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Our Beach is not For Sale

By Dr Marjorie O'Neill, Member for Coogee on September 1, 2021 in Other

No bloody way. Photo: Greer de Chunt

In Australia, we prefer to think of our seaside beach culture as one of openness and inclusivity. We like to imagine that we have a proud tradition of equality on our sand and on our beaches. Regardless of wealth or residency, everyone has enjoyed equal and free access to our beaches. We expect nothing less.
This was not always the case. Our history is littered with human rights abuses conducted in and around our beaches. Two hundred years ago, our Indigenous peoples fought for their sites along our coastline. Further segregation then occurred as beaches and coastal waterholes were assigned for the sole use of various classifications of men. Even in recent times, there have been horrific instances of homophobia on our beaches and coastline.
While we commit today to an open and egalitarian culture on our beaches, there are clearly tensions and injustices. There are occasional instances showing that at times individuals deemed to be outsiders have not been welcomed. For the most part, however, it is evident that our beaches epitomise our open, embracing and egalitarian culture. We know that we are fortunate to be living in such a beautiful part of the world and that we must share and care for others. No one does, or should, own the beaches.
The fact is that every day on our Eastern Beaches we see a great mix of people of all ages and backgrounds. Wealth, education and business success matter little when you are walking the promenade, laying on the sand or having a swim. All these images of life on our beaches are premised upon a factor which we have taken for granted; our beaches are public areas – they are publicly accessible and free!
It is almost inconceivable that there are individuals and corporations seeking to privatise our beaches. With enormous audacity, they assert to be promoting greater fun and even greater access. Imagine a better beach experience you can pay for… really? Like going to the beach and not having to worry about sand or getting wet? Well, maybe you could go somewhere else?
The proposal to construct the Amalfi Beach Club at Bondi Beach would see the privatisation of a part of Bondi Beach. The proposal is an assault on our core values and would change forever the character of our most famous stretch of sand and water. It must not be allowed to happen.
Clearly the community is vehemently opposed to the proposal, with over 30,000 people signing a petition in opposition. The privatisation of our Bondi Beach would set a dreadful precedent for the future fate of all our public beaches. We have already seen an increasing encroachment on our public parks and lands; the privatisation of our beaches would see a whole new low and it should never be allowed.
We need to ensure that our beaches remain accessible and free for all. This is the least we can do for the future generations of Australians and visitors who have as much right to enjoy them as we do.