Controversial Lifesavers Monument Construction UnderwayWork has begun on the construction of the Fallen Lifesavers Memorial at the southern end of Goldstein Reserve, Coogee Beach, to a mixed reception from local residents and businesses.
The national memorial, which will honour Australian lifesavers killed in battle, was announced last December and will consist of an iconic bronze sculpture featuring a lifesaver and a soldier, landscaping, terrace seating and a wall of remembrance listing the names of all Australia’s fallen lifesavers.
Internationally renowned sculptor Alan Somerville, best known for his two bronze statues of soldiers on the Anzac Bridge, has been enlisted to produce the sculpture.
The project is being developed in two stages with final completion set for April 2014. Randwick Council says the aim of the project is to create a place of remembrance and reflection that recognises the contributions of surf lifesavers in war as a distinct group who rose from protecting beach-goers at home to fighting for Australia in wars throughout the world.
While commemorating the 3,500 lifesavers who have died fighting for Australia must be commended, the project has also ruffled some local feathers, with the main grievances being the cost and timing of the project.
Randwick City Council is spending $1 million on the development and this has prompted some members of the local community to question its value. According to the ‘Your Say Randwick’ website, opinion is divided over the need for the memorial, with 50 per cent of voters considering it to be very important, while 40.9 per cent think it is not important at all.
It seems the main objections levelled at the scale of the investment have been that the money could have been better spent on maintaining the current facilities in and around the beach, in particular upgrading the public changing rooms and club house.
Another objection is that there are already national memorials commemorating the war dead in Canberra and Martin Place, and that perhaps a smaller memorial plaque on the wall of the surf life saving club would have been more appropriate, less expensive and less disruptive.
Despite the objections, a Randwick City Council spokesperson defended the memorial, saying the idea came from the Coogee Surf Life Saving Club, which approached the council directly. She added that the proposal also had backing from state and federal governments.
“It’s common for sections of the community affected by war to have localised memorials to their members. Randwick City has a strong and proud surf life saving tradition and it’s appropriate that our community pays its respects to those lifesavers who have given the ultimate sacrifice,” the spokesperson said.
“The works will result in a more usable public space for local residents and visitors to enjoy the beach, and construction has been planned in two stages in order to minimise disruption over the peak summer period,” she added, noting that work will cease from early December to early February.
The council also reaffirmed its commitment to the upkeep of the local beaches and development of the surrounding area.
“The council spends $5 million per year maintaining the local beaches, including providing full time professional lifeguards, cleaning, rubbish disposal and more,” the spokesperson said.
She revealed that the council is also investigating design options for the Coogee Beach toilets, change rooms and bus shelter located on Arden Street, and recently called for ideas from the community to garner opinion on improvements for development.