Publication Details

This book chapter is published as Kell, P, Equality of opportunity in new times: the politics of learning and the learner in the new word disorder, in Kell, P, Vialle, W, Konza, D and Vogl, G (eds), Learning and the learner: exploring learning for new times, University of Wollongong, 2008, 236p. Complete book available here.


In March 2005, Western Sydney was in the grip of what the media referred to as a week of riots. According to the press, police were attacked by gangs of rioting youths throwing, bottles, rocks and fireworks at police in the suburb of Macquarie Fields. The “riots” were reported as a spontaneous response to the death of two youths in a high-speed car crash as a result of being chased by police in “hot pursuit”. The high speed chase in residential streets, a dangerous and highly controversial police practice was justified as being necessary as the car was allegedly stolen. The scenes of “mob violence” occurred in a suburb that was typified by high levels of unemployment, crime and drug abuse and seemed to represent the climactic eruption of the frustrations of those who lived in Macquarie Fields area suggesting that there was a level of desperation that government officials and police had underestimated. There was a growing sense that things were getting out of control after 4 days of street violence in Macquarie Fields also spread to inner City Sydney in the tourist area of Darling Harbour where groups of youths and police clashed.

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