While most Australians were tucking into their ham and turkey for Christmas lunch, thousands of others were cutting loose on beaches in Sydney and Melbourne in illegal and drunken parties which left behind huge amounts of mess and a big cleaning bill for local councils.
Large, unauthorized beach gatherings have become a controversial feature of Australia's Christmas Day in recent years, as big groups -- comprised largely of backpackers and tourists -- converge on popular swimming spots to drink and party. At least two were arrested after 3000 people turned up to one party in Sydney's south, at a small beach called Little Bay, while a reported 5000 people partied at St Kilda beach in Melbourne.
Thousands had met at the more popular Coogee Beach in Sydney last Christmas, leaving behind a reported 15 tonnes of rubbish, and after a large amount of police and media attention, party-goers had tried to keep a lower profile by heading for a smaller and more secluded beach in 2017. However, police were called to the Little Bay party around 3pm on Monday, and were reportedly pelted with bottles and assaulted by partiers as they attempted to disperse the crowd.
Nearby residents told the ABC the party was mostly "well-behaved" and patrons were "singing and happy", while party-goers claimed things only turned ugly once police arrived. Other residents said the situation left them "scared". Capsicum spray was reportedly used to break up the party, and two women aged 23 and 25 were arrested for assaulting police.
In Melbourne, 5000 turned up at St Kilda beach and left behind what the local council claims will be an AUD$18,000 (US$14,000) cleaning bill. Huge amounts of rubbish, including bottles, cans and food, was left behind after police broke up that party as well. Two people were arrested for public drunkenness, while another man was reportedly hit by a tram after the crowd was dispersed.
"Port Phillip Council is appalled by the thoughtless behaviour of the thousands of visitors who have trashed the St Kilda foreshore," said local mayor Bernadene Voss.
"People are furious that visitors come to enjoy our beautiful place and trash it. That's what's so disappointing to people, that you can be so disrespectful to people's front yards."