This week, with the warm weather upon us, it seemed the perfect time for The Past Present to turn its attentions to Sydney’s spectacular beaches. Sydney is well supplied with beaches, from the famous and crowded, to the hidden places with nobody about. Today, Sydneysiders and visitors alike love to spend a hot day at the beach, yet this is certainly not a new phenomenon. As the photo above, showing a crowded Coogee in the early morning demonstrates.
Most of the population of not only NSW, but of the whole of Australia, live close to the coastline of our vast island home. Thus it is perhaps no surprise that the beach is a huge part of our culture, and a centre of leisure activities. Before European colonisation, and for many thousands of years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples made use of the amazing resource which the beach, and the coastal waters provided.
Early European colonists saw the beach as a similar resource, and many of the early Europeans made a living collecting pears, farming oysters, fishing, sealing and whaling. For these early European colonists, the beach was not a place of leisure, and indeed in 1838 there were even laws which banned daytime bathing on beaches. By the late 19th century, the beach was a place which people picnicked and promenaded, yet still, swimming and surfing, which is today synonymous with beach culture, was a no no. It was not until 1902 that Randwick Council legalised all day bathing at all coastal beaches in their area. A year later, Manly Council also legalised day time bathing, and two years after that, in 1905, Waverley Council followed suit. In 1907 the first volunteer lifesaving clubs were established, and the future of the beach, and its central role in Australian culture was assured.