Sydney’s Underground Party Scene That Quietly Thrived Outside Lockout Laws

[UPDATED: on this day of 14/01/19 — lockout laws have officially been rolled back.]

There’s an incredible amount of cognitive dissonance amongst the decision-makers of Sydney. On one hand, they claim to value culture and the arts. But on the other, they actively purged the city’s music scene through the use of increasingly restrictive policies. Apparently the limit for appreciating culture and the arts ends with the Sydney Opera House – though even that isn’t immune from being grossly violated, given how badly certain stakeholders wanted to transform it into a glorified billboard. 

This conversation inevitably circles back to the issue of Lockout Laws. Lets get something very clear before we proceed any further: Lockout Laws do not work, nor will they ever work – plain and simple [CTDS, University of Sydney 2019]. And from a criminological point of view, the statistics are clear. Yes, violence has been reduced in the heart of Sydney but only due to the fact there is almost nought human presence between the prime time hours. More specifically, an estimated 80% reduction of pedestrian foot traffic in King’s Cross and Oxford Street has occurred since the introduction of Lockout Laws. The real kicker? Violence was already on a steady decrease across the board. As any criminologist will tell you, crime as a whole has consistently been on a downward trend in the last two decades.

What’s even more concerning is the fact the very same violence purported to “no longer exist” has simply found a new home in the surrounding areas outside the Lockout zone. And it hasn’t just found a new home – like a parasite to a once healthy host, it has since flourished by all accounts. Newtown, Double Bay, Bondi Beach, and Coogee have seen a 30% increase in non-domestic assaults [BOCSAR 2019]. So when all is said and done, violence hasn’t been cut down at all, the local economy suffers, and would you look at that – somehow The Star casino is doing just fine. 

This is far from a victory. This is a damning indictment of our domestic policy-maker’s myopic approach to crime prevention, transparent moral posturing, and grossly obvious corporate interest. This is a reactionary and poorly considered decision made in the face of public pressure. Dare I say it, this is even a convenient play for public favour to get ahead of the next election. 

Fun fact, there’s no easier win than appearing tough on crime, because a) no one is exactly pro-crime, and b) boots to the ground with a beefed-up police force is tangible enough for people to understand as opposed to sound policy that considers the long term. I mean really… why set up something that someone else could potentially take credit for when it finally yields results in a few years time when you’re no longer in office when you can just look like you’re getting shit done today, thereby retaining your seat? This is, after all, just a convoluted popularity contest. Act accordingly.

In times of hardship, however, comes adaptation and creativity. As not long after the passing of the Lockout Laws on that fateful 2014 day, an underground party scene in Sydney was brought to life. And it quietly thrived for some time.

In the video above, Resident Advisor follows the political fight to revive Sydney’s nightlife in their Real Scenes series. DIY promoters and artists who refuse to accept the stifling status quo are placed in the spotlight, as they keep the mechanisms of a once vibrant music/night culture scene going in the shadows. Warehouses, parks, abandoned sheds — anywhere they can get a sound system hooked up, you can be sure the party will follow.

Check it out.

RELATED: Friday Sharpeners Ep.17: Bringing Sydney Back From The Dead With Ed Loveday.