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Bondi the Beautiful Campaign: 1931

By Kimberly O-Sullivan Steward on May 9, 2011 in Other

In 1923, Waverley Council implemented a Bondi Beach and Park Improvement Scheme. An open competition called on designers to submit plans for a kiosk and surf dressing sheds, three lavatory blocks, a band stand, a layout for a park surrounding the buildings, a solution to increased pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and an elimination of cross traffic over the Marine Drive and Promenade.

The foundation stone marking the commencement of the Scheme was laid in May 1928 by the Mayor of Waverley, Alderman David Hunter. By December the following year the new Bondi Surf Pavilion, which we now know as the Bondi Pavilion, was complete enough to allow the public in for the first time. Six months later the stylish Turkish baths and hot water baths were opened. The official opening of the Bondi Beach Improvement Scheme was held on December 21, 1929 in front of a crowd estimated to be up to 200,000.

Things down at Bondi Beach may have been improving but they weren’t in the rest of the country. By 1930 the economic situation in Australia was rapidly deteriorating, as the reality that Australia’s distance from the financial centres of the world would not save us from the catastrophic impact of the Great Depression. The federal government instituted the Unemployment Relief Scheme to create work for unemployed men, which was administered by the state government and local councils. In Waverley, a large number of schemes were undertaken, including the building of Tamarama Marine Drive behind Tamarama Park and continued improvement of the Bondi Beach and Park areas.

Although it seems extraordinary to us now given the tight conditions placed upon those receiving unemployment benefits today, in 1931 the unemployed were actively encouraged to go to the beach, with the belief that fresh air, ocean swimming and the relaxed and natural surroundings at the beach would be an antidote to the melancholy associated with long-term unemployment.

In December 1931, Waverley Council began a concerted campaign called ‘Bondi the Beautiful’ to advertise the advantages of the area, initially by building publicity boards throughout Waverley. The following year as the Sydney media was preparing for one of the city’s major tourist events, the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Council saw an opportunity to ‘sell’ Bondi Beach to the large number of people coming to Sydney for the celebrations associated with the bridge’s opening.

The Government Tourist Bureau was established and it suggested to Council that at the start of the 1932-1933 swimming season they place photographs of Bondi in the windows of their city office. Major city department store Gowings came on board, becoming one of the first retail shops to dedicate window space to promote Bondi as a local tourist destination.

In an early example of product placement, the director of the Australian National Travel Association said in 1934 that he had ambitious plans to make sure Bondi could be ‘mentioned’ in lectures and radio broadcasts given by ‘well informed Australians’ in Wellington, London and San Francisco. The same year attractive photos and holiday information was distributed to over 2000 overseas travel agents with the aim of selling Bondi as an international tourist destination. The rest is history.

On Sunday, June 5 the ‘Bondi the Beautiful’ Fair will be held in Bondi Park and will once again celebrate everything beautiful about Bondi. It is an opportunity for the community to get together and showcase what makes Bondi a special place. Falling on World Environment Day, the fair will have a very strong green flavour with a number of attractions including a petting farm, entertainment, stalls, and the opportunity to create art from junk, join a knitting group, attempt a yoga pose and much more. For more information call Jodie on 8362 3406 or visit www.waverley.nsw.gov.au.

If you would like to learn more about the colourful history of the Eastern Beaches area you can call Waverley Council Local Studies Librarian Kimberly O’Sullivan Steward on 9386 7744 or you can send her an email at kimberlyo@waverley.nsw.gov.au.

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