I’m excited to announce Sydney Beaches: A History will be in stores in October 2014. The product of extensive research over more than a decade, Sydney Beaches is the first detailed environmental, cultural and political history of our much-loved ocean coast.
Researching the book was fascinating. I read thousands of pages of original government records that explained why particular governments made critical decisions that changed the shape of our beaches forever, from dredging Newport Beach and filling in its lagoon to evicting working-class residents of Bronte to expand the popular Bronte Park. Government decisions to purchase privately-owned beaches including Bondi established a commonly-shared sense that Sydney residents had a right to free beaches, and later refusals to permit amusement parks like Luna Park on these same beaches protected them against the types of commercial development common elsewhere.
I read about the disgusting rotten vegetables and animal carcasses that littered the beaches when the city’s garbage was dumped at sea in the early twentieth century; about the Collaroy houses completely destroyed by storms in the 1940s; about the attempts to build huge commercial shark-proof enclosures on Bondi and Manly Beaches in the early 1930s and the overwhelming military occupations of the city’s coast a decade later. And I learned about the ordinary people whose lives form a part of our beach history, including those who lived and camped on the coast, those who sadly drowned or endured violent encounters with sharks, those who demanded acceptance for their favourite activities (whether it be sunbaking, surfing or wearing briefer costumes) and those who fought against high-rise developments that threatened to overshadow the beach.
Their stories, and so many more, are in Sydney Beaches. I hope Sydney’s beach lovers enjoy reading the book as much as I loved writing it.