The Bondi Memorial story

 

The breathtaking panorama looking out from Marks Park in Tamarama across the Pacific Ocean has long been considered one of the most beautiful vantage points on the Sydney coastline. 

It is also the location of one of the darkest chapters of Sydney’s history where a violent epidemic of homophobic and transphobic hate crimes took place from the 1970s to the 1990s.  

For decades, Marks Park and the coastline walk from Bondi to Tamarama was a popular homosexual beat, in an era of intense discrimination against the LGBTQ community. It’s also where many gay men were attacked, with some thrown to their deaths from the tops of the cliffs. At the same time, a spree of other LGBTQ hate crimes occurred across Sydney.  

The artwork ‘Rise’ was installed at Marks Park in OCtober 2021 to honour all the victims and survivors of this wave of violence, as a respectful memorial to the lives that were lost and a symbol of remembrance and healing for all those who were impacted.

Waverley Mayor Paula Masselos said The Bondi Memorial serves as a place of quiet reflection where the community can acknowledge its devastating history whilst recognising the progress society has made through acceptance and celebration of diversity.

“I am honoured to have been a part of such a profoundly meaningful project and to have worked alongside ACON to make it a reality,” Mayor Masselos said.

“John Nicholson and UAP’s design responds beautifully to the project’s guiding principles of remembrance, diversity, inclusion, justice and acceptance.

“Having a permanent catalyst for the ongoing building of an inclusive, accepting and resilient society will ensure that this dark history will never be repeated.”

 

A PERMANENT MEMORIAL

In 2015, ACON – NSW’s leading LGBTQI health organisation – along with several local residents began working in partnership with Waverley Council on the Bondi Memorial Project, for the development of a permanent memorial to the the victims of historical gay hate crimes. Waverley Council announced in May 2016 plans for the commissioning of a public artwork. 

A period of extensive consultation with community members ensued to determine the scope and significance of the memorial. It was considered vital that the artwork would acknowledge the past, and act as a symbol of remembrance of this era into the future. 

In October 2016, Waverley Council endorsed the commissioning of a memorial artwork, as ACON launched a fundraising campaign for the proposed memorial. Over $150,000 was required to fund the commissioning, construction, dedication and maintenance of the memorial. Waverley Council committed $100,000 to the project, while a philanthropic donation of $64,000 was also made by Stephen Heasley and Andrew Borg. Many LGBTQ community members and allies also donated to ACON's fundraising drive.

Working with the Waverley Council Public Art Committee, in October 2018 Waverley Council endorsed Marks Park – the site of many hate crimes – as the appropriate site for the installation of the memorial. 

Expressions of interests for the development of the artwork was announced in July 2019. Waverley Council and ACON called on tender submissions from artists for a range of bold designs that embodied the spirit and themes of the Bondi Memorial Project, and that would act as a permanent monument to the victims, their families, friends and the LGBTQ community. 

Following an open tender process, six concept designs were shortlisted in June 2020, and the community was invited to offer feedback on the proposals. In August 2020, ‘Rise’ by the Urban Art Projects (UAP) was announced as the design selected for the Bondi Memorial. John Nicholson was lead designer of the artwork. 

 

UAP'S 'RISE'

UAP’s ‘Rise’ offered a dramatic six-level stone terrace, representing the six bands in the Pride flag. It was acclaimed for poignantly embracing the memorial’s guiding principles of remembrance, diversity, inclusion, justice and acceptance. 

UAP’s design was profoundly inspired by the landscapes of Marks Park. The designers explained: “The topography of the cliffs of Marks Park informs the compositional arrangement of ‘Rise’ to magnify and invert the experiences of the victims and ultimately to reclaim Marks Park as a safe, queer space.  

“The strata of the cliffs that descend toward the ocean are re-imagined as a staircase. Flipped to ascend, the intent is visitors to the memorial will walk up the cliff terraces; the act of climbing inverting the act of falling, the pathway forward away from the history of violence.” 

The memorial’s material palette also pays tribute to the artwork’s setting. The lowest terrace is comprised of cast bronze with a wavy surface texture to represent the ocean. The remaining terraces are made from stone of a light pink colouration, to represent the sandstone of the cliffs, as well as the pink paying a subtle tribute to the gay community.  

 

A MOVING TRIBUTE

Deputy Mayor of Waverley Elaine Keenan stated ‘Rise’ will act as a respectful, engaging and moving tribute to many who had lost their lives due to hate. 

“The Waverley Public Art Committee, Council officers and ACON staff all noted the subtlety and elegance of the design and its response to our Public Art Policy’s criteria for placemaking, artistic excellence, local culture and heritage and sustainability,” Councillor Keenan said. 

ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said ‘Rise’ will play an important role into the future, marking a chapter of Sydney’s history that must never be forgotten. 

“The memorial will help raise greater community awareness of the issue of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, promote the continuing need for relevant information to be brought to the attention of police, and serve as a reminder of the importance of valuing and celebrating diversity in our community,” Mr Parkhill said.