Cultural history

Our rich cultural heritage

Randwick City has a rich cultural heritage, such as in the form of shell work by the Timbery and Russell families, descendants of the original inhabitants of this area, the Bidjigal people of La Perouse.  The shell work of La Perouse is said to be the oldest art movement in Australia, based on reported accounts dated 1880 describing Aboriginal women decorating clubs and boomerangs made by their menfolk with shell work to sell to visitors to La Perouse.

Today, the Bidjigal women of La Perouse continue with this arts and crafts heritage. The remarkable shell work of prominent indigenous artist, Esme Timbery, is collected and exhibited by prestigious cultural venues such as Sydney Opera House, The PowerHouse Museum, Australian Maritime Museum and Museum of Contemporary Art.  In 2005, Esme Timbery won the NSW Parliament Indigenous Art Prize.  Esme's daughter Marilyn Russell, working alongside her mother is now continuing the tradition of La Perouse shell work.

In 1857 Isaac Nathan lived in Byron Lodge in Belmore Road Randwick. He was considered to b  the first musician with a European reputation to settle in Australia, and the first to attempt a serious study of Indigenous Australian music.

The poet Henry Kendall, who often swam at Coogee beach, published his poem Coogee in 1868, while local 'impressionist' painters of the Heidelberg School, such as Tom Roberts, Charles Condor and Arthur Streeton, all painted famous landscapes of Coogee Beach in the late 1800s.

This was celebrated in the sculpture The Impressionists' Seat created by sculpture Eileen Slarke in 2009. She also created the sculpture of the 1912 Olympic medallist Mina Wylie in 2001, which is located at Wylie's Baths. Wylie's Bath was immortalised in Jeffrey Smart's Wylie's series of paintings.

In 1969, international artist Christo came to Australia and made the world's largest sculpture when he wrapped up the northern cliffs of Little Bay in 90,000 square metres of erosion control fabric. Although controversial at the time, the project is considered a triumph as it heralded a new era in Australian contemporary art.

For further information of Randwick City's history go to our History Page

Last Updated: 24 October 2022
Back to top