People hanging around the rotunda at South Grafton near Skinner and Through streets.
People hanging around the rotunda at South Grafton near Skinner and Through streets. Adam Hourigan

Attempt to break up Sunshine Club

THE wider Aboriginal community and liquor sellers will work with police and council to try and break up the infamous Sunshine Club – a loose collective of revellers who drink alcohol daily and yell abuse at passers-by on the river bank near the South Grafton CBD.

The Sunshine Club was discussed as ‘an embarrassment’ at both the Local Command Aboriginal Consultative Committee (LACACC) meeting last week and the Grafton Liquor Accord meeting on Tuesday.

Well known to traders in Skinner Street, members of the Sunshine Club are mostly, but not exclusively, Aboriginal and members of the wider Koori population have had enough of their behaviour.

Aboriginal Community liaison officer Gary Brown tabled an action plan on the issue at the Liquor Accord, saying ‘elders in the community are upset about young people drinking down there’.

Chief Inspector Jason Bretton, duty officer for Grafton police, asked members of the accord to assist police by gathering evidence and being crown witnesses to any instances of ‘secondary supply’ of alcohol to juveniles.

This offence, he said, carried a $5500 fine.

He said police had already increased patrols of the area on morning shifts.

“It is a distasteful blight on our community. Police will be using ‘move-on’ legislation and developing strategies with LACACC,” he said.

Several members of the accord called for Clarence Valley Council to continue the redevelopment of Skinner Street all the way to the river as touted in ‘stage three’ of the current development.

Other suggestions included bulldozing the shelters under which the Sunshine Club loiters.

Alchemy cafe operator Peter Freeman said one of his customers had been sworn at and abused about a fortnight ago.

“She was an elderly woman who was frightened,” Mr Freeman said.

On the same day, he said, a tourist told Mr Freeman he’d had a similar experience.

“It’s awful for visitors, in the current climate you’d be reluctant to leave your boat unattended and you’d have to be thickskinned to take all the abuse,” he said.

“You’ve got kids breaking bottles to vandalise the poles, domestic disputes ... we need to stop labelling it ‘antisocial behaviour’ – it needs to be called crime and treated as such.”

Another Skinner Street trader, who preferred not to be named, said the park was underutilised by the wider community because of the threatening behaviour of the Sunshine Club revellers.

“It’s not a race thing, it’s a social thing – these people are wasting their lives because they are not productive. Fines won’t work because they just don’t pay them and they don’t care if they have a licence or not.”

Fronting criticism that her hotel had supplied members of the Sunshine Club with alcohol, Post Office Hotel licensee Mary Bligh said the community needed to get involved in solving the situation rather than pointing fingers.

“I can only refuse to serve someone if they are intoxicated, if they are under age or if they are banned – other than that, it’s discrimination,” she said.

“This pub has always been an early opener.”

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