I'm mostly disturbed by the riots themselves. As near as I can tell from the reports I've read, including reports from the BBC and some Australian newspaper sites, the riots started over a disagreement about young people of Lebanese heritage using a beach when some young people of European heritage wanted to use it. Like many riots in the world, this was just the touch point setting off a long simmering dispute between these two groups. In this case it sounds like it was fueled, at least on one side, but the dangerous combination of young men, large groups and alcohol -- and on the other side probably mostly by young men in large groups.
This conflicts with my idea of Australians as people even more open to outsiders than a lot of Americans are. And that is the biggest reason this disturbs me.
However, yesterday I received a link to Christianity Today's web news summary, which had links to articles from The Australian, The Times of London and The Age. All of these articles focus on the fact that churches were attacked in the later parts of these riots. What I find interesting is that most of the reports seem to focus on the idea that the churches, mostly "Uniting Churches" which are loosely affiliated with the mainline Presbyterian and Methodists churches in the US -- a former minister at The Presbyterian Church in Palatine Illinois is a pastor at a Uniting Church near Sydney or Canberra -- are being attacked by the whites. This is interesting when you think that in the US racism is often, usually mistakenly, associated with conservative Christianity, yet here these churches are being attacked by people who sound almost like they'd be at home with some of our worst racists.