A design has been finalised for the Bondi memorial to victims and survivors of homophobic and transphobic attacks in Sydney. ACON and Waverley Council on Wednesday announced that Urban Art Project’s design Rise will be constructed at Marks Park, Tamarama. The construction of the memorial is scheduled for 2021, with the Waverly Council putting in $100,00 and ACON contributing $64,000 raised through donations.

From the 1970s to 1990s, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people were the target of hate crimes in Sydney with many gay men and transwomen losing their lives along the Bondi coastline. The cliff top park Marks Park, with its isolated location and thick shrubs and trees was a popular ‘gay beat’ where gay men and trans women used to meet. The area was also known as “Bondi Badlands” for being the site of hate murders of gay men and trans women – many were hurled off the cliffs with their clothes the only clue to the horrific crimes.

At least 88 gay men and transgender women in NSW were killed in the three decades from 1970s-1990s. Around 30 cases remain unsolved.

“The topography of the cliffs of Marks Park informs the compositional arrangement of Rise to magnify and invert the experiences of the victims and ultimately to reclaim Marks Park as a safe, queer space… Rise commemorates all women and men who have been murdered, tortured and persecuted because of their sexuality,” the design concept submitted by UAP said.

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 The plans propose a six-level stone terrace representing the six bands in the pride flag and informed by the rock strata of the site. “The strata are then inverted to ascend towards the ocean horizon,” UAP said.

“We know it will serve as a respectful memorial to the victims and help heal the trauma these past events have caused for the families of victims, as well as the LGBTQI community and many local residents. The events of this dark chapter in Sydney’s history have left a painful legacy that continues to be felt today,” said ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill.

“The memorial will help raise greater community awareness of the issue of anti-LGBTQI hate crimes, promote the continuing need for relevant information to be brought to the attention of police, and serve as a reminder of the importance of valuing and celebrating diversity in our community.”

In May 2020, the police had solved one of the most high profile cases, with the arrest of a man for the 1988 murder of Scott Johnson. The 27-year-old American’s body was found December 10, 1988 near Manly’s Blue Fish Point, and was dismissed as a suicide by the police. His family had insisted it was a hate crime and in May, detectives arrested 49-year-old Scott White.

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 Many other families have not had the same closure and the memorial may provide the families and the community the acknowledgement for the crimes against their loved ones.

John Russell was one such victim, whose body was found at the base of the cliff at Marks Park in 1989. The case, classified as a gay hate crime remains unsolved.

“Far too many people were taken away from us during this period and many cases, like my cousin John, remain unsolved,” Russell’s cousin  James Brooking had said in May. “The Bondi Memorial will acknowledge the victims of these horrific crimes and become a symbol of remembrance and healing for our family and all left behind. A definite place to go to reflect, seek comfort and pray John is at peace.”

If you wish to donate to ACON’s fundraising project, visit bondimemorial.com.au

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