FactCheck Social Media

Wipeout: Bondi lockdown party footage is actually Byron Bay

2021-09-14 17:05:16

The Statement

A video on social media claims to show a group of people partying in public in Sydney’s beachside suburb of Bondi while the city was subject to strict COVID-19 lockdown rules.

The clip is included in an Instagram post from September 13. It shows a group of maskless people dancing and cheering to a music performance in a park. The video, which was posted to TikTok on the same date, includes an overlaid banner which reads, “Bondi Beach today.”

In the Instagram post, the clip is followed by several other pieces of footage including aerial vision of crowds at Bondi Beach. Over video of a group of police handcuffing a man in a park, the following text can be seen: “The Eastern Suburbs Enjoyed A Peaceful Police Free Day In The Sun … Western Sydney Enjoyed The Dog Squad Police By The Dozen Helicopters And Arrests.”

At the time of writing, the video had been viewed more than 19,000 times on Instagram, while the TikTok version had been liked and shared thousands of times.

The Instagram post from September 13
 An Instagram video includes footage of people purportedly partying at Bondi during lockdown. 

The Analysis

While footage of Sydneysiders flocking to the beach during lockdown drew claims of double standards in enforcement, the footage of people dancing and singing was not filmed in Bondi.

Rather, the footage was taken at an unknown time in Byron Bay – which was no longer subject to the same strict COVID-19 restrictions as Sydney when the video was posted.

Large numbers of people flocked to Sydney beaches amid warm weather on the weekend of September 11 and 12. This was despite all of Greater Sydney being subject to stay-at-home rules unless residents were engaging in exercise, “outdoor recreation” or another authorised activity.

When asked at a September 11 press conference whether he was concerned about mass gatherings at beaches, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard replied that he was concerned about people not being vaccinated and that “(in) the fresh air, we know, is the safest place to be”.  (video mark 12min 30sec)

However, some criticised the government for simultaneously strictly enforcing mask mandates and other COVID-19 health orders in western and south-west Sydney while seemingly allowing maskless crowds to gather at beaches like Bondi.

Parts of western and south-west Sydney remained under tighter restrictions, including a nightly curfew, due to higher numbers of COVID-19 cases in the areas.

Nevertheless, the video of people dancing and singing used to highlight the supposed double-standard was filmed in Byron Bay – on the NSW north coast – not in Bondi. It and other regional parts of NSW were released from lockdown on September 11, with outdoor gatherings of up to 20 people permitted and masks no longer required outside.

AAP FactCheck was unable to verify when the video was filmed. At the beginning of the video, above the overlaid text, a sign that reads “Byron Theatre & Community Centre” can be seen, matching images taken of the same location. Google Street View imagery shows the building, prior to its refurbishment, across the road from the park where the video was filmed.

Later, the video pans to the left, showing a yellow Chemist Outlet store across the road from a Commonwealth Bank branch, the sign for which can be seen illuminated in the footage. Both businesses can also be identified in Street View images from the same location.

Crowds of beachgoers at Bondi.
 Sydneysiders flocked to Bondi Beach on September 11, despite COVID-19 restrictions. 

The Verdict

The video of people dancing and singing was not taken at Sydney’s Bondi Beach during lockdown, as claimed. Rather, it was filmed at Byron Bay at an unknown time. The location can be verified by various buildings visible in the footage.

False – Content that has no basis in fact.

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