|List||National Heritage List|
|Legal Status||Listed place (25/01/2008)|
|Place File No||1/12/038/0010|
|Summary Statement of Significance|
is an urban beach cultural landscape of waters and sands, where the natural
features have been altered by development associated with beach use and
consisting of promenades, parks, sea baths, the surf pavilion and pedestrian
bridges. The predominant feature of the
beach is the vastness of the open space within an urban setting.
Bondi Beach is significant in the course of Australia’s cultural history as the site of the foundation of Australia’s first recognised surf lifesaving club in 1907. From Bondi the surf lifesaving movement spread initially to NSW, then to the rest of Australia and to the world. Along with the ‘digger’ and the ‘bushman’, the lifesaver has achieved an iconic place in Australia’s cultural imagery. The lifesaver grew to become an accepted feature of the beach and, as beach guardian and symbol of what was seen to be good about being Australian, became woven into Australia's popular culture. As it was at the beginning, the SLSA has remained a voluntary organisation and a significant contributor to a well-established tradition of volunteering in Australia. SLSA is now Australia's largest volunteer water safety organisation, with a national membership in 2006 of 120,000 members representing 305 clubs. Surf lifesavers have rescued more than 520,000 people in the 80 years since records have been kept, with the number of rescues each season fluctuating between 8,000 and 12,000.
Bondi Beach is one of the world's most famous beaches and is of important social value to both the Australian community and to visitors. Bondi Beach is significant because of its special associations for Australians as a central place in the development of beach culture in Australia. It embodies a powerful sense of place and way of life. It is where Australians meet nature's challenge in the surf and is strongly associated with the Bronzed Aussie myth of easygoing hedonism and endeavour balanced with relaxation. A place full of Australian spirit, synonymous with Australian beach culture, it is recognised internationally.
At the end of the 19th century, the beach emerged as an alternative cultural landscape to the mythology of the interior. The interior represented notions of toil and hardship against an often unforgiving landscape, while the coast evoked images of health and leisure in the equally unforgiving environment of the sea. During the Depression the Australian notion of beaches as egalitarian playgrounds took root and Bondi, with its strongly working-class constituency, became the epitome of that idea. The developing beach culture reinforced an already strong myth of Australian egalitarianism, of a nation where ‘a fair go’ was available to all. The constructed features, such as the sea baths and the surf pavilion demonstrate the development of the natural features of the beach to accord with daylight swimming, recreational beach culture, surf life saving, and associated beach sports. The Bondi Surf Pavilion building within its developed parkland setting is an important element of the site. Built in 'Inter War Mediterranean style', the Pavilion is outstanding for its place in the development of beach and leisure culture and is a famous landmark at Bondi Beach. The pool complex is significant for its strong associations with the famous ‘Bondi Icebergs’ winter swimming club as well as other swimming groups. The pool and clubhouse enjoy a strong nexus not usually enjoyed by other seaside pools. The site has been used continuously for organized swimming since before 1900 and has a strong social importance as a meeting place as well as a sporting and recreational facility. The Bondi Icebergs contributed strongly to this development. To many in Sydney they were seen as inheritors of the Anzac spirit – fun-loving larrikins not taking themselves too seriously, while still displaying the essential ‘Aussie’ characteristics of a fair-go, generosity, and mateship.
Egalitarian in nature, the beach and surfing had a profound effect in changing our way of life, and developing our sense of national identity. The central role of beaches, and Bondi Beach in particular, in Australia’s self image is reflected in the use of the beach by painters, filmmakers, poets and writers in exploring this new self image and reflecting it back to Australian society. Bondi has played a central role in this process, and has come to be viewed both within Australia and internationally as the quintessential Australian beach.
Beach is approximately 1.5km long and over 100m wide, the
semi-circular arc of the beach is set
in a flat basin flanked by elevated ridges extending to sandstone cliffs and
headlands at the north and south ends, and enclosed by commercial and residential buildings. The
gentle slope of the sand has resulted in a safe swimming beach for all age
groups. Public access reserves contain the beach, the Pavilion, the club houses
and bathing pools, and extend up onto the headlands at either end of the beach
– Ben Buckler at the north and Mackenzies Point
at the south.|
19th century to 1920:|
The attractions of sea bathing in Australia are almost as old as the colony itself. By 1803 Governor King had issued an edict forbidding convicts from bathing in Sydney Harbour because of 'the dangers of sharks and stingrays, and for reasons of decorum' (National Museum of Australia 2007: p.49). By 1834 the Sydney Gazette was reporting that bathing is 'the favourite recreation in Sydney', so much so that in 1838 bathing at Sydney's harbour and surf beaches was banned between 9.00am and 8.00pm on pain of fine (NMA 2006: p.49). The first drowning in the Australian surf was also recorded in the Sydney Gazette on 18 July 1818 at Bondi Beach (National Museum of Australia 2007: p.49).
During the middle of the nineteenth century the Bondi Beach area started to become popular for picnics and other recreational activities. This popularity has continued, with the exception of the war years, unabated to this day.
A grant of 200 acres (81 hectares) of land around the beach was first made in 1810 to William Roberts, and remained in the Roberts family until subdivided in 1852 by another family member, Francis O'Brien. In 1855, O'Brien made the beach and adjacent land available to the public as picnic grounds and a pleasure resort. He closed it in 1877, due to lack of control over people's rowdy behaviour. Although the land was freehold, calls were made for the beach to become a reserve. The Municipal Council of Waverley was proclaimed in 1859, and from that time efforts were made to establish the beach as a public reserve. Eventually in November 1881 an area at Bondi Beach was surveyed by the NSW Government, and in June 1882 an area of 25 acres 2 roods 16 perches (approx. 10.3 hectares) was resumed and dedicated as a public reserve. In 1885 the Council of the Municipality of Waverley was appointed Trustees of 'Bondi Park'. In November 1915 the area of the reserve was again increased to 32 acres 2 roods (approx. 13 hectares) (Clive Lucas et al 1997: p.68).
Until the twentieth century, sea bathing was restricted by legislation and was officially prohibited between 9.00 am and 8.00 pm by Section 77 of the Police Offences Act (1901)(NSW). This situation began to ease by the beginning of the twentieth century and the law never seems to have been vigorously pursued by the authorities (Clive Lucas et al 1997: p.108)
While the beach at Bondi is one of many surfing beaches along the coastline of metropolitan Sydney, Bondi was a particularly popular destination. The first tramway reached the southern end of the beach in 1884 and a regular tram service from Circular Quay to Bondi was begun in 1902. In 1911 these tramways were extended along the beachfront. The fast pace with which the early steam trams thundered down the final hill to Bondi Beach gave rise to the vernacular saying 'to shoot through like a Bondi tram' – to leave in a hurry.
Waverley Council erected the first shelter or surf bathing sheds in about 1903 and as a result of increased interest in surf bathing, a number of changes occurred including the building of bathing sheds (1911), the construction of a sea wall (1911 extended in 1915), construction of a marine drive (with tramway turning circle in the middle), tree reserve, and new club houses at Bondi and Bondi North Life Saving Clubs.
The world's first surfing newspaper, The Surf (later known as The Surf and Suburban News) was established in December 1917 by a group of Bondi surf bathers. As part of its mandate, the newspaper covered the activities of individual surf clubs along the coast. Details of rescue work during the period were also provided. During WWI club members on active service were sent copies of The Surf to keep them informed of events on their beach, and some regularly wrote letters to the Editor as a way of keeping in touch (Brawley 2007: pp.90-1)
In December 1883 residents petitioned Council for baths at the southern end of the beach, and in 1884 baths were built over a natural rock pool. In 1892 the Bondi Amateur Swimming Club (BASC) was formed. The baths were also used by the Bondi Ladies Amateur Swimming Club which was initially formed in 1907 (reformed in 1920), and which was for a time before World War II the largest such club in Australia. Several women champions came from the club including Pam Singleton who competed at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. The two swimming clubs amalgamated in 1969. The popularity of the BASC contributed to Council's work on the pool. In 1898 the Baths were extended; and in 1911 they were remodelled. The pool was lengthened to 50 yards in 1915 and then 50m in 1930. In 1931 the baths were repaired although they were in need of rebuilding. The entire pool was repoured in 1978 but using the existing framework.
1920s and 1930s:
During the 1920s improvements to the beach, park and baths were adopted including a kiosk, surf shed, lavoratories, band stand and increased pedestrian and vehicular traffic capacity. By the end of 1933 Waverley Council was reported to have spent approximately £162,000 on the improvement works (Clive Lucas et al 1997: p.72). The pavilion, and other works forming the rest of the scheme, were opened on 21 December 1929. The crowd of onlookers was estimated at 160,000 to 200,000. By 1928 the number of visitors carried by tram and 'bus to Bondi was estimated at 14 million, and by 1929 an average of 60,000 people were visiting the beach on a summer weekend day (Clive Lucas et al 1997: p.73).
The pavilion served several purposes, including offering changing facilities for swimmers, food outlets and entertainment venues. There were Turkish baths and a ballroom and entertainment areas on the upper floor that took advantage of the excellent location. Tunnels provided bathers with access from the change rooms to the beach under Marine Drive, from which bathers exited via the concrete groynes which also served to mitigate sand drift problems.
The use of the 'Mediterranean-Georgian Revival' style with the repeated symmetry of arched arcades, its low-lying form, use of terracotta Cordova-style tiles and white-cream walls proved to be an ideal style for a beach front setting. It has come to represent the lifestyle of the inter-war period for generations in Sydney. The pavilion at Bondi was the largest example of its type in Sydney. In addition to the change facilities provided on the lower floor, the upper floor of the pavilion was operated as a separate entertainment area providing dining and supper dances. It became a popular entertainment and social venue, most notable for Roy Starfield's Supper Dances. The pavilion was unique in Sydney for the time with a combination of entertainment facilities and fine location. The pavilion's planning originally also incorporated an amphitheatre at the rear, a relatively common feature at the time but the example at Bondi, however, was more sophisticated than others.
The park as part of the improvement scheme is arguably a landmark in the history of urban design in NSW because of its ambitious scale, date of construction and relative isolation at the time of construction. In view of its integrity it is also an exemplar of a trend in landscape design typical of the inter-war era (Clive Lucas et al 1997: p.110). In the park the use of pedestrian bridges and tunnels over and under Campbell Parade and Marine Drive was an imaginative engineering solution to the introduction of grand traffic thoroughfares (Clive Lucas et al 1997: p.111).
The 1930s were a popular time at the beach and Bondi drew not only Sydneysiders but also people from elsewhere in Australia and overseas visitors. Advertising literature of the 1930s referred to Bondi Beach as the "Playground of the Pacific". The iconography centred on female bathers and the pavilion. This image of the pavilion and location at Bondi Beach came to represent at a national level an aspect of the Australian lifestyle, and the beach and the pavilion are integrally linked in this association.
1940s to the present:
The period of the early 1940s was dominated by World War II. After the outbreak of war with Japan, the Army took control of the beach and facilities including the Bondi Pavilion. In preparing the beach for defence against enemy landing the groynes of the pavilion (which projected onto the beach for access and stabilising sand drift) were demolished, and the beach front generally fenced off (Clive Lucas et al 1997: p.77). Despite these emergency measures the first floor of the pavilion at least continued in its pre-war mode with Roy Starfield's supper dances.
The war years of the 1940s produced far-reaching changes in the social and economic climate of Australia. Bathing patterns had changed, and the post-War popularity of the new nylon bathing costumes meant there was less reliance on changing sheds. The post-war era also saw increased use of cars which facilitated greater choice in the number of beaches that bathers could visit. The reliance on public transport began to fade. These developments affected the future of the pavilion, which Waverley Council (faced with the financial burden of maintaining the building) was ready to recognise (Clive Lucas et al 1997: p.77). An improvement scheme for Bondi Park and Beach was submitted to Waverley Council in January 1952 but never acted upon.
An indication of Bondi's significance at the time is that in February 1954 a "Royal Command" Surf Carnival was held at Bondi Beach in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. Bondi Beach had the distinction of being specifically chosen for the event. As a result of the event, Her Majesty gave permission for the Marine Parade to be renamed 'Queen Elizabeth Drive' (Clive Lucas et al 1997: p.77).
Although the beach was popular, Waverley Council was losing money on the pavilion. By 1959 the pavilion was unlicensed and the fabric of the building was declining. By the 1960s one third of the men's changing area was closed and the auditorium was rarely used (Clive Lucas et al 1997: pp.79-80). The pavilion generally declined during the 1960s, although an occasional plan was mooted about its future.
By the early 1970s the pavilion was seen as a white elephant. It was at this time that a reprieve and a new direction arrived, with the Bondi Theatre Group gaining approval to convert the ballroom into a theatre (Clive Lucas et al 1997: p.81). The theatre was opened by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975, and the pavilion became the centre of Waverley Council's cultural program in 1977 (Clive Lucas et al 1997: p.81). This saw the demolition of the change rooms, lockers, the former Turkish baths. The courtyard was replaced by a grassed amphitheatre, netball court, craft workshops, art gallery, child care centre, gymnasia and a restaurant, and the building was licensed again. The Bondi Pavilion Community Centre was opened by NSW Premier Neville Wran in 1978. In 1980 Council sponsored a mural in the courtyard, and in 1987 a new forecourt was constructed. Substantial repairs were carried out in the mid 1990s and by the late 1990s the pavilion was the centre for various community and cultural events (Clive Lucas et al 1997: p.82).
In 2000 the beach took on a new guise as the venue for the Sydney Olympic Games beach volley ball competition. Recent changes from 2002 to 2005 to the Bondi Surf Pavilion included construction of new forecourt community facilities by Tanner Architects; a glazed semi-circular addition to northern end of pavilion to house a seafood restaurant; restoration of the fenestration to northern end of the east facade; and relocation of the Foundation stone. In September 2007 female government leaders and spouses in Sydney for the APEC meeting were invited to lunch at the 'Icebergs' restaurant at Bondi Beach by the wife of the Australian Prime Minister, Mrs Janette Howard.
The Bondi 'Icebergs'
The well known Bondi Icebergs (regarded as cranks' at the time) were formed in 1929. The Icebergs grew out of a group of swimming enthusiasts who enjoyed swimming in winter. To be a member of the club, swimmers have to take the plunge into the icy waters of Bondi Baths on at least three out of every four Sundays during winter months, for a period of five years. The Icebergs did not have a clubhouse for the first three years of their existence. In 1932, a year after the baths had been extended, the Bondi Ladies Swimming club moved to a new clubhouse nearby and the Waverley Municipal Council offered their old premises adjacent to the pool to the Icebergs. The Icebergs would eventually take out a long lease on the clubhouse at an initial annual rental of one £1 (Andrews 2004: p.75). Additionally, on 14 June 1932 the Waverley Council Assistant Engineer submitted plans and specifications for the erection of a weatherboard club room for the Icebergs Club, at a cost of £150. These premises were to be their home for more than a quarter of a century, but by the mid-1950s it became obvious that a new clubhouse would have to be built. They had seen this coming and for several years had been putting aside money to help pay for the rebuilding. The 'Bergs' referred to this nest egg as the club's 'Frozen Assets'. Once again negotiations with Waverley Council got underway. The Council decided to build a new clubhouse on the condition that the Icebergs contribute the money they had been saving. The 'Bergs'' cash contributed to around a third of the construction costs (Andrews 2004: p.75).
Of the rules under which the Bondi Icebergs operated, Rule 15B was regarded as the most important. Under Rule 15B members were required to complete three swims a month during winter months for five years, and if:
"A member fails to complete three swims in one calendar month during the winter season, he or she is then required to submit a written explanation to the Swimming Committee prior to the first Tuesday after the last Sunday of each month, giving their explanation for failing to complete the compulsory swims."
The rule was rigidly enforced. Failure to offer an explanation, or where that explanation was rejected by the Committee, meant that the member was barred from the club for twelve months, and not even permitted to come to the club as a visitor (Andrews 2004: p.25).
The idea of grown men willingly swimming in the icy Bondi winter waters was the subject of long standing jibes, both private and public. The Sydney press often reported on the winter antics of the 'Bergs' and they were a source of inspiration for some of Australia's finest press cartoonists including Brodie Mack and Emile Mercier (Andrews 2004: p.55).
On 5 September 1971 members of the Icebergs club were involved in the dramatic rescue of a 27 year old woman parachutist from Cremorne, Mrs Pattie King. The desperate struggle to save the young woman was watched by more than 10,000 people who had gathered at Bondi beach to watch the finish of the first 'City to Surf' race (Andrews 2004: p.109). Mrs King was one of ten Australian Parachute Federation members who were to make a display jump from 10,000 ft and land on the beach. A sudden drop in the wind caused three of them to fall into the sea. Mrs King hit the water only five yards from MacKenzie Point beside the South Bondi baths, where 12ft waves were breaking onto the rocks. The Bondi Icebergs were lined up ready to start a race in the baths and two members immediately dived in to help (Andrews 2004: p.109). The two Icebergs reached Mrs King, but could not keep her head above the water, and with each wave she became more entangled with the parachute lines. The power rescue boat from the beach got to within 10 yards of the drowning woman and her supporters, and a crewman dived in with a line and tied it to the chute hoping to tow her away from the rocks but the boat itself was smashed on the rocks (Icebergs 2007). Fifteen Icebergs fought desperately to keep Mrs King up, but her parachute and sodden equipment were too heavy. She was underwater for about 20 minutes because she kept snagging on the rocky bottom (Icebergs 2007). Three doctors who had taken part in the City to Surf race tried desperately to resuscitate Mrs King, but she was to die four days later in hospital (Andrews 2004: p.110).
Because of their attempts to save her, the Bondi Icebergs became the first Club ever to receive the Certificate of Merit for Bravery of the Royal Humane Society of NSW (Andrews 2004: p.110).
In 1993 tests on the Icebergs clubhouse revealed that it was riddled with concrete cancer, and a massive upgrade was required (Andrews 2004: pp.137-8). Waverley Council was reluctant to bear the cost and recommended demolition and the disbandment of the club. The Labor dominated Council was also of the opinion that a 'men only' club was politically incorrect and had outlasted its usefulness (Andrews 2004: p.137). Members of the 'Bergs' commenced a successful community campaign to save the club based on the slogan "Remember the Titanic" with 'SS Waverley Council' foundering on a Bondi Iceberg (Andrews 2004: p.138). During 1993 the Council rejected proposal after proposal, but the tide of public opinion was turning against it. The NSW Government under Premier John Fahey, weighed into the fight suggesting that the Icebergs clubhouse was an Australian icon. The Federal Opposition Leader, John Hewson, stated bluntly that the clubhouse would be demolished "over my bloody dead body" (Andrews 2004: pp.139-40).
Eventually the advertising and media tycoon, John Singleton, was to come to the club's rescue and secured financial support for the demolition of the old club building and the construction of new modern facilities. Singleton saw the Icebergs as iconic and something that all Australians held close to their hearts - larrikins who still had the discipline to complete their five years of swimming almost every winter Sunday (Andrews 2004: p.142). In October 1998 a $10 million development application was lodged with Council for a four story building on the space of the old clubhouse. One of the Council's persistent objections to the Iceberg's club was removed when the club admitted women members as from May 1995 (Andrews 2004: p.127). The ground floor of the new club building, opened in 2002 and contains public facilities, with the first floor becoming the headquarters of Surf Lifesaving Australia, the heirs of the surf lifesaving organisation that had been born on Bondi Beach over ninety years earlier. The top two floors contain the Iceberg's clubhouse, and a restaurant to a design by Lazzarini and Pickering Architetti in conjunction with Tanner Architects completed in 2004.
The commencement of the Australian surf life saving movement at Bondi
Through the nineteenth century the rise in the popularity of swimming in Europe raised issues about the proper training of swimmers. The British Royal Humane Society educated people on resuscitation techniques and acknowledged the bravery of swimmers in rescues, but provided no instruction on how to actually effect a rescue and secure a patient. Impressed by the active approach to educating the public advocated by the Melbourne-based Royal Humane Society of Australasia, English swimmer William Henry and his friend Archibald Sinclair approached the English Royal Humane Society stressing the need for greater public education by the organisation, including practical instruction on securing and saving a drowning person (Brawley 2007: p.12). The two men and a number of supporters formed the 'Life Saving Society' in 1891. As the society's membership grew a handbook of practical lifesaving techniques was formalised which borrowed heavily from the squad drill section of the 1892 British Infantry Drill Book and the Manual of the Medical Staff Corps (Brawley 2007: p.12).
The late 1880s also saw swimming pools and swimming clubs appear throughout the Sydney metropolitan area. In part, public interest in swimming was fuelled by the efforts of a group of commissioned and senior non-commissioned officers of the NSW Army Medical Corps, who were stationed at Victoria Barracks at Paddington in Sydney. Aware of the benefits of exercise for health, the group saw swimming as an especially restorative pastime and many of the early swimming clubs that emerged at this time were formed as a direct consequence of the initiatives set in motion by these men (Brawley 2007: p.12).
The increasing popularity of bathing in Sydney raised a number of issues concerning the prevention of drowning. Given Henry and Sinclair's assertion that a lifesaving instructor should be familiar with the Infantry Drill Book, John Bond of the NSW Army Medical Corps took on the mantle of instructor of a life saving class (Brawley 2007: p.14). He moved to Waverley in 1893, became interested in the activities of the Waverley Amateur Swimming Club and spent time coaching other club members in life saving techniques. With the success of Bond's early classes, the Waverley branch of the Life Saving Society sought to expand its activities to the nearby Bondi Baths by affiliating with the Bondi Amateur Swimming Club. A demonstration by Bond and his students in lifesaving techniques was held at the Bondi Baths on Commemoration Day 1895 (Brawley 2007: p.12). For his achievements in the introduction of early lifesaving techniques and training Bond was elected a life member of the Bondi Beach Surf Lifesavers Club in March 1909, and inducted into the SLSA Hall of Fame on 18 March 2005 (SLSA 2007).
There has always been a debate in surf lifesaving circles about whether the first surf lifesaving club was at Bondi or Bronte Beach. In late 1906 a local man nearly drowned at Bronte. Responding to this incident, a group of his friends began to meet irregularly on Sunday afternoons to train in the use of the lifeline positioned on the beach by Waverley Council. In February 1907 a rescue at Bronte nearly had fatal results when the lifeline was not immediately available because the group were training with it, and as a result Waverley Council ordered the group to cease their activities (Jaggard 2006: p.34). Because of the Council's chastisement of the Bronte irregulars, bathers at Bondi resolved to place their attempts to protect the public on a more formal footing. In consequence of the drowning of 16 year old Reginald Bourne at Bondi on 10 February 1907 (Brawley 2007: p.31), what is now regarded as the world's first formally documented surf life saving club, the Bondi Surf Bathers' Life Saving Club (HBSBLSC 1956: p. 10), was formed at the Royal Hotel, Bondi Junction, on 21 February 1907 (NMA 2006: P.3).
As the city's beachside councils accepted their control of the beaches in the wake of the passage of the NSW Local Government Act (1906), they looked beyond issues of protecting surf bathers and decided that issues of public decency related to surf bathing would also be their responsibility. At the beginning of the surfing season of 1907/08, Manly, Waverley and Randwick councils issued ordinances concerning acceptable dress for surf bathers. Many bathers regarded the new costume code as draconian. Further, the costume itself was seen to be impracticable and dangerous for bathers and surf lifesavers. The Bondi Surf Bathers Life Saving , Manly Surf Club, and a private social swimming club on North Steyne Beach launched a campaign against the new costume ordinance. It was as a result of this that the clubs decided that an umbrella organisation representing all the emerging surf clubs on Sydney's beaches would be desirable. The meeting to form this umbrella body took place at the Sydney Sports Club on 18 October 1907, and resulted in the creation of the New South Wales Surf Bathing Association. This was the parent body of today's organisation, Surf Lifesaving Australia, and it is from this date that the surf lifesaving movement in Australia marks its birth (NMA 2007: P.3).
The aims and objectives of the Bondi club were to train members on how to rescue a drowning person, the correct procedure in resuscitation, to provide efficient life-saving apparatus, to regulate surf bathing, and to promote surf bathing as a sport and recreation. Many of the key features of surf rescue were laid down in these early years, and several were Australian inventions. The custom of surf patrol members wearing red and yellow quartered caps to identify themselves as lifesavers commenced at Bondi during the summer of 1907-08 (Brawley 2007: p.61). The surfboat developed from small open boats such as those used by the Sly brothers of Manly from 1903 to rescue distressed bathers from the surf. The first surf ski was made in 1913 and adapted for lifesaving by the 1930s. Resuscitation methods, which were on the whole imported from overseas, also changed markedly over time (NMA 2006: p.5). From 1922, Association-patrolled beaches gradually began to have manned lookout towers or vantage points with shark alarm bells, and even shark harpoons in surfboats. To recognise the valour of surf lifesavers and the very great demands made on them in the course of rescues, the Surf Bathing Association introduced the Meritorious Awards system in 1919 (NMA 2006: p.5).
Along with the lifesaver's cap, flags and surfboat, the surf-reel is one of the most identifiable of surf lifesaving's objects. A model reel was developed by members of the Bondi Club, Lyster Ormsby, John Bond, and Percy Flynn, using a cotton reel and hair pins, and the first prototype was manufactured by a Sydney firm of coachbuilders, Olding and Parker (HBSBLSC: p.8). This reel was first used at Bondi in a display on 23 December 1906 (My Beach 2007). The reel, line and belt were used in lifesaving rescues for seven decades, and events centred on the reel became a regular element of surf lifesaving carnivals. Since the introduction of the inflatable rescue boat (IRB), the rescue board and the rescue tube in the 1970s and 1980s, the reel has gradually been relegated to competition use only (NMA 2006: p.7). But it remains an important symbol for surf clubs around the country, and even today in the March-past at Australian surf carnivals each club squad consists of a standard bearer and a 'rescue and resuscitation' party carrying a reel emblazoned with the club's name and crest.
The Bronze Medallion was introduced in 1910 by the Surf Bathing Association as its measure of proficiency, and is still the basic qualification required to perform surf rescues today. The Association's Bronze Medallion proficiency test included use of the reel, and it was adopted widely in New South Wales and interstate, and remained largely unchanged for decades (NMA 2006: p.7). The first Bronze Medallion squad was examined at Bondi Beach on 2 January 1910, and the Bondi Surf Bather's Life Saving Club's Sid Fullward was the first man to gain a Bronze Medallion (HBSBLSC: p.10).
The first woman to gain her Bronze Medallion was Edie Kieft of Greenmount in northern NSW. Kieft was 15 years old when she qualified for her Bronze Medallion in January 1923, and was 84 when she finally received the award, since women were not allowed to become full members until 1981. Because Kieft had registered using only her initial and surname, the Surf Bathing Association of New South Wales didn't realise she was a woman. When they discovered that 'E' stood for Edith, they withheld the award. Kieft (by now Mrs Rowe and a grandmother) was finally awarded her bronze medallion in 1991 (NMA 2006: p.9). Women now comprise 40 per cent of club membership. The first woman surf club captain was selected in 1987, although it was not until 1998 that a woman became a member of SLSA's governing National Council (NMA 2006: p.24).
Sunday 6 February 1938 - 'Black Sunday' - bought home to the Australian public the value of the volunteer surf life savers who manned Sydney's beaches. An estimated 35,000 people were on Bondi beach, and a large group of lifesavers were about to commence a surf race when three freak waves hit the beach and hundreds of people were swept out to sea (Brawley 2007: p.133). Eighty lifesavers went to their aid and many of these lifesavers had to be saved themselves, as desperate swimmers grabbed onto rescue lines and dragged them underwater. Due to the dedication of the lifesavers 300 people were eventually rescued (Australian Culture and Recreation Portal 2007), 60 immersion cases required treatment, while 35 were unconscious and required resuscitation (Jaggard 2006: p.28). As more and more people were rescued the Bondi clubhouse began to resemble a hospital emergency ward. Four people did not respond to resuscitation, and the body of a fifth was recovered some days later (Jaggard 2006: p.28). Bondi's 'Black Sunday' remains the largest mass surf rescue recorded in Australia's history.
The events of 'Black Sunday' 1938 had taken place against the backdrop of Europe's descent into war and chaos. At this time the Australian surf lifesaver offered an alternative vision to the ideals of masculinity promulgated by Nazism and Fascism. Writing of the achievements of Bondi's lifesavers during the events of Black Sunday, English writer Paul McGuire informed Britain that:
'Australian Surf and Life Saving Clubs are volunteer services, regiments with an heroic tradition earned in the saving, not the slaughter of life'. (quoted in Brawley 2007: p.144)
Within 18 months of the events of Black Sunday, Australians would again be at war and as they had 25 years before, Bondi's lifesavers would answer the call in numbers that rivalled and surpassed the enlistment rates of any other Australian community organisation (Brawley 2007: p.144). Records show that 210 club members enlisted in the armed services, of which 14 were to die on active service (HBSBLSC: p.22).
The familiar red and gold flags that have become to hold an enduring place on Australian beaches were introduced at Bondi during the war, when reduced club membership made it difficult to patrol the whole beach. The flags would be positioned along the safest stretch of water, and bathers advised to 'swim between the flags'.
The Bondi march-past pennant became part of Australian military folklore. In February 1940 the club had paid £6 to have a replacement standard made. When the club's pre-war standard bearer in march-past competitions enlisted in mid-1940, he took the old standard to the Middle East with him. On meeting other lifesavers he asked them to donate their unit colour patch or other insignia, which was then sewn onto the pennant. The pennant travelled through the Middle East and the Pacific before advancing into the Philippines with Macarthur's headquarters, collecting patches as it went. It was retuned to the club in November 1945, and remains on display in the clubhouse (Brawley 2007: p.161).
Many Bondi lifesavers took their interest in surf lifesaving with them to war. During their time in Palestine, the 2AIF found a number of beaches at which its men and women could relax. In the wake of several unfortunate drownings, Australian military authorities began to seconde former surf life savers to patrol beaches such as Tel Aviv and Neuserat. As well as beach patrols, the 2AIF also held a number of surf carnivals as a means of rest and recreation (Brawley 2007: p.161). At a carnival at Tel Aviv beach in September 1941, watched by General Sir Thomas Blamey, a nine event program included a march-past, rescue and resuscitation, and a surf race. A carnival at the same beach in October 1941 attracted 160 entrants for the surf race, 24 teams for the rescue and resuscitation competition, and 28 teams for the beach relay (Jaggard 2006: p.194).
In the Pacific campaign surf lifesavers also found themselves back on beaches doing patrols to protect their brothers and sisters-in-arms. In 1944 Australian units were sent to the island of Bougainville in the Solomon Islands to replace American units needed for the invasion of the Philippines. Torokina Beach was out of bounds to the then resident American forces after a number of drownings. The Bondi men joined with a number of other surf lifesavers from New South Wales and Western Australia to form the Solomon Islands Surf Life Saving Club at Torokina. The Solomon Islands Club patrolled the beach, and held carnivals. More than 5,000 spectators watched the 1945 carnival (Jaggard 2006: p.194). By mid-1945 the club had 286 members including over 100 Bronze Medallion holders (Jaggard 2006: p.194). By the time the club disbanded at the end of the war, they had trained and examined 300 members of the military for the Bronze Medallion (Brawley 2007: pp.161-3).
Following the War, the internationalisation of the surf lifesaving movement gained pace. On the evening of 2 November 1953 at the London Coliseum, a Royal Command Performance took place before the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II. The performance concluded with an 'Australian Tableau' which included cricketers, servicemen, and Indigenous peoples. At the rear of the tableau, dominated by a large flag, were six lifesavers dressed in Bondi march-past costumes and caps and the flag was Bondi's march-past standard. The Queen subsequently issued a royal command to the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia to hold a 'Royal Surf Carnival' at Bondi Beach during her tour of Australia in 1954. It was held on 6 February, 16 years to the day after the momentous events of 'Black Sunday' (Brawley 2007: pp.202-3). Both royal events were widely reported in the Australian and international press and stimulated interest in the surf lifesaving movement.
At the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, the opportunity was taken to hold an international surf carnival at Torquay beach outside Melbourne. Teams from California and Hawaii in the USA, as well as from New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Ceylon took part in front of crowds of athletes and visitors that had come to take part in the Olympic Games (Walding 2003: p.22). Many of these teams and athletes were to take Australian life saving techniques back to their homelands. Another more significant outcome from the carnival was the formation by the representatives of the participating nations of the International Council of Surf Lifesaving.
Another major evolution in the development of post-war surf lifesaving in Australia was the encouragement of pre-adolescent members, or 'Nippers', during the 1960s. The Nippers program was introduced to arrest falling membership and to attract young people aged from eight years to young teens to surf lifesaving. While there had been junior clubs in the 1920s and 1930s they were essentially in name only, whereas Nipper members had the opportunity to learn and participate. The first Nippers group started in the IlIawarra club, NSW, in the mid-1960s and the concept soon spread interstate. The first interstate carnival specifically for Nippers alone was held in January 1972 at Palm Beach in Queensland. Within two years, teams from New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia were competing, and other states followed (NMA 2006: p.24).
In 1991 the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia changed again to 'Surf Life Saving Australia' (SLSA), its present name. Today SLSA is Australia's largest volunteer water safety organisation. By 2006 there was a national membership of 120,000 members representing 305 clubs (SLSA 2007). Forty percent of these active members are female (Jaggard 2006: p.223). Surf lifesavers have rescued more than 520,000 people in the 80 years since records have been kept, with the number of rescues each season in recent years fluctuating between 8,000 and 12,000. An independent economic study conducted for SLSA in 2005 concluded that if not for the presence of volunteer surf lifesavers, 485 people would drown each year and 313 would be permanently incapacitated as a result of accidents in the surf (Australian Culture and Recreation Portal 2007). The study found that the economic and social value of surf lifesaving services provided by volunteer lifesavers is worth more than $1.4 billion per year (SLSA 2007). Today in NSW, over 58,000 members spend in excess of 270,000 voluntary hours patrolling 129 clubs to protect 1,590 kilometres of coastline from Fingal Beach in the north to Pambula Beach in the south (SLSNSW 2007). During the 2006-07 season they performed 6,319 rescues, 188,824 preventative actions and treated 30,940 first aid cases.
|Condition and Integrity|
The condition of the place is good. In recent years
considerable efforts have been made to clean the beach water of pollutants by
lengthening the Bondi sewerage outfall. Portions of the weathered sandstone
dykes were previously used by Waverley Shire Council as a garbage dump is now
discontinued. The major potential danger is from vandalism and abrasion from
increasing pedestrian tourist traffic. The pavilion has been repaired and
refurbished on several occasions; substantial works were undertaken in the 1970s
and the 1990s. An external visual inspection made by Clive Lucas Stapleton
& Partners in 2007 for Waverley Council found the condition of the Bondi
Surf Pavilion and the Bondi Surf Bathers Life Saving Club Building to be
generally satisfactory, and that routine maintenance is carried out. There are
no aspects of the physical condition of the building which affect the
significance of the pavilion. The landscaped area of Bondi Park,
including the picnic shelters and footpaths, were the subject of an upgrade in
late 2003 and are generally in fair condition. There is signage over the façade
and various alterations have been made. In 1994, the Icebergs' clubhouse and
pool area at the southern end of the beach was in a poor state of repair
including waterproofing problems and concrete cancer. In 2002, a new Iceberg's
clubhouse was opened.|
About 65ha of land and water, comprising generally the
beach, surf life saving clubs, pavilion, parks, promenades, cliffs and ocean
waters between Ben Buckler and Mackenzies Point; being the areas enclosed by a
line commencing at the southern end of Notts Avenue then proceeding
north-westerly along the easterly edge of Notts Avenue to Campbell Parade, then
northerly and easterly via the seaward edge of Campbell Parade to its
intersection with Ramsgate Avenue then easterly and southerly following the
southern and western edge of Ramsgate Avenue to the northern boundary of 77
Ramsgate Avenue, then westerly and southerly along that boundary and the
western boundaries of 77 to 111 Ramsgate Avenue to the southern boundary of 111
Ramsgate Avenue, then via that boundary to Ramsgate Avenue, then southerly via
the western side and alignment of Ramsgate to the cliff top at Ben Buckler,
then easterly via that cliff top to the eastern alignment of Ramsgate Avenue,
then northerly via that alignment to the southern end of the road reserve on
the south side of 168 Ramsgate Avenue, then easterly via the southern side of
that reserve to the eastern alignment of Brighton Boulevard, then via that
alignment directly to low water mark at Ben Buckler, then via low water to the
most southerly point of Ben Buckler, then south westerly directly to the most
easterly point at low water on Mackenzies Point, then westerly via low water
mark on the southern side of Marks Park to the alignment of the eastern
boundary of 25 Kenneth Street, then northerly via that alignment to the
southern edge of Kenneth Street, then easterly via the southern edge of Kenneth
Street to the eastern edge of Marks Lane, then north via the alignment of the
eastern edge of Marks Lane to the northern side of Fletcher Street, then east
via the northern edge of that road to the cliff top to the sout west boundary
of Lot 1/715 DP752011, then easterly and northerly via the boundaries of Lots
1/715, 714 and 713 DP752011, so that they are excluded, to the southern end of
Malcolm (2004) Bondi icebergs: an
Australian icon. BB international Books, St Peters, NSW. |
Australian Culture and Recreation Portal (accessed 25/07/2007) Surf Lifesaving http://www.cultureandrecreation.gov.au/articles/surflifesaving/
Booth, Douglas (2001) Australian beach cultures: the history of sun, sand and surf. Frank Cass, London.
Brawley, Sean (2007) The Bondi lifesaver: a history of an Australian icon. ABC Books, Sydney. NLA:
Cass, Caroline (2000) Discovering Bondi. Boondyke Books, Sydney.
Clive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners (1997) Bondi Pavilion Surf Club and surrounds: conservation analysis and guidelines. Clive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners, Kings Cross, Sydney.
Galton, Barry (1984) Gladiators of the surf: the Australian surf lifesaving championships. Reed, Frenchs Forest, NSW.
Hard, Greg (1993) A summer mosaic: Bondi Beach, Australia. G Hard, Sydney.
HBSBLSC (author unknown) (1956?) History of Bondi Surf Bather's Life Saving Club, 1906-1956. Kenny and Watson, Sydney.
Historic Houses Trust of NSW (2005) Bondi: a biography. Historic Houses Trust, Sydney.
Icebergs (accessed 2007) History. http://www.icebergs.com.au/index.php?page=18
Jaggard, Ed (ed) (2006) Between the flags: one hundred summers of Australian surf lifesaving. UNSW Press, Sydney.
My Beach (accessed 26/07/2007) Bondi http://www.kellogg.com.au/surfsafesummer/ssweather/mybeach/mybeach_nsw_bondi.asp
NMA (2006) Between the flags: 100 years of surf lifesaving. National Museum of Australia, Canberra.
National Trust (2007) “Australian Spirit”, in Trust News, Vol.35 No.4 May 2007. National Trust of Australia (Victoria).
NSW Government Gazette, Tuesday 14 June 1859, fourth supplement (1993): Bondi Beach. NSW Government Printer, Sydney.
Sanders, Noel (1982) Bondi the beautiful: the impossibility of an aesthetics. NSW Institute of Technology, Broadway, Sydney.
SLSA (accessed 23/08/2007) http://www.slsa.com.au/
SLSNSW (accessed 25/07/2007) History. Surf Lifesaving New South Wales. http://www.surflifesaving.com.au/SurfLife_CMS/AboutUs/History/
Walding, Murray (2006) Blue heaven: the story of Australian surfing. Hardie Grant Books, South Yarra, Vic.
Waverley Council (2007) Bondi Beach. http://www.waverley.nsw.gov.au/council/beaches/bondi.asp
Wilson, Jack (1979) Australian surfing and lifesaving. Rigby, Adelaide, SA.
Report Produced Fri Aug 1 11:09:58 2014