perhaps liaising with the department that issues tourist visas and working holiday visas could include a pamphlet in the application process outlining the true Australian beach culture and expectations in order to protect it. To be fair, what is shown on the TV in the UK sensationalise a life of fun, sun and beers taken to the extreme (e.g. Bondi Rescue, Gold Coast Cops etc.). They show the mess on Bondi after NYE and Australia Day and unfortunately they show show the Council workers doing the hard yakka look like a miracle team who swoop in and wave a magic wand – next day the beach is clean again, so no harm done. I am by no means devaluing the amazing job the garbos do, I’m simply stressing that the TV shows leave viewers with a misconception that this hedonistic melee and carnage is expected by the council and locals and the extra tourism will pay for extra rubbish collectors who will just clean it up whilst the litter bugs are absolved of responsibility.

    Shows like Australian Border Force repeatedly embed messages about expectation, laws and consequences to viewers in the UK. Perhaps a little of this shaming needs to be shown on shows like Bondi Rescue?

    Finally, I want to say well done on your efforts to help clean up the area – I hope the locals can reach a workable solution that satisfies everyone moving forward.


  4. What a dreadful, inward looking article that completely misses the point.

    These people have nowhere else to go where they feel they can have fun freely, due to Mike Bairds god-bothering, puritan policies, so of course this is going to happen.

    You will see much, much more of this in the future if the licenced party scene in sydney doesn’t improve.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Dan, thanks for your input. I’m not sure you read my article in the right way, or understood my point. I don’t want a ban. I am not actually angry or vengeful towards anybody. I agree that there’ll be more if this with Bairds current plans. I just want to list everyone’s very different viewpoints, and suggest alternatives to knee jerk authoritarian reactions.
      …we’re actually more alike in our perspective than you describe in your comment. I’m a burner, I’m all for a great time, a respect for the natural environment, and taking as much fun out of an event while still leaving the place beautiful for the next lot! Peace Dan, cheers


    2. Wow Dan. Cynthia managed to look outwards to pretty well every group involved, and yet because she didn’t blame the lock-out laws, she is being inward-looking?

      You don’t think it’s at all inward-looking to blame what happened out there on the lock-out laws? I seem to recall having a drink (several in fact) in the CBD on Christmas Day. Yes it was a bit quieter than normal but that is less to do with lockout laws than it is to do with paying Xmas Day wages and Xmas still being largely a family day.

      And no I’m not a ‘traveller’ anymore, but I had my fair share of Xmas Days in London (4) and festivals (Glastonbury x 2), beach parties in Thailand (several), and large festivals in the Nevada Desert (EDC x 3). On none of those occasions did I feel I had the right to just drop my litter everywhere and then blame local licensing laws (London 11pm, California and Nevada 2am)

      Bairds ‘puritanical ‘policies *have* moved issues out of the CBD, but ‘these people’ aren’t absolved of all (any?) responsibility because of Baird.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I read, with great interest, every bit of your article. There is a lot to think about and consider as options for action. Let’s think of the possibility that this disgusting behaviour and the resulting chaos can lead to some really innovative approaches to the many facets of the issue. You have already mentioned some which stand out for me. Besides shaming those who attended the event I really like the preventative actions you suggest such as creating mechanisms before and after arrival which make it abundantly clear what is and what is not cool with regard to disposing of your own litter in this great country. We could point them to some of the fantastic actions people like yourself and those involved with Take Three for The Sea / Two Hands Project etc are involved in, people who clean up after others
    I also like the idea of council workers ( perhaps also include local volunteers) who walk around such places during an event and engage with the patrons for the purpose of creating an understanding about what we expect. If the volunteers were young people like the revellers it might be easier to create a positive dialogue.
    You have mentioned a host of other practical things, such as no glass, limits to the amount of alcohol. All options should be considered.
    In conclusion positive change can only take place if we keep talking to and with everyone involved.


  6. Fabulous article and observations! Not all is black and white and I hope that in this instance, that consultations and brainstorming takes place- sooner, rather than later. Social faux pas is a multi faceted beast.

    Thanks Cyn


  7. I am the DJ’s brother, it sickens me that once again he has to take a fall for other peoples actions, a scapegoat if you will.
    My brother respects Australia, the locals and environment, hell he can’t even kill a spider. He loves Australia and wanted to make sure other people enjoy it as much as he does.
    He went out of his way on Christmas to provide enjoyment to others, this is his only crime. Before he moved to Australia he was in a terrible place, Australia has fixed him and he’s the happiest I have seen him in years, please do not take that away from him.
    This question is to the people who are pinning the blame onto my brother, if someone had a Guitar or a CD player would they be getting the same treatment from you? We are all adults, we all make conscious decisions for some it just comes down to laziness, we live in a society where it’s someone else’s job or a fuck it attitude. Don’t blame a group of people on a single person.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for writing James! I’m glad you did. I also felt the need to get the story out there once your brother and I had a chat. I also copped flack and my friends, husband and family supported me. You’re a noble man


  8. Great article with lots of ‘food for thought’ there. Really liked the concept of backpacker hostels having an education program of what ‘Doing the right thing’ in Oz means.
    As an event organiser I know first hand that logistic problems will crop up and the importance of engaging with stakeholders early and often.
    Let’s keep the conversations flowing and look for solutions.


  9. Very much liked your article.
    The council and the local/state governments also have to take into account parties are going to happen!
    Accept it and such problems will occur.
    Maybe have the option to ask for additional support from surrounding councils in such instances.
    Australia already has too many rules and regulations and ia fast turning into a nanny state of horrendous proportions


  10. Really?!
    There’s very clear, and highly publisised awareness and education campaigns on the impacts of rubbish and plastics across social and mainstream media platforms worldwide, not including the signage and council campaigns in Sydney that include warnings of fines. The seeming disregard despite what we all know, is what is fuelling the anger of the Community.

    I find it hard to believe that the majority of people who helped trash Coogee on Christmas day are not aware of, or don’t understand the impacts of their actions; whether that be to the clean up crews, to the people who will use the area after them, or broader impacts to the environment. 8 million tonnes of plastic enters the oceans every year.

    People were drunk, not lobotomised. Please don’t blame the lack of bins, Most didn’t even attempt to bag up their trash to appear ‘to be seen’ as doing the right thing to tidy up their patch. Trash was left in situ as if people fled the Rapture with seconds to spare.

    A discussion that autopsies how this can be prevented is healthy, but please don’t take the blame off those who were there in 2016. The 20+ years of Coogee orphan christmases have managed (for the most part) to respect the area, away before we all knew any better. If this tradition ends as a result of 2016 it’s on the shoulders of those who were there,


    1. Hi Jo, thanks for your comments. You’re right, no blame should be taken off the culprits at all.
      Funnily enough, I got recognised by a backpacker yesterday. He said “Are you the lady from the telly? The one who cleaned up?” I said yes and we got chatting. He said he had something to admit – he was one of the people who littered and left.
      I asked him why he did that and he said “I dunno, I wasn’t thinking, we kicked on. But now since all of this has happened we all feel terrible and are so sorry. We talk about it a lot in the hostel. We went and cleaned up a bit yesterday. It won’t happen again, not new years or anything”.

      There is a positive hey. Living and learning.

      I found the blaming and finger pointing on social media, shifted the issue from cleanliness and respect, to a really dirty tribal war – so I figure we clean first, teach second and blame (or a little chastise 😉 ) third, of they do it again.

      Merry Christmas Jo! Cheers ✌


  11. Hi there, I’m Kathryn, the chair of Bondi based charity and service club BLU 50. I couldn’t comment on your page on Facebook so I did a long comment on my page, this is mostly just reposting that comment.

    Agree Council has over-reacted here, although whether any beach is an appropriate place to drink is a broader question for our community as we fight our drinking culture.

    There is however two viewpoints missing: one is the licenced venues – NOTHING was open. I had about three conversations with people who trying to find somewhere to go for Christmas lunch (that wasn’t a sad homeless/no families type charity meal) or a few drinks and everyone was doors shut. Ok, hospitality workers don’t want to work – just like the garbo’s don’t and the venues don’t want to pay the penalty rates. But when there’s nowhere for people to go that’s licensed and controlled, they wind up in public places, like beaches and parks.

    The other is the paramedics. As an unorganised event they wouldn’t have had St John’s or other event paramedics there – how many ambulances got called? How many people were hurt? How many people wound up at Prince of Wales? The Life Savers pulling drunks out of the surf is one tiny, tiny part of keeping a crowd like that safe and well, just like the rubbish is only one aspect of managing the event.

    Another viewpoint is a harder one, but results from your suggestion that the DJ advise council and make it in to a formal event – I don’t know how, given it wasn’t him that had put the Facebook event up, and he had no idea, and a DJ does not an event make… but anyway. The viewpoint is the service clubs – like BLU 50, Coogee Lions, etc. Events are what we do – put on a barbecue for a little fundraising, run clean up – and most community events need the help of a service club to be successful. Coogee Lions Club is a great club, but my guess is they would have said ‘no deal’ to an event on Christmas day. BLU 50 (and the Bondi Lions Club) on the other hand has a pretty high Jewish membership… it’s something we definitely would have taken to the committee table for consideration.

    As for the solutions… try asking people who have done this a time or two before. You obviously have no idea what a line of skip bins looks like or how much room they take up… and yes, there was 15 tonnes on the beach, but there was also all the rubbish that people did put in bins or take away. What you describes as trickle cleaning is what works, as well as stationary wheelie bins about every 7 metres, with usually 2 garbage trucks with engines running constantly emptying and crushing rubbish. Workers (and by this I usually mean service club and other event volunteers) take up two wheelie bins to the trucks, and replace them with two empty ones in their positions, with the trick being not to wait until they’re full. Then no skips or bins get overloaded, the guys just drive the rubbish away at the end of the event, and the only thing that needs to be collected the day after is the empty wheelie bins.

    Education doesn’t happen in an event context. But it’s also not the job of hostels managers to educate their guests. They can and should be consulted, but if you make it their responsibility, the answer will be ‘no’. Strong stances, fines… pffft piss off. Visa’s are electronic and I’m pretty sure it is against the law to confiscate passports. You’re talking about people that are gone in days, they don’t care and would have already ignored the ‘welcome to Australia we like to keep our beaches clean’ materials BorderForce already plays at them on the incoming flight. Besides which, a local crowd can and will trash the beach just as effectively in the same conditions (too many people, no or not enough event support services). Similarly, there would have been many ‘presumed’ backpackers who are actually ex-pats, now residents here, opting for the beach party rather than sitting at home alone because they don’t have local family. Circle back to point above about lack of open venues.

    Love people who think and try. More of it! You should run for council… y’know, when they resolve the amalgamation and sort out when the election will actually be… just see the whole board.


    1. Hi Kathryn! Great to meet you and thanks for writing a thorough comment, I appreciate it. Yes, really valid points about the lack of open licensed venues and the paramedics. I didn’t get a chance to chat to them, but I saw one ambo stationed on the centre pavers. I’ll see if I can get that data into the article too – good idea.

      Yeah, the DJ part, he couldn’t have, and didn’t need to, do anything…the suggestion of a possible improvement for the future was just a way of harnessing the benefit of hindsight.
      I’ll share your suggestion about BLU50 events being considered.
      I’ll need to pull you up on my ‘obviously having no idea of what skip bins look like or how much room they take up’. I’ve both been a construction project manager for a decade and an outdoor events coordinator for a large festival. I do know, and I also know the cost breakdowns of their hire, vs the costs (financial and environmental) of not having them.
      The council trucks were there at night doing what you describe…but yes, after the horse had bolted, unfortunately! But all in all, a quick response and again, I commend them for working so hard.
      My brainstorming session in the article is just that. It’s a start. You shouldn’t go into a brainstorming session censoring any ideas – once they’re all out on the table, then the pros and cons critique happens – and this is the part where your and everyone else’s comments are so valuable, so thanks!
      …who knows, I may just run for council 😉 wish me luck! Cheers! ✌


  12. Cynthia,

    Thanks for a great article and for non-judgmentally presenting all the different viewpoints. I missed this particular social media shitstorm and I’m grateful I did – the vitriol and trolling on social media lately is eroding my already tenuous faith in human nature.

    I must admit it’s difficult, now that I’m *ahem* a little older, not to fall into the generational-blame cliche’ and start on about the young people of today. However, I *am* going to make the claim that Millennials certainly seem to be a smidge more narcissistic than previous generations with a resulting teensy bit more sense of entitlement. In their defence I’ve been going to festivals since the 90’s and the litter has always been an issue, however this generation seem to be taking it to a whole new level..

    Your article did provide some great insights. I have lived for 6 years now in an apartment in Haymarket with a lovely open rooftop swimming pool. Every Summer the pool is quite busy with Asian students who are still here for Summer, and travellers who are either dossing or short-staying in the building. Every Summer there is litter left in and out of the pool, and worse – the occasional broken beer bottle that closes the pool for two weeks for cleaning. The offenders are like ‘oops’ and then off on their next adventure. On Monday I went to the pool and had to remove carrot (!!!) from the pool bottom and tell security about two Asian girls with beer bottles on a floaty IN the pool, and again later when a group of four European blokes started drinking beer from bottles IN the spa pool.

    I don’t want to be THAT guy who has to go tell security, but I also don’t want to be the guy who can;t swim in the pool for two over Summer while someone empties it (at reasonable expense) to remove the glass.

    Millennials and Millennial travellers need more education to pick up after themselves and NOT take glass bottles to the beach or pool. And while I am loathe to spoil recreational areas with more signage, it seems that may be required. I’m about to write to our apartment manager and suggest bigger signage around the pool, because the TWO current signs about food and drink don’t seem to be working.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey there Stangoodvibes,

      What a bummer about your pool! Terrible.
      After all this chatting and observing, and being in it myself, I’m of the mind that if you find yourself in an issue like this, it’s much better to lean in and make a connection with the people causing you grief, and just have a chat, rather than creating a wall and blaming the ‘other side’.

      I hope the folks in your apartment building show themselves to be decent, cool people, even though they’re young, and that you end up being friends with and joking with “guys, you left your carrot here! 😂”

      I wish you (and me!) a brilliant, broken glass free 2017. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. This is all great in theory. The one thing that has not been addressed is that you can put in all the bans and restrictions that you want but if they aren’t actually enforced, it’s all just lip service.

    The alcohol-free zone has been in place for years; I’ve never seen it enforced. Eg, Australia Day. Alcohol consumption was recently limited to 12-4 in an effort to cut down on this type of scenario. Who exactly was going to make sure that there was no drinking after 4pm? Were the participants meant to police themselves? It’s all just lip-service.

    Do not make excuses for travellers/tourists/back packers. They don’t know about Australian expectations? Seriously? It’s called common sense. They just don’t care. They are out for a good time and a good time only. They’ll quickly be moving on so who cares if a mess is left behind.

    And please, to suggest that we, the locals, should be down there cleaning up after something like this happens? Yes, it’s our community and I don’t have a problem with people having a good time. But to put the onus on the community rather than the culprits? That’s not on.

    Perhaps if the Council and the local police actually enforced the policies, rather than turning a blind eye to daily drinking and smoking on the beach and the big blow outs that happen on the major holidays this might not have happened. No one’s going to take any restrictions seriously if they are never enforced.


  14. It’s nice to see someone caring to the extent your article shows. But what happened at Coogee seems to be just an amplification of standard behaviour merely as a result of the number of people involved. I have found myself becoming increasingly irritated by the amount of rubbish that gets simply “tossed”. And it’s not just backpackers~ A dirty nappy? Empty Maccas Wrappers? The contents of the ashtray in your car? A couple of used condoms and accompanying tissues? The takeaway coffee cup? The full dog poo bag? There seems to be a trend to just toss it. And behind this mentality is the reassurance that a team of people will come and clean up after you. Every weekend the park at Bronte is trashed. And every morning a team of dedicated paid council workers come out and take it all away. Problem solved? I don’t think so. Maybe it’s time for the council to simply leave the litter and see how long it takes for locals, indeed anyone with some kind of social conscience to take a stand and start asking people to take responsibility for their own shit. In spite of the increase in the number of people that believe it’s OK to just flick it when you’re finished, it is just not acceptable behaviour. And risking the inevitable ugliness, my New Year resolution for 2017 is to kindly point out to people as they dump their shit in my backyard that it’s much nicer for all concerned to dispose of it properly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I totally agree! The council workers work so hard and we don’t know about it. A campaign that highlights their massive contribution – and to expose that they struggle with manpower because of the publics collective littering – would be an eye opener for everyone like it was for me.

      I am fighting for everyone – no matter where from – to pay respect to the environment no matter where we are. We’ve just got one home!


  15. Well done on your considered, well-written article on this catastrophe, Cynthia! I am in awe that you volunteered so much of your time in making a huge contribution to the cleanup, as well as to the constructive discussion surrounding the issue obviously.

    I think this is an extreme case of the bystander effect…I suspect that a lot of revellers – those who now ‘really, really regret it’ because they suddenly remembered that littering is bad – knew exactly what they were doing at the time but they figured that the beach was just so packed, that nobody would even know it was them who left that particular mound of rubbish behind, and they were just so keen to move on to the next party that was lined up so their care factor went down to below zero…shameful!

    Love your work!!


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