Council Throws the Book at JaneGertrude & Alice Café Book- store is a Bondi institution. Led by local owner Jane Turner, the cozy, welcoming spot is well- known for its delicious coffee, famous lentil soup, lovely staff and, last but not least, its curbside box of free books. So imagine Ms. Turner’s surprise when in May a representative from Council came into her shop and informed her that, after 17 years of doing so, she was no longer permitted to leave free books on the curb for members of the Bondi community.
The majority of the books that end up in the curbside boxes are donations, most often books that charity shops won’t accept because of yellowed or dog-eared pages. Gertrude & Alice is the last stop for unwanted books before being tossed into landfill, and through accepting donated books and of- fering them to the community free of charge, Ms. Turner has created a valuable recycling system. She is committed to ensuring a “second life” for the donated books and her efforts are extremely popular with Bondi bookworms, environmentalists, backpackers and children alike. Now, this unique system of thoughtful recycling is under threat from Waverley Council.
Interestingly, this is not Ms. Turner’s first encounter of this nature with Council. The café
and bookshop used to house a $1 book stand outside its entrance but had to remove it when, in similar fashion, Council informed Jane that she would be fined if she did not. On that occasion Ms. Turner, acknowledging that it is illegal to retail on the street without proper permission, removed the stand.
So if Ms. Turner has previously been very understanding about Council’s role as enforcers in the community, why is this situation any different? Well, according to her it is their approach that she takes issue with. In describing the way in which she was informed that she would be fined for her free books, Ms. Turner says, “They just walked in, said don’t do it again, and walked out.”
Council’s unwillingness to have a legitimate conversation to explain the situation in full and discuss possible alternatives rep- resents the police-state mentality that many, including Ms. Turner, fear is beginning to take over the community. Additionally, their handling of the situation indicates that they lack understanding when it comes to the Bondi community,which over the years has greatly benefited from Gertrude & Alice’s free books. Unfortunately, as of right now Ms. Turner has had to tell her customers that Gertrude & Alice can no longer accept donations.
Thankfully Ms. Turner has a plan, and if she is unable to reverse the council’s decision she at least hopes to raise awareness and protect other local businesses from their inconsiderate treatment. As anyone who knows anything about Gertrude & Alice is well aware, if there’s one thing Ms. Turner is good at it’s raising awareness. She plans to start a social media campaign and hopes to start a petition that will surely amass a great number of signatures.
When Ms. Turner mentioned to The Beast that she was planning on having a petition available for signing, a woman who was sharing our communal table in the shop piped up. She passionately asserted that through pure misunderstanding of the Bondi community, Waverley Council has made a grave mistake in going up against one of the most valued institutions in the area. This particular customer hopes that through Gertrude & Alice’s efforts to raise awareness, the council will recognise Ms. Turner’s organic and unspoken power as a community leader and will realise how out of touch they are with the people they are sup- posed to represent.
Ms. Turner is not trying to stir up unnecessary trouble, but she is willing to take a stand for the greater good of the Bondi community. At the close of our conversation with her, she summed up her attitude: “Am I going to get offside with Council? Quite possibly, but I can’t just sit quietly on the sidelines and accept this decision when it’s about recycling, and this is something that the council pride themselves on.”
To fight the good fight and help Ms. Turner and the Bondi community as a whole, look out for forthcoming information regarding the petition on Gertrude & Alice’s social media accounts.