The Day that Shocked the Nation

Cronulla Riots

An interactive and forensic deconstruction of one of the darkest periods in Australian history.
Wins + Honours
Walkley Award Judges

Cronulla Riots: The Day that Shocked the Nation is a blend of documentary testimony, expert insight, academic investigation and multimedia reportage dissecting one of the darkest periods in Australian history. A time when Australians turned on one another in a systematic, targeted, racially motivated series of attacks in the beachside suburbs of Sydney.

At the heart of the site is a seamless blend of video overlaid with an interactive ‘investigation’ mode where users are encouraged to dive into a wealth of content surrounding the riots, forming a network of galleries, videos, articles, polls, and data. A dense collage of the story builds, the deeper a user chooses to interact.

The retaliation was all out war. It didn’t matter who was being targeted.
Nick Kaldas APM
Deputy Commissioner, NSW Police Force

Fluid and responsive, the website invites users to toggle between reading articles and watching video alongside a wealth of supporting context-building material, giving an unparalleled level of depth to the topic.

× minute documentary
A central narrative branching into multiple themes
× additional stories
Interlinking galleries, articles, interviews and data visualisation
× police events
Extracted from the official NSW police reports and chronologically presented against a map of Sydney

Exploring new methodologies

During the conception stages of the project, our team developed a unique design language that utilised storyboard sketching and interaction models to explore a wide range of creative and unique approaches to the complex narrative. We quickly prototyped on paper and explored in parallel with the content development from our researchers within the Northern Pictures production team. It was an opportunity to explore unconventional approaches and tools applied to an epic and multifaceted story. The project also explored unconventional relationships between producers, placing a traditional documentary crew within a bold innovation process. Our developers applied Natural Language Processing to datasets, including thousands of pages of official police reports, surfacing editorial ideas that would not have been otherwise possible. Narrative-building applications such as Twine, usually the preserve of game developers, were used to quickly prototype interactive story ideas and communicate to stakeholders the relationships between the core documentary and its interactive moments.


Cronulla Riots: The Day that Shocked the Nation was also a moment to take the pulse of our audience a decade after the event. Academics at the University of Western Sydney developed an interactive quiz that follows the story and mirrors their analysis of the Challenging Racism Survey. With follow-up commentary by experts such as Professor Kevin Dunn, it asks the audience to reflect on the intersections that the media, geography, policing and governance have with the dark undercurrent of racism within Australia.


Winner of the Walkley Award for Journalism for Multimedia Storytelling, Cronulla Riots is a testament to the power of interactive digital experiences to help make sense of multifaceted and complex stories.

  • SBS
Industry Recognition
  • United Nations Association of Australia
    • Media Peace Award (Best Online)
  • Walkley Awards
    • Multimedia Storytelling
  • FWA
    • Site of the Day
  • The Webby awards
    • Honoree (Best Visual Design – Best Use of Video or Moving Image)
    • Honoree (Best Visual Design – Function)
    • Honoree (Online Video – Documentary – Individual)
  • SXSW
    • Finalist (Visual Media Experience)
  • Production
    • Creative Direction, Design, Motion Graphics, Typeface Design, Sound Design
  • Development
    • Canvas 2D, Javascript, Mapbox
  • Northern Pictures
    • Documentary Production
  • Andrew Quilty
    • Photography
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