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Before settlement in the early 1800s, Bondi Beach was home to the coastal Eora Aboriginal people and Bondi takes its name from an Eora word which means 'the sound of waves breaking over rocks'. This coastal town east of the Sydney colony was part of a large land grant bought by Edward Smith Hall and his son-in-law Francis O'Brien in the 1850s. When O'Brien built a resort on the beachfront in the 1880s, he is believed to have threatened to stop public access to Bondi Beach before the government intervened and declared the beach public land.
Bondi became a favourite spot for day-trippers and soon private buses were operating to take visitors from the Bondi Junction Tram terminus to the beach. Its appeal grew with The Royal Aquarium and Pleasure Grounds, commonly referred to as the Bondi Aquarium, opening in 1887 on the headland between Bondi and Tamarama. The aquarium was home to a plethora of native fish, from Wobbegong sharks and stingrays to porcupine-fish and turtles. The complex also accommodated roller skating rinks and roller coasters, the Tivoli Theatre, dare-devil stunts and fireworks which lit up the sky every Wednesday night. The Pleasure Grounds provided Sydneysiders with a taste of the English seaside resort town Brighton. Despite a fire destroying the complex in 1891, the Aquarium and all its other entertainment spaces were re-opened, continuing to provide spectacle and entertainment until 1906. A casino was built on Campbell Parade.
By the 1920s, the beach surpassed Manly as the weekend destination for Sydneysiders and became a favoured suburb for young families who worked in the nearby industrial areas of Paddington and Bondi Junction. Still quite sparsely populated at the end of World War I, Bondi would be one of several eastern suburbs which experienced a significant influx of refugees from Eastern Europe including Poland, Germany and Russia. The legacy of these Jewish immigrants remains today with Bondi home to one of the largest Jewish communities in Sydney.
The beach has always been the focal point of the suburb and many of the key events in Bondi's history took place on the beach itself. One of the most notorious was the arrest of a woman in 1945 of who was apprehended on the promenade for wearing a bikini. Charged with 'offensive behaviour', Bondi Beach would continue to provoke scandal in the coming decades, with women periodically arrested for their swimsuits not meeting the rigorous standards set by the local council. Following an unsuccessful attempt by Waverley Council in the 1960s to have all women show councillors their bikinis in order to gain permission to wear them in public, a spate of highly publicised arrests in the 1960s saw the council abolish the strict regulations.
Bondi Beach remains one of Sydney's most iconic suburbs, with the beach and it’s surrounding shopping strips one of Sydney’s most visited attractions. Backpackers from Britain and New Zealand are amongst the most common visitors to the beachside suburb, with many returning to live locally. The beach is one kilometre long and there is an underwater shark net protecting a string of beaches along the coast. The iconic Bondi Icebergs swimming club stands at the south end of the beach with an ocean pool. The club started in 1929 when local lifesavers wanted to retain their fitness in the winter months. The Bondi Icebergs Winter Swimming Club drew up a constitution and and elected office bearers. One of the rules was that to maintain membership, it was mandatory for swimmers to compete on three Sundays out of four for a period of five years. it was not until 1994 that women could become members.
The volunteer Surf Life Saving Australia club patrols the beach along with the local council's paid lifeguards. The lifeguards have been the subject of a Channel Ten reality television series Bondi Rescue (2007).
SSC11121: Bondi Beach