Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science


The Illawarra beaches of 1900-1940 were rapidly transformed by the emergence of promenading, bathing, sunbathing and surf lifesaving. In 1900, public daylight bathing was banned. Yet, by 1940, the practice of individuals clad in skimpy bathing costumes was considered normative behaviour. Conceptualising beach-making as the complex interplay of uneven social relationships stretched across different geographical scales, this thesis uses Foucauldian discourse analysis to critically examine transformations of the social relationships that forged the Illawarra beaches as a leisure and tourism space in a range of source materials. To form a beach archive, empirical materials were gathered from bank, surf club, State Rail, Council and print media records. Discourse analysis is deployed to illustrate how the discursive structures of gender, class, race, health, beauty, fitness and settler nation worked together to naturalise the beach as a leisure and tourism place for white settler Australians. Emergent themes are discussed in four results chapters. The first examines the discursive structures that initially helped to fashion the Illawarra as a seaside resort. The second argues that understandings of the Illawarra as a seaside resort were considerably hindered by economic discourses. At this time priority was given to manufacturing over leisure and tourism activities. The third examines how sun and surf bathing both physically and socially transformed the Illawarra beaches by including or excluding certain practices and bodies. Ocean baths, changing rooms, surf club houses, reels and surfboards became commonplace. The beach became a naturalised place for physically fit, bronzed xiii bodies revealing flesh, while bathing in both the ocean and by the rays of the sun. The final chapter investigates the surf lifesaving movement in the Illawarra. The archive suggests that practices of surf lifesavers both fix and rupture arguments of the lifesaving movement as forging understandings of the beach in terms of discipline, service and nation building.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.