Today, on New Year’s Day 2011, we witnessed a vicious racist attack on Cottesloe beach that followed immediately after three dogs attacked a young Indian boy – who was at the beach with his father.
My Dad (Nono) and I decided to go to Cottesloe for a swim and him to bathe the leg in which he had a life threatening infection last year after Splinter, his Bengal cat, had bitten him. While the leg is healed, the skin is badly marked and scarred and very fragile. It breaks easily, bruises at a touch and my Dad thought that bathing it in the ocean regularly, say, once a week, might help to toughen it up.
After he had listened to the Perth Cup, we drove to Cottesloe, parked and spent half an hour or so in the water, which was rather choppy, with an outgoing tide and afternoon sea breeze.
Dad got dumped once and was having trouble keeping his balance, so we returned to the car and drove south along the beachfront, hoping to find some smoother water. The main beachfront at Cottesloe had no parking space left, so we continued to drive down Marine Parade until we stopped to watch the kite surfers. We parked in front of 76 Marine Parade, Cottesloe, got out of the car and stood on the top of the dunes by the steps and showers, watching the riders travelling at breakneck speed across the waves, flying above the water and doing 360o turns. My Dad was entranced by their skill and the obvious strength required to control the huge curved sails.
There was no one else on the beach except two women who were accompanied by three unrestrained dogs and three kite surfers way out on the water.
While we were watching, a young Indian man and his son, a boy who looked to be about 9 or 10, walked up to the steps alongside us and politely said “Good afternoon” to us. We nodded back, returned their greeting, smiled and watched them walk down the steps and on to the beach. Alongside the steps was a sign that clearly designated the beach as NO DOGS and everyone else we had seen that day had their dog on a leash.
Before the boy and his father arrived, I had remarked to my Dad on the sizes of the dogs – one very large, oversized blue heeler cross who, it appeared from our vantage point, to still have some
floppy dugs and two small dogs that looked like jack russell crosses. I had remarked to my father that she would have had to get down on her knees for their father if they were her pups, as Pepper1 had had to do for one of her two matings. “Naughty girl, that Pepper,” I had said.
We watched the man and his son walk down toward the water, to the right of the two women, and then start to walk away to the right towards the main Cottesloe Beach. We watched the kite surfers, the women, the dogs and the man and boy – for they were all in front of us.
Suddenly, without warning, one of the small dogs ran up to and started jumping on the boy, who tried to shoo it away with his hands. The second small dog joined in the fray and to our horror, the very large blue heeler cross ran up and the boy was knocked to the ground, the three dogs swarming over him and his father trying to get the dogs off. One woman came over and grabbed the small dog that was the initial attacker. She stood holding it in her hands, her arms outstretched with the dog facing away from her, while she spoke with the father who had helped his son up out of the sand. The boy was hiding behind his father’s legs and the father kept turning from side to side to keep the other small dog and the larger one from getting at the boy. After three or four minutes, she walked back to her companion woman on the beach, still holding the aggressive dog in her hands, and called the other two dogs away. Having rejoined her companion, she put the dog down and it began to run again towards the man and the boy, who were actually walking away from the women and the dogs towards Cottesloe. Fortunately, the boy was wearing trackpants and these (as it turned out) had saved him from being injured.
The first woman retrieved the dog for the second time. The second woman followed the pair and began shouting at them. They stopped and turned to face her. Her words came clearly up to us on the top of the dune, alongside the road. “This is my beach. This is my country. Go back to where you came from!” She it shouted again and again.
Not a word of apology. No sign of sympathy for a young boy, clearly terrorised by the dogs and her appalling behaviour.
I called down from the dune: “Stop your racist language, you bitch!” Rude? Yes. Did it get her attention? Yes. She looked at me, up on the dune, and turned back to the man and boy and started shouting at them again. “Get out of my country. Go back to where you came from,” she screamed. I called down to her again and she did stop, turned away and went back to her companion.
A young Italian man, who it transpired was on holidays and visiting his sister in Perth, had come to stand beside me and my father. He, too, was appalled by the viciousness of the dogs and their owner. “Racist dogs, racist owner,” he said. While we had not been aware that he was there earlier, he, too, had seen the whole incident from beginning to end.
The man and his son came back up the steps and we asked if the boy had been hurt. Fortunately, because of his tracksuit pants, he had not. My Dad and I consoled the boy and said we were really sorry that his day at the beach with his dad had been so spoiled. He managed a smile.
The young Italian wanted to call the police; I called the Cottesloe Council where we reported the three dogs running loose and unrestrained on a beach that was sign posted for NO DOGS. I reported the attack. I reported the racist abuse. It was a four minute phone call, at 6:13pm on January 1st, 2011. The father (sitting in his car with his son) and the young Italian gave me their names and contact telephone numbers and I promised to let them know what happened when the ranger called me back. By now, at 8:40pm, the ranger has NOT called.
We all waited for a while, the man and his son; the Italian; my father and me. Since we could not tell them who the women were, we really wanted the ranger to arrive while they were still on the beach.
Some other swimmers arrived and there was some agitated discussion on the beach between them and the two women. The small dogs threatened one man, who promptly threw himself into the water. My Dad, who by now was sitting in our car, called out to me that “it was on again” as all three dogs ran amongst the intending swimmers. The women entered the water with the dogs, but to the left of the other group of four or five.
Two women about my age came up the steps and I asked them if they had had any trouble with the dogs. They said they had not, but that they had told the two women that it was a NO DOG beach and they would have to leave. I related what had happened earlier and they looked shocked. “Butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths,” was the comment. Followed by, “one of them said ‘honestly, if this is what Cottesloe is like, I am going back to Melbourne’.” We agreed that Melbourne was welcome to her and it was a pity that she came in the first place. We all watched as the two women and their three unrestrained, ugly dogs walked away to the left and out of sight.
With no ranger, there was little else anyone could do – so we went our various ways. Especially now that the women had left the beach immediately in front of us.
Did we want to get involved in an afray on the beach? No, we did not. But blatant racism cannot be allowed to go, unchallenged. It was bad enough that these two women would escape censure for their appalling dogs and their dangerous behaviour. For the sake of the boy and his father, they had to be reported. For the sake of the young Italian man, a visitor to our country, they had to be reported. For the sake of the community, they had to be reported.
I am a fourth generation Australian and I am proud to be an Australian. There is no other place on earth that I would rather live. Robbie, my adored companion for 34 years, was Anglo-Indian and came here in the 50’s from India with his parents as a boy not much older than the young boy on the beach today.
There is no place in Australia for the despicable, ugly, evil racism we saw on the beach at Cottesloe.
Madam – Melbourne is welcome to you!