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Bondi Guardians by Terry Jenkings – Bondi’s Lesser Known Story

By Olivia Katz on April 27, 2020 in News

Bondi through and through. Photo: Olivia Katz

Bondi is commonly known around the world for being Sydney’s most famous beach. It’s big blue skies, clear turquoise water and welcoming warm sand filled with bikini clad girls and sun-kissed surfers draws millions of tourists every year to its shore.
Less people know about the history of Bondi and its original inhabitants, their deep connection to the water and commitment to its safekeeping.
It’s the old Bondi tribe, the people who have been around for generations, who remain the gatekeepers to Bondi’s rich history, a history which has regarded this beach as sacred and worthy of the utmost care and respect.
As custodians of this land, they have passed the torch of stewardship on to the next wave of beach lovers through a system of mentorship that is woven into the fabric of life here.
Terry Jenkings is a third-generation Bondi local. His grandparents moved to Bondi from Glebe in 1914 in the pursuit of a life filled with “healthy salt air” and they never left. Terry’s three uncles and father were all born and raised in Bondi. Terry’s son (now the fourth generation) still lives in Bondi.
Mr Jenkings lights up when he speaks about Bondi, his pride and adoration for his hometown and its people is palpable. A deep love and reverence for this part of the world have guided his life since he was a little boy.
Recognising that Bondi’s reputation as a famous beach town only told a small part of its story, Mr Jenkings wanted to share its lesser known, quieter, perhaps more profound history with the world. He has created two documentaries on Bondi and his most recent instalment, Bondi Guardians, is out now and streaming on National Geographic’s lifestyle channel.
I met up with Mr Jenkings over coffee at the Bondi Pavilion to hear some of his tales and find out more about the inspiration for his latest documentary.
“Having been brought up in Bondi, I’ve seen a lot of what made this place famous,” Mr Jenkings told The Beast.
“What people often do is come here, and they have never heard about the champions, heroes and legends who come from this place. They think that Bondi will give them something. That’s not what it’s about. You embrace Bondi and then you give back,” he explained.
“The Gadigal people saw Bondi as a place of gathering, meeting, mentoring, teaching and festivity. They adopted what they called the spiritual connection with the ocean and the marine life and they found energy in this place. They also worked on the basis that when you were in Bondi you left nothing here but your footprints. They considered themselves not owners but custodians who passed on this ideology to the next generation.”
“We, the Bondi people, people like myself, and the tribes that are involved here, that’s exactly how we feel. The Bondi people – the original Gadigal people – were considered the saltwater people, and that was passed over to us. They were people who embraced everything that was offered. They didn’t want to change Bondi, they wanted to preserve it.”
There’s an old saying, ‘Those who drink the water should never forget those who dug the well.’ For anyone wanting to learn more about Bondi’s history and the special nature of its people, Bondi Guardians is the documentary to see.