The story behind the artwork 'Rise'


The inspiration for the Bondi Memorial’s ‘Rise’ artwork came from the very site it stands upon, where the dark chapters of LGBTQ history the memorial commemorates took place. 

Designed by artist John Nicholson of Brisbane’s Urban Art Projects, ‘Rise’ honours the victims of the gay hate murders that occurred in Marks Park and the clifftops of South Bondi, as well as at locations across Sydney, from the 1970s to the 1990s.  

‘Rise’ is series of stone terraces which replicates the exact topography of the rock face strata of the cliffs below Marks Park, where a number of gay men were assaulted and thrown from to their deaths. 

The artwork memorial instead symbolises the inversion of the experience of the victims, with each of the six terraces representing steps that climb towards the horizon and the sky, and as a pathway forward from the history of violence. 

Each of the six stone terraces also represent the six bands of the LGBTQ Pride flag, with the steps that front them featuring engraved plaques telling the stories of the brutal history of that era, as well as pivotal milestones in the history of Sydney’s LGBTQ community. 

‘Rise’ was the artwork design selected for the Bondi Memorial in a tender conducted by Waverley Council. It was chosen due to it ‘wholly embracing the memorial’s guiding principles of remembrance, diversity, inclusion, justice and acceptance’.  

John Nicholson was part of the team that had previously created the ‘Gathered Together’ AIDS Monument in West Hollywood, Los Angeles. 

“‘Rise’ is such a site-specific memorial and I wanted to ground its design in the land it stands on,” Nicholson explains.  

“I drew on the juxtaposition of the harshness of the cliff face and the brutality of what happened to the victims contrasting with the beauty of this pristine area of the Sydney coastline.”  

The design feature of the steps up to each terrace are intended to invite visitors to directly engage with the artwork.  

“I want the experience to be uplifting, to now be ascending rather than descending,” Nicholson adds. “I would like people to sit on the steps and look out at the beauty of the ocean, but to also reflect on the lives of the people ‘Rise’ honours. 

“The artwork is called ‘Rise’ as I want the community to continue to rise about all the terrible histories that have taken place. It’s important to remember the past so the worst of it is never repeated.” 

ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said Nicholson’s design embodies the spirit and themes of the Bondi Memorial. “‘Rise’ will serve as a respectful memorial to the victims and help heal the trauma of these past events,” Parkhill says.  

“The memorial will also raise greater community awareness of the issue of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes and serve as a reminder of the importance of valuing and celebrating diversity in our community.”