BY ANITA SENARATNA
It was a scene that might never have been possible again had former Bondi Mayor Sally Betts got her way. Last Friday night, the Bondi community threw a party to celebrate Bondi Pavilion staying in public hands, after a two-year long campaign against the $38 million upgrade proposed by Cr Betts during her time as mayor. The Pavilion was packed with residents, activists, artists, actors and musicians, most notably Australian actor Michael Caton and Hoodoo Gurus’ frontman Dave Faulkner, who got the crowd moving later in the night with some of the band’s greatest hits.
The proposal would have seen the community space on the top floor replaced with a kitchen and function centre, which led to concern along residents that the council intended to privatise the space.
Fittingly, the Save Bondi Pavilion campaign held their victory party in the very space they’d been fighting to keep.The balcony itself was decorated with ‘WE LOVE BONDI PAVILION’ banners left over from a hard-won campaign, which ended in the Liberal party losing their majority on council at the last election and effectively ending their plans for further upgrades.
On the beach below, children took their time playing in the surf and skate park, running in to join the celebration as the sun went down. Inside, more children in glittery dance costumes darted in between the adults talking politics, enjoying the party before they had to get up on stage for the Bondi Dance Company’s showcase.
Along with live performances by local artists, there were speeches by campaign figures, thanking the crowd for their support. One of the loudest rounds of applause was saved for Save Bondi Pavilion’s group convenor Kilty O’Brien, who spearheaded the star-studded campaign.
“Tonight it will all be about celebration- celebrating our community, celebrating the fantastic space that is Bondi and enjoying ourselves,” said Ms. O’Brien, ahead of the event.
“The community of Waverley has spoken, and they’ve said in no uncertain terms that Bondi Pavilion is to remain for public use.
“This has been a true grassroots campaign and it would not have been successful without the input of thousands of people doing a whole range of different jobs to ensure that our voices were heard on this.”
The night also marked the official end of the Save Bondi Pavilion campaign, which Ms. O’Brien said would ‘wrap up’ now that the future of the Pavilion was in safe hands, with the Labor and Greens councillors who now form the majority in Waverley signing a pledge not to go ahead with the second stage of the upgrade proposed by the Liberals. However, the group’s parent organisation, Friends of Bondi Pavilion, would continue to stay active.
Ms. O’Brien says that although they might have saved the Pavilion for now, it wasn’t the first time developers had tried to privatise the space and it was unlikely to be the last.
In 1987, Bondi Mayor Carolyn Markham along with the rest of the Liberal councillors at the time were considering a very similar proposal to privatise Bondi Pavilion, a policy which saw them lose the next council election to the Labor Party.
“They won that campaign by throwing that council out of office, and we won this campaign thirty years later by doing the same,” said Ms. O’Brien, who is encouraging people to support Green’s MP David Shoebridge’s bill to protect Bondi Pavilion against future attempts at privatisation when it is introduced into State Parliament later this year.
“We need to ensure that our children don’t have to fight for this again. It was set out in law to be a site of public recreation, it is a Crown land asset, it is for the people. We need to ensure that no developers with friends in high places ever get their hands on Bondi Pavilion.”