Clif on Bra Boys film

My mate Clif, who wrote his PhD on gender and surfing, has written a series of posts on the recently premiered Bra Boys film and the phenomenon of the Bra Boys in general. His most recent post is a scathing critique of the film after Clif attended the premiere.

At the end of the film a raffle was held to raise money for a bus to bring disadvantaged kids from the Western Suburbs to the beach. The very same crew the Bra Boys have intimidated, bullied and ridiculed over the years. It’s a nice gesture I guess. But I can tell you, I wouldn’t want my kids looking up to these blokes as ‘role models’ or ‘mentors’. Their take on life is pretty fucking skewed and ugly, even though they want us to think otherwise. Maybe they should take the money they raised for the bus and travel out to the Western Suburbs and live with the kids there for awhile. I think they have more to learn than the kids they want to ‘help’. It would actually do the Bra Boys good, and show them how Maroubra ain’t that bad after all.

The westies versus surfers battles have raged since the late-1960s and 1970s in Sydney. Clif’s above remark reminds me of some of my work in my PhD. As I have found in my archival work looking at the magazines that serviced modified-car culture of 1970s the Panel Vanning movement is interesting. It folded the ‘hot rodding’ and ‘street machining’ techniques developed by Western suburbs’ hoons into the quasi-bohemian lifestyle of the Eastern and Southern suburbs’ surfers and vice versa. Both the surfers and the westies shared a desire for an increased mobility which was literally represented by the Panel Van. Now it seems this has become the inverse, at least for the surfing cultures. Panel Vanning is a cultural manifestation of the same desire for mobility that politically mobilised various labour movements around the world in the 1970s. The desire was to escape from the different labourist social contracts that protected local labour but also stifled productivity and bottom-up creativity. In affluent societies, such as Australia’s, the joy of mobility needs to be opposed to the violence of localism.

EDIT 15/03/07: Oh there have been some developments over on Clif’s blog. A few of the ‘locals’ have got restless and left comments. Then there is a comment that is absolutely hilarious. I think it is a good reminder that we should never take ourselves too seriously…

22 replies on “Clif on Bra Boys film”

  1. Being sheltered and innocent (and most assuredly not a surfer) I was mostly unaware of the “Bra Boys” phenomena/movie until it appeared in a thread on AusRotary’s Off Topic section.

    There was a lot of support from ‘bra and non-‘bra locals for localism of varying intensities.

  2. It is disturbing.

    Perhaps what these localists do not realise is that localism is the tip of a pyramid, exceptionally unstable and requiring the greatest effort (sometimes violence) to remain in balance. To me this is complete and utter waste of energy and of life.

    Why fight for what you have by fighting for a maintenance of the past in the present, when the fight for the future is so much more important? buort?

    Has there been a global bit-flip where the currents of trans-local movements are of enough force that it produces the real illusion of movement when the locals stay savagely still?

    It is so fucking boring!

  3. I am a bra boy. and for 4 years i live in mt druitt(family moved there in houso com). nothing compared to the bra. I wonder if you have lived in any of these places. Friday after school i would be on the first train and bus to maroubra. Bra Boy For life. Step up or Shut up. 2035. MBK 4 L.

  4. dude, maybe you can’t tell from my comments above, but I was exremely happy to escape from the sort of social milieu not so much associated with the machismo glory of the Bra Boys but associated with a similar shit-boring dead-end suburb. I escaped so I could hopefully make something of my life.

    Mateship is important. I have defended ‘mateship’ on this blog against both conservative appropriations of the term for political purposes and unthinking critics of the notion.

    Respect is important. But what is the nature of respect? Do you yearn for respect from those you look up to? Do you expect respect from those people who you make afraid? These things are not respect. Respect is something more like an acknowledgement that you can do your own thing, that you are your own man.

    Living a life that is worthy of you living it is the most important thing: don’t fuck around doing stupid shit. If you have to do stupid shit to live in a suburb, then don’t simply glorify the stupid shit. This is a waste of time.

    You will get more respect from the people you grew up with if you create something of your own life in the world. Don’t hide behind this 2035 Bra Boy stuff.

  5. All I have to say is how proud I am of my brother, Macca De Souza who poured his all into this project. He is a Bra Boy and a bright one at that. He has graduated from UNSW with a degree in Fine Arts.

    So I think that the younger generation looking up to him isn’t such a bad thing. Just watch where its going to take him.

  6. Glen, that is good to hear.

    However, Bra Boys with Fine Arts degrees don’t exactly fit the image of the film, do they?

    I can appreciate where your brother has come from as I am a BA with an English major now doing my PhD and I am from a suburb where I was deemed to already have a dream job when I used to write as a freelancer for Street Machine 5 years ago.

  7. well I saw Bra Boys last night and had mixed feelings about the film, being a surfer myself and being lucky enough to live and surf at a quiet island that doesnt have all the rough and tough issues these boys have in the sydney suburbs i feel so lucky.
    I couldnt help but notice the double edge sword the surfing world has, one side is the beauty of surfing the calmness and peace of the ocean, and that amazing feeling only surfers know that we get from surfing with our mates, and the charge we get from the ocean after being in the water its like nothing else, on the other side is the ugliness of localism and mucho testosterone driven violience that exists with certain segments of the surfing culture.
    Surfers are there own society in a way and with in all societys there are allways different characters and personalities and this was an interesting insight into this level of the culture, Surfing has become so popular and the numbers in the water are increasing into an allmost unbearable situation at times and i can understand the locals anger as i am one myself at blow ins trying to surf “our waves” but the scenes of people being bashed and stabbed over surfing is sickening and should not be promoted in my view at all, i admire the bra boys commitment to each other and the tightness and mateship they have but i also feel sorry for them in the way that they have had to become so hardened and go to such lenghts and violence just to do what we all love” to just go surfing ” well theres so much awesome coastline in australia and i can safely say i wont be going to maroubra to surf thats for sure i havent got private health insurance .

  8. I used live at Maroubra Beach and did so from the time i left school in 1980 up unti very recently.There was always a stigma attached to the Bra Boys as a violent and dangerous
    gang but I can tell you it is completely unfounded,which is what the doco is aimed at showing.
    I used always go to the beach and walk around the area at night and i certainly wasnt concerned at all to call into the shops at Marine Parade at any timeday or night when there may be a group of 20 or so hanging around outside.
    These kids hang there because they have no home life to go to which is sad and they are forced to grow up early to survive,they do not start trouble but at the same time they will hold their ground ,no matter what if threatened much the same as all of us would if a member of our family was threatened or mistreated..they are all family to each is all many of them have after all.
    The Abbertons have done it tough and they have risen above it all and i admire that.Take a look at Koby during an interview and tell me this guy is no good.He left school in year 7 and can handle the press better than most graduates,shows a strong emotional side during the film and was a grandson any family would be proud to have.
    I suggest that there is something pretty special about this band of brothers and we havent heard the last of them.
    I am proud of their achievements and wish them well.

  9. i read a couple of years back about the lad holding the baby that the bra boys beat up, i didnt see that in yhe movie, all involved with this glorification of thuggery should be ashamed, you to russel crowe !

  10. Aye I haven’t seen this movie but I will… I think it’s a part of Aussie history that has to be recorded I grew up in Bondi in the Late 70’s and all the 80’s and it’s nothing like it is today our surf town had a strong local community just like the boyz from Maroubra with housing commission units and working class families and tight locals but most of that Aussie local community that was, before you say it (a Multicultual one including Islanders, Mauries,Italian pizza shop owners Aboriginals the original Aussies and other races) had to shift to make way for the government to turn it into a over developed Trendy Yuppie filled tourist holiday attraction complete with 5 star hotels cafe’s Mc Don’s and all that other crap.

    It’s a shame a lost generation I still remember the burnt out gas station on campbell parade where the local kids built their own skate board ramp that lasted well over a year now it’s where a 5 star Rarmarda hotel stands….I guess what I’m trying to say is the Average Aussie bloke or shelia is a dying breed in sydney, the type of people that stick by their mates when they right or wrong doing something risky or pitching in to help locals that Australian is slowly dying.Heaps of my mates have moved up the coast on the border to get out of that rat race and try and reclaim that golden age of simple Aussie culture but alas I can see it slowly happening to Coolangatta and other beach suburbs.So before anyone disrespects this movie and calls it “Trailer park trash”(which is a hi society term used by Yankee Yuppies and has been addopted by our upper class citizens in a attempt to make themselves feel better about not having a courageous bone in their body)step back and take a look at yourselves and ask do I have any mates did I ever have any??? Do I know where I’m going when I don’t know where I’m from???? I’ll always remember the Bondi boyz and they know who they are we live in eachothers memories the same will be said for the Bra Boyz, LA PEROUSE Boyz and other beach surfing cricket street playing footy Local communities I feel sorry for people that didn’t get to grow up feeling part of this type of real Aussie culture.Look I also don’t condone violence but I’ve been in a couple of blues sticking up for mates rebelling angainst outsiders or bouncers trying to throw their weight around and whatever, it’s all about growing up it’s not just bravardo it’s just part of their story… what you don’t think cops don’t sit around after work having a few beers boasting about the fights and thuggish behaviour they promote in their curupt sub-culture of course they do for sure.Oh yeah don’t anyone even try to verse because I had the option to stay and live in Bondi with my parents being part of the hard working class they just were able to pay off their semi detatched house in the early 90’s but I couldn’t stay in that area when most of the people aka locals I grew up with had moved on I also couldn’t bring up my son in a community with no substance no stories which is like a version of the aboriginal dreamtime local legends for example a small surf story I remember about a bondi local who went out in surf holding around 15ft faces paddled out on a bodyboard and caught a wave from Maca’s(mac kenzees bay)past all of Tamma (Tammarama)past the heads into the sth side of Bronte a mean feat for a 15yr old I wish I had pictures… or even just funny stories like another mate of mine never really liked the long hike from nth Bondi to the top end of Bondi road so when he couldn’t muster up the change he used to wait at the bus stop for the 380 and when it pulled over to pick up passengers he’d sneak around the back of the bus lift up the little door that covers the fuel cap put his hand somewhere up under the back seat and stand on about 5cm of bumper bar while ducking done so the bus driver couldn’t see him and ride it home what a sight to see legend ….The Oldschool Bondi Boyz were hardcore and I’m glad that another hardcore group of beach going locals could stick together this long and long enough for their own story to be told I’d like to have the backing to tell that type of story about the real bondi locals before my old stomping ground became sad and filled with dregs the funny thing is Russel crowe probably hangs there now sipping on Lattes with Jamie paker in one of the many cafe’s.. but Yes I will see this movie and so will alot of my mates I can’t wait to see the Waves A B Cee Ya Web.

  11. I grew in Maroubra Bay until old enough to get out. My parents where locals, my father and uncle regulars at Maroubra Bay Hotel. But from the day my mother moved us into houso at Lexo we became second rate citizens at the beach. The beach became for those that lived east of Duncan St. Because I made friends with my neghbour, as all kids do, I was targeted. Growing up we where constantly running from groups of 40 young adults wanting to smash us because we lived in housing commision. I have see all 3 abberton bros get smash by mates defending themselves. Jai and Sunny both stab and Koby receiving a clublock to the face. But I do not expect to see or hear about that in their propaganda movie. Maybe I should make a movie from the receiving end of the Bra Boys.

  12. bra boys fuckiong rule my brothers keeper it says it all mate be an ausie the bra boys are as ausie as u can get there a group of matse who have each outhers backs

  13. the bra boys are a dispicable group of suburban main chancers whose insistent masculinity comes across more as
    a confused homosexual clique with mummy and daddy issues.
    there’s no ghetto romance here – just spilt Big M and way too much sun…the idea that they represent a downtrodden minority holds about as much water as a dim sim.

  14. I watched BRA BOYS a few nights ago & was blown away, totally! So i watched it again, then again.. I was hooked, I think all up in 3 days I watched it about 10 times.. My son watched it & for a 7 year old loved it also. I grew up in housing commission also, there is & always will be a stigma attached to it, no matter where you’r from!!! I think the Abberton boys have done great for themselves, first Sunny going on the tour then later Koby. Yeah everone has shit in their lives, but these brothers have come together to try to make a difference. A big difference i think, Koby takes young kids that have pretty much the same upbringing as he did on surfing trips around the world?? What kid wouldn’t love it!! Charging the biggest waves they can find?? I want to congratulate the boys, all of them for being there for each other, no matter what. Where do you ever find a group of guys that are totally dedicated to each other like the BRA BOYS anymore???

  15. i dont know what all the fuss is about,the weapons back in the seventies were fists and fence palings now it’s guns and knives . Just who do you blame for progress and who will own up to keeping up with the crimes/ err, times of today anyway . Localism is mainly a bi-product of over crowding , that is , popualation in the city and crowd impact on weekends to other surrounding surf breaks let alone any week day that it’s crankin’at your home break.Refer to any rat experiment when over crowding a limited resource occurrs, same happens at the beaches the strong take care of their own and their territories and keeps things honest , to say the least.

  16. to kymbo. the baby that was attacked was attacked by some idiots from mascot ande botany. just because he was attacked in pagewood(Reported to be maroubra,suburb next to maroubra) people think its us. We dont do that we are not thugs. Anyone who would like to come to the bra is welcome. just dont be a dickhead and you will be fine. we just would like maroubra left the way it is, and not turn in to Fucking bondi and coogee. Latly there has been all these peolpe claiming braboy. Fuck you and if i find out who you are. Threating my family muther fucker.

  17. Hows this,
    If you come to my beach I will drop in on you. If you litter my beach I will smash you. If you act like a dickhead (like danger says) you will get knocked down.

    When I visit my Brother at the Bra, I act as though it was my own beach, treat it with respect, but most importantly dont act like I own the place. I dont drop in, cause it aint my home. If your not a yuppie you would know.
    Its the only way you will protect that piece of sand that seperates the rest of a society gone wrong with the waves that keep us sane.
    I bet if most of you met a Bra Boy in the supermarket you wouldnt know.

  18. What street did the abbertons grow up in ? I come from that area and the only bad housing commission areas are eastlakes and hillsdale which are suburbs outside of maroubra, I am just curious.
    Does anyone know ?

  19. I’ve lived in maroubra and came to the conclusion that on the whole the bra boys are athletic members of our society from a low socio economic strata who have problems definining their masculinity and addressing questions involving their sexuality.

    The problem with hope, in terms of the crew outgrowing their ‘adolesent’ issues is that when they get that tattoo they become trapped. They remain as children or ‘boys’ for their entire lives…unable to form their own identity.

    Undoubtedly an undercurrent of violence and aggression flows throughout the bra boys…something’s wrong. Heavy boozing, encouraging children to surf waves that could possibly end their lives, and being involved in street fights and brawls is not neccessary. Something is wrong.

    Anyway, why all this wasted time on the bra boys. I’m sure there are more interesting boys and girls! that have grown up in maroubra and become their own person. Perhaps we could call them the Bra Man or Bra Woman…or perhaps we could call them buy their real names.

    there’s no real war; the only war is the one that exists inside each of the bra boys.

    Facing yourself is more frightening task than facing a 20ft wave.


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