Bondi Mermaids inspire new public artwork for future generations

29 March 2024 | Media Release

It's been the victim of thefts, university pranks and storms that can rip your arm off.

Artist Lyall Randolph’s fabled Bondi Mermaids sculpture is the inspiration for a new mermaid-themed public artwork Waverley Council is installing in the southern end of Bondi Park near Notts Avenue, Bondi Beach.

The Council is exhibiting three shortlisted concept designs for the community’s feedback. The public exhibition closes Monday 29 April at The designs are by qualified architects, artists, landscape architects and designers.

Lyall’s original Bondi Mermaids sculpture was installed without Council approval in April 1960 on top of Big Rock, a 235-tonne boulder below Ray O’Keefe Reserve at Ben Buckler Point at the northern tip of Bondi Bay after Council refused to pay for it. They were modelled after champion swimmer Lynette Whillier and Miss Australia Surf 1959, Jan Carmody.

The mermaids’ reign over Big Rock (now dubbed Mermaid Rock) was short lived, as a mere month after they were installed, “mermaid Jan” was chiseled from the rock by university students as part of a Commemoration Day prank. She was later recovered under mysterious circumstances at the Engineering School at the University of Sydney. Repaired, she was restored to the Big Rock to rejoin her fellow mermaid Lynette.

In 1974, mermaid Lynette disappeared after it was swept off the rock by a heavy storm. Mermaid Jan lost an arm and her tail in the same storm and is on display at Waverley Library.

Mayor of Waverley, Paula Masselos, said the Bondi Mermaids was a much-loved landmark and an enduring memory for many in the community.

“I’m delighted that the record will show that the Council does indeed think very highly of the Bondi Mermaids, enough so to reimagine it for future generations,” Mayor Masselos said.

“Big Rock commands an awe-inspiring location but it’s safer and more enjoyable for everyone to have this new mermaid sculpture on terra firma.”

Stories of mermaids have existed for thousands of years and span cultures across the world. In some cultures, the mermaid embodies the destructive nature of the water but in others, she signifies life and fertility within the ocean.

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