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On a Saturday night in 1887, 13-year-old Mary Ann M., a resident of the inner-industrial Sydney district of Waterloo, paid a visit to Paddy’s Market. After winding past the sideshows and colourful stalls, the sound of bands and the calls of vendors, she ended up talking with a group of ‘larrikin’ youths in the streets outside. ‘Larrikin’ was a colloquialism used throughout colonial Australasia in this period, most often in Sydney and Melbourne. It described participants in an urban youth subculture based around loose-knit street gangs known as ‘larrikin pushes’ or ‘mobs’. Composed of young people of both sexes aged between their early teens and early 20s, the larrikin subculture was characterized by a hectic enjoyment of popular entertainments, street-smart dress, burlesque humour, a love of pugilism and clashes with police. It was also characterized by sexual activity, including group acts of male sexual violence towards women.1

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