‘Brawl’ reports hurt Byron’s image

Byron Mayor Cr Jan Barham has fired a broadside at metropolitan media outlets for their ‘sensational’ reporting of a schoolies ‘brawl’ at Byron Bay’s Main Beach last weekend.

Cr Barham said reports of a mass brawl were a total beat-up and she described the reporting as ‘extremely disappointing’.

“The claim that I looked on in ‘horror’ is untrue. I wasn’t even in the area when the fight broke out,” she said.

“From chatting to young people in Byron on Saturday night, the majority have come here for a relaxed, chilled-out time. They are attracted to the ‘Byron’ brand.

 “Saturday night was an isolated incident, but it has been totally beaten up by the media.

“The priority message during schoolies has always been safety and respect.”

The mayor spent much of Monday morning talking to radio stations in Sydney and Melbourne telling the true story and rejecting the ‘mass brawl’ allegations.

She said the stories in the metropolitan papers were not good for Byron Bay’s image and she felt for parents who might be concerned about the safety of their children in the town.

“Those sorts of stories will alarm parents and send out the wrong message to people,” she said.

Cr Barham said Byron Council and the community had always been on the front foot regarding community safety, but Byron Bay was always going ‘to be under the microscope’ with the town a victim of the tall poppy syndrome.

“I am fairly convinced this was about jealousy,” she said. “Byron is different and is popular.”

Byron Schoolies Safety Response and HUB co-ordinator Nicqui Yazdi said the fight on Saturday night was between a couple of individuals, not the 50 reported in the media.

Ms Yazdi said police were present immediately and the crowd of onlookers dispersed quickly.

She said it was a shame the media had chosen to focus on the negative and not the hundreds of young people having a positive experience.

“I’ve had phone calls today from concerned parents who wanted to reassure me that their children are behaving and having a wonderful time,” she said,

“Young people have also been dropping into the HUB upset about the media portrayal and by being harassed by media in the streets.

“They want to unwind and have fun. They are not looking to create problems.”

Byron United spokesperson Diana Ricketts said businesses, local police, the community and Byron Council had been working for months to help ensure a safe environment for young school leavers.

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