Illawarra History

I am Brad Chilby a local Wollongong Photographer. I also have a keen in interest in history and fortunately I have access to a lot of historical Illawarra documents and photographs. I am a 7th a generation Wollongong local. My family were one of the first couple of British families to settle in the region and thus I am very passionate about my home town.

I have put together this document of interesting Illawarra facts and stories that you may not have heard before, they are not in any particular order of year etc. We do have a fascinating history here in the Illawarra and I hope you enjoy!

About the Illawarra region:

*The word Illawarra is an Aboriginal word early settlers learnt and used, and is still used today, to describe the land some 50 miles south of Sydney. The Illawarra is land locked between the Pacific Ocean and what was once a near impenetrable escarpment which rears abruptly to the west. With few natural harbours it remained widely unexplored until the Sydney area had a big drought in 1815 which forced settlers to seek new pastures.

 * The Illawarra escarpment is believed to have been created between 225 and 280 million years ago.

* The Illawarra escarpment is a remarkable sight, the rugged mountains and sheer cliffs that hug the coast line in the north, the distinct mountains formations near Wollongong and the maximum height of near 800m in the south of the region provide spectacular views of the coast line. They create a unique character to the towns between the mountains and the sea and a beautiful backdrop. Below are some of the Illawarra escarpments mountains and there heights above sea level.

* Bald Hill -300m

* The coastal cliffs hugging the shore around Scarborough and the coast road are approximately 300m high.

* Sublime point, Bulli – 415m

* Brokers Nose – 440m

* Mount Ousley – 350m

* Mount Keira – 464m

* Mount Nebo – 252m

* Mount Kembla – 534m

* Knights Hill – 709m

* Mount Murray 768m

* Saddleback Mountain – 600m

* The Illawarra escarpment is 120kms in length and occasionally if cold enough it can snow a top of the southern areas of the escarpment near the township of Robertson.

* After the bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941, the fall of Singapore in 1942 and the bombing of Darwin in 1942 during the Second World War, all of Australia was placed on a war footing. Barbed wire and tank traps appeared on our beaches, and many of the beaches along the Illawarra coast were prepared for a sea invasion.

* One of the best known Aboriginal men of the Illawarra region from the nineteenth century is Mickey Johnson (1834-1906). In 1896 Mickey Johnson was proclaimed the King of the Illawarra at a ceremony to mark the centenary of the region. He was presented with a breastplate by a local politician and historian Archibald Campbell MLA. Mickey was seen as one of the leaders of the local Aboriginal community.

* The Illawarra became the first district in Australia to celebrate its centenary in 1897.

* In 1820 there was an estimated 3000 full blooded aborigines living in the Illawarra and by 1899 there was only 33 living in the Illawarra, Shoalhaven and Picton areas combined. There are descendents of the Illawarra aborigines still living in the area today.

* The rocks visible along the top of the Illawarra escarpment are Hawkesbury sandstone. The Illawarra escarpment was created between 225 and 280 million years ago.

*Archaeological evidence indicates Aboriginal people lived in the Illawarra for at least 30,000 years.

* It is not known how many Aboriginal people lived in the Illawarra at the time of European occupation, but as the region was rich in natural resources and able to sustain a relatively large population, it is believed to be between around 3000 people.

* There are many sacred aboriginal sites scattered along the Illawarra coastline including middens, ceremony and burial sites. Some Aboriginal carvings and art work are also located along the escarpment.

* The Illawarra Mercury is one of the oldest news papers in Australia; it started publishing in 1855 and commenced daily publication in 1949.

* The first settlers in the Illawarra were cedar cutters in the early 1800’s followed by graziers in 1812 and shortly after the miners, that brought of much of the Illawarra’s character to the towns and buildings.

* The Illawarra coal seams are known to be the best coking coal in the world; it is used in the production of making steel. The Illawarra coal company is a member of the BHP Billiton group.

* The Illawarra region is administered by three councils, Wollongong council, Shellharbour council and Kiama municipal council.

* Illawarra radio station i98fm was originally called 2OO (2 Double O) and was on an AM band. It began operation on the 1st of January 1979 and in 1992 was converted to the present name of i98fm. In recent times i98fm has been the number one radio station in the Illawarra region.

* 96.5 Wave fm was originally called 2WL and has been broadcasting in the Illawarra since 1931. Wave fm is a popular radio station in the Illawarra region.

* In 1905 the number of tourists using the Illawarra railway line on public holidays exceeded 50,000 people.

* Between the 17th and 19th of August 1998 a basically stationary storm was persisting over the Illawarra region. Torrential rainfall caused extensive flooding and mudslides. All roads out of the Illawarra were blocked by mud and rock slides. The heaviest rainfall was recorded late in the afternoon on the 17th of August as 150mm fell between 6pm and 8pm, 103mm fell in the following hour and 210 in the 3 hours after. In 12 hours 357mm had fallen and in the 3 days well in excess of 500mm had fallen in the area. This natural disaster caused wide spread damage and was considered to be a one in 300 year event. 


* In 1999-2000 Wollongong University was announced joint winner of the good universities guide – University of the year award and won this a second time in 2000-2001

* The University of Wollongong was established in the Wollongong area in 1951. It was originally a division of the New South Wales University of Technology. Ten years later the division became the Wollongong College of the University of New South Wales and in 1975 was the university of Wollongong was incorporated by the New South Wales parliament as an independent institution of higher learning.

* When the University of Wollongong was first established in 1951 it had only 300 students. In 2010 the University of Wollongong has a population of 18,000 students.

* Captain cook noted the unique landscape of the Illawarra and named Mt Kembla “hat hill”. Because it resembled the shape of a hat.

* The Illawarra flame tree is native to the Illawarra and the east coast of Australia and is a symbol of the Illawarra region. The fiery Red colour of the unique Illawarra Flame Tree whose flame-red flowers highlight the wet sclerophyll rainforest as seen along the Illawarra escarpment in spring and summer, they can grow up to 35metres high and are Deciduous. Indigenous Australians had various uses for the Illawarra Flame Tree, including making twine from the bark fibre for fishing nets and lines, and roasting the seeds for eating. However, special care was taken when preparing the seeds because of the dangerous hairs inside the seed pod.

* Wollongong city has a population of 284,169 people and is the 3rd largest city in New South Wales behind Sydney and Newcastle and is the 9th largest city in Australia. The entire Illawarra region including Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama has a population of 409,734.

* In 1856 Wollongong had a population of 864 people.

* Mount Keira Road was built using convict labour in 1835-1836

* According to the Alcheringa, the dreaming of the local Aboriginal peoples, Mount Keira is Geera, the daughter of Oola-boola-woo, the West Wind. The story of the creation of Mount Keira is tied to the creation of the Five Islands, which sit just off the Wollongong coast. In the story, Oola-boola-woo had six daughters, Mimosa, Wilga, Lilli Pilli, Wattle, Clematis and Geera. They lived a-top the Illawarra escarpment, and one by one the first five children misbehaved, raising the ire of Oola-boola-woo, who cast them and the stone beneath them out to see, forming the Five Islands. Geera, who was now the only child left on their escarpment home, had no one to play with and no one to talk to as her father was often away. Geera spent all day sitting, hunched over and watching the camps of the local Aboriginal people and looking out to sea at her five sisters. Eventually she turned to stone, dust and leaves building up around her until she became a part of the escarpment. She is known today as Mount Keira. Local aboriginal legends told of Mount Kembla and Mount Keira being sisters and the Five Islands being daughters of the wind.

* The Wollongong botanical gardens at Keiraville was Established in 1964 and in area mass is 27 ha

* Wollongong is the only point on the eastern coast of Australia which has two lighthouses.

* The old lighthouse at Wollongong harbour was built in 1871, a second identical lighthouse was also built next at Ulladulla. This was later moved to Warden Head. The old Wollongong lighthouse is 12.8m high, it has an elevation above sea level of 17.1m and it was visible from 18kms away, it was designed to assist vessels into Wollongong Harbour. The old lighthouse was discontinued in 1974.

* The new Wollongong lighthouse was completed in 1936 and was the first new lighthouse built in N.S.W since 1903. It cost $5,214 and was the first fully automatic flashing light to be installed in N.S.W. It is 25.3m high and 40m above sea level. It has a range of 30km and as it is automatic, it is never manned. It was built as a coastal light and to guide ships to nearby Port Kembla.

* In 1900 the Illawarra Mercury cost just one penny.

* On the 3rd of October 1888, the Wollongong to Sydney Railway was officially opened.

* Wollongong harbor was first used in 1815 for the shipping of cedar.

* In 1954 a newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II of England made a royal visit to Wollongong, the streets of Wollongong and the Wollongong show ground were filled to capacity to welcome her.

* It is believed the first plane to visit Wollongong in 1919 landed on the Wollongong Show ground, fences were removed for the runway.

* The town of Figtree in Wollongong is named after a giant fig tree that once stood on the east side of the highway and to the north of Westfield Figtree. The famous Figtree was unfortunately cut down in 1996. The trunk of the tree still remains.

* The Illawarra’s first taxi service was Henson’s taxi service. The Henson’s also had one of the early bus services in the Illawarra which operated from the 1920's up until 1959 when it was sold to John Hill. Henson’s bus service or HBS had a depot at Migley St Corrimal. Henson's Buses were known for allowing free fares for returned soldiers and war widows after the owner Harry Henson lost his son and Henson's Bus driver Jim Henson during World War II. The Henson's had many businesses in Corrimal including Henson's Service Station located where Blair's Tyres is now, a general store, a cake store and a nursery amongst others.

* Dion's Buses first started servicing the Illawarra in 1923. The blue and grey Dion's Buses are still a part of the Wollongong scene.

* The Wollongong Nuns Pool is believed to be the oldest ocean bath in New South Wales and was a significant tourist attraction from the 1840’s, it featured on early twentieth century postcards of Wollongong. The nuns pool is in a sheltered cove with a narrow path chiselled into the sandstone rock. It was originally called chain baths and in 2001 was listed as a heritage area.

* Many of Wollongong’s beautiful Norfolk pines situated along the area’s popular beaches were planted in the 1920’s. The area had a large tourist boom during this time.

* The men’s baths at Clarke’s Hole, Wollongong was once the area’s main swimming destination from the 1870’s until 1926, it ceased to be the main swimming bath when the Continental pools were opened in 1926, however many patrons continued to use the baths. Women were first aloud to use these baths from 1902.

* Hospital Hill at the west end of Crown St was originally called Garden Hill.

North Wollongong:

* The hill on the Princes Highway at the bottom of Bulli Pass is called Chilby hill, as there were many families of Chilby’s living on the hill and in the Bulli area.

* The town of Corrimal is named after Broker's Nose, a mountain that stands tall over the township. The mountain was previously known as Mount Corrimal and is where the town derived its name. Mount Corrimal is named after Kurimul an aboriginal dream time warrior who took another man’s wife. When pursued by the husband, Kurimul raced up the mountain (Brokers Nose) and climbed a tall tree. The husband gathered wood and set fire to the tree, and Kurimul was carried up in flames into the sky. Kurimal’s star was seen in the sky above the mountain, where it can still be seen today.

* The current name of Brokers Nose is derived from an old bridal track called Brooker’s track which led to Brooker brother’s farm and by common usage the mountain became known as Broker’s Nose. The change in name to Broker’s Nose is believed to be due to a misspelling. Brokers Nose is the icon of Corrimal and a place of unprecedented beauty, it home to rainforests, creeks, giant fig, cedar and gum trees and is an extremely steep area of the escarpment. The Mountain has many caves and giant sandstone rock formations. On the Tarrawanna side of the mountain is the old Corrimal Colliery.

* Streets Ice cream was founded in Corrimal in the 1930’s, the site still remains on Tarrawanna road but has recently been sold by streets. Mr Street begun selling homemade ice cream in a small corner shop and the ice cream was so delicious the word spread quickly and orders came from all over town and from this Streets ice cream was born.

* The hill on the princes highway at Corrimal, in the suburbs north is called Black Cutting Hill.

* Bulli soil is volcanic in nature with a 65% clay content, it is normally found at the base of the Illawarra escarpment and has been mined from the Wollongong area for over 150 years. It is used on famed cricket grounds all around the world including Lords in England and the Sydney Cricket Ground. The Sydney Cricket Ground got there first shipment of Bulli soil from Bellambi in 1888. Sadly it is in short supply as it has been built on in many areas.

* Bulli Pass was built during the 1800's for use by loggers and locals transporting goods to and from Sydney. Beforehand sea travel was the only reliable method.

* The town of Bulli is known as the Black Diamond district. A black diamond is coal, the statement recognising the value of coal to the area and the large coal deposits found.

* The town of Coalcliff in Wollongong’s northern suburbs originated in 1797 when survivors of a wreck set out to find Sydney and found coal here which they used to make a fire for warmth. George Bass was sent by Governor Hunter to investigate and found several seams that extended for some distance. The Illawarra coal seams had been observed at Coalcliff as early as 1797 and are known to be the first sighting of coal on the east coast of Australia.

* The Sea Cliff Bridge is one of only seven off-shore parallel to coast bridges in the world. It has been shown in many advertisements all over the world.

* Sea Cliff Bridge was officially opened on the 11th of December 2005.

* Sea Cliff Bridge is 665m long and at its highest point is 41m high.

* Helensburgh in Wollongong’s northern suburbs was originally called Camp Creek.

* The town of Helensburgh is 200m above sea level.

* Settlement started in the northern suburbs town of Thirroul in the 1860’s and was know at this time as North Bulli up until 1880 when a meeting of local residents was held and a decision was made to name the town Robbinsville, it was called this until 1895, when the name Thirroul was adopted.

* Football (Soccer) is a big part of life in the Illawarra and some of Australia’s oldest Football clubs are from the Illawarra region, many local teams competed state level and won many championships over the years, these teams also produced players that went on to represent Australia. The oldest existing Football Club in Australia is the Balgownie Rangers, established in 1883; many other clubs were established shortly after including Balgownie’s arch rival the Corrimal Rangers in 1891. The Illawarra premier league was established in the 1890’s and at the time was called the South Coast British Association. Some of the other early teams were Robbinsville (Thirroul), Mt Kembla, Helensburgh, Woonona, Bulli and Bellambi.

* The town of Balgownie was originally called Fairy Meadow in the 1840’s. During the 1860’s it was called Cramsville and adopted the name of Balgownie in 1889 after the town of Balgownie in Scotland.

*  In the early days of settlement Bellambi was also known as Palamba. .

* The town of Bulli in Wollongong’s northern suburbs was first recorded in 1923 as Bull Eye. The local aboriginal people called it Bulla Bulla meaning two mountains, being Mount Keira and Mount Kembla.

* On the 23rd of March 1887, an explosion at Bulli Colliery killed 81 people, 50 women were widows and 150 children fatherless. There was only one survivor from the explosion a 17 year boy, who later became known as “boy cope”.

* Coledale was originally called Coaldale due to the coal deposits found in the area.

* On the 31st of July 1902, at Mt Kembla colliery an explosion killed 96 men and boys. It was heard 7 miles away in Wollongong and was the worst non-natural and non-nautical disaster in Australia’s history. At the end of the day 33 women were widows and 120 children fatherless. There is an annual festival on the 31st of July in town of Mt Kembla dedicated to the remembrance of the disaster. There is also a candle light ceremony at the Windy Gully cemetery on the 31st of July each year, where 96 candles are lit to remember the lives lost.

* In 1797 the first discovery of coal deposits were made near coal cliff in the northern suburbs of Wollongong.

*  In 1998 an aboriginal burial site was discovered at Sandon Point.

* The Wodi Wodi track that extends in an arc between Stanwell Park Train Station and Lawrence Hargrave Drive north of Coalcliff Train Station is believed to be the oldest walking track in the world. The track has been used by Aboriginal people for thousands of years and their use is still evident today with tree carvings located along the track and a carving of a whale located at the top of Mt Mitchell. 

* The Woonona Industrial Co-operative building located on Ball Street, Woonona was established by the Co-operative society in 1886 and began baking bread in 1904. It made as many as 40,000 loaves a week. The Co-operative was headquarters for the Coast Co-operative Society which had 3000 members. 

* Captain James Cook attempted to land at Collins Rock, Woonona in 1770.

* Corrimal Public School located on the Princes Highway at Corrimal was opened in 1890. Beneath the rolling green hills of the playground is World War II bunkers that were built in case of an air borne attack.

* There was once a picture theatre at Corrimal called the Princess Theatre, it was located where the Corrimal Plaza is currently situated.

* In 1892 Corrimal had a population of only 300 people.

* The suburb of Austinmer in the northern suburbs of Wollongong was officially named as such in 1895. Prior to this the area was originally known as Sidmouth up until the 1860's. It then became known as North Bulli and it later changed to Austermere. In 1887 the spelling Austinmere was used by the local newspapers and the finally the name Austinmer was placed on the railway sign in September 1887 when the railway platform was built.

* There was once a private railway line which ran from the Corrimal Colliery to the Corrimal Coke Works, it was constructed in 1912 and was operated until 1965.

* The Corrimal Coke works located just west of the railway line was constructed in 1911 and it has been in continuous operation ever since.

* On the 15th of May 1906 the shire of Bulli was proclaimed to serve the area north of Bellambi to the National Park and Waterfall.

* Just south of Corrimal beach and opposite the outlet of Towradgi creek is the wreckage of the ship called Queen of nations. Its lies 70 metres from the shore beneath 3 to 5 metres of water. During the early hours of the morning on the 31st of May 1881 Captain Bache mistook a fire on Mt Keira for the light on Port Jackson's south head, believing he was entering Sydney Harbour he turned the ship and run ashore at Corrimal beach. Prior to this the Queen of Nations was a highly regarded vessel that transported cargo and passenger between Sydney and London for 20 years.

* During World War One a Wollongong coal miner like many from the area were recruited as soldiers to dig tunnels deep beneath the German lines at Hill 60 in Belgium. In 1918 the war ended and he returned to Wollongong from the war with post traumatic stress disorder. Sometime most likely during 1919 believing he was still in the war, begun to dig a tunnel high up on the Illawarra escarpment in a very steep area, he tried to dig two other tunnels first but stopped probably due to hard rock. Incredibly the main tunnel that he dug was approximately 20 metres long with a pit at the end. The soldier planned to place dynamite in the pit and blow up the mountainside. He waited and waited for dynamite and supplies to arrive at the site and of course it never did, he then sadly killed himself. Prior to this, it is believed he lived in a hut on the Illawarra escarpment and traveled daily up to the tunnel to continue his work.

South Wollongong:

* Port Kembla beach was announced the overall winner of the clean beach state challenge in 2010 and was awarded the cleanest beach in N.S.W. Austinmer beach won this award in 2001.        

 * Big Island just off the coastline at Port Kembla was previously known as Perkins Island. It was named after a family who lived on the Island for some years, probably between 1866 and 1870. The original Perkins (Parkyns) established a home on the Island and made a living by catching sharks and selling oil. There is a small beach on big island called Parkyns beach.                                             

* Port Kembla harbour is not a natural harbour. It was originally a salt water lagoon, which was once one of the largest on the N.S.W coast, it was 500ha and extended from Port Kembla to Wollongong. Bass and Flinders named the lagoon Tom Thumb lagoon after the small boat they travelled in. Mt Kembla coal and Oil Company constructed a jetty just north of red point naming it Port Kembla in 1883. In the 1890’s it was exporting large amounts of coal from the local coal mines and from this, a plan was developed for a deep sea port. The plan was approved in 1898. In the 1920’s Hoskins Steel Works was established and the future of the steel works was assured. - The name of the five islands just off the Wollongong coast are:

* Big Island – formally known as Perkins Island.

* Flinders Islet or more commonly known as Toothbrush Island due to its shape.

* Bass Islet or more commonly known as Pig Island. The legend is that following a heavy flood a pig from the mainland was washed up on this island and lived there for a number of years.

* Flinders Islet and Bass Islet are known together as Tom Thumb Islands named after the small boat bass and flinders used in there expedition.

* Martin Islet is the southern most island of the group and is named after a youth called William Martin who accompanied Bass and Flinders on their expedition.

* Rocky Islet is the smallest island and looks like an out crop from the larger islands. It was also known as foul ground.

* The group of islands was originally called Martin’s Isles after the young boy travelling with Matthew Flinders and George Bass, today they are called The Five Islands.

* Port Kembla was originally called Red Point and was first sighted by Captain James Cook in 1770.

* The Copper smelter stack at Port Kembla was constructed in 1965 and is the tallest chimney in the southern hemisphere. It is 198m tall. The Chimney is due for destruction in 2010.                                   

* Former Prime Minister Mr. Robert Menzies became well known as ‘Pig Iron Bob’. The story behind this relates to an incident at Port Kembla. A newspaper article on Friday the 18th of November 1938 states: “Waterside workers at Port Kembla have refused to load pig iron bound for Japan because they believe it will be used in the war against China and might possibly be used against Australia in the future. The Attorney-General, Mr. Robert Menzies, has threatened to invoke the Transport Workers Act against the unions if they do not comply with his demands to load the pig iron. Mr. Menzies has argued that if the pig iron is not to be sold to Japan then neither should wheat or wool, which is used by Japanese Soldiers in China. Mr. Menzies also reminded the unions that the League of Nations had not imposed trade sanctions against Japan. The Labor minister, Mr. Rose ear, disagrees. He says that the government is asking the unions to be the ally in the Japanese massacre of Chinese citizens, and a supporter of a possible attack on their own country.” The dispute between the workers and the government lasted nine weeks and is estimated to have cost 100,000 pounds in lost wages to the workers and other union members, especially in the steelworks that were closed.

* On Sunday 3 September 1939, the Prime Minister Robert Menzies, announced in a radio broadcast to the nation, “It is my melancholy duty to inform you that, in consequence of a persistence by Germany in her invasion of Poland, Great Britain had declared war upon her, and that, as a result Australia is also at war.” It directly involved increased and specialist production for the war effort from the industrial sector at Port Kembla.

* The European and scientific discovery of the Koala in Australia didn’t take place until 1803 at Hat Hill now Mt Kembla in the Illawarra. The local aboriginal people called the Koala a Cullawine.

* On the 25th April 1770 Captain James Cook described Mt Kembla as follows: “A round Hill the top of which looked like the crown of a hat” It was labelled Hat Hill in the early days of the colony.

* The pipelines coming out of Port Kembla pool at Port Kembla beach is to fill Port Kembla Olympic pool with salt water.

* Port Kembla beach or otherwise known as Perkins Beach stretches from Port Kembla Pool in the north to the entrance of Lake Illawarra in the south.

* The Nan Tien Temple at Berkeley literally means “paradise of the south” in English. It is the largest Buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere. The Nan Tien temple was opened in October 1995.

* Westfield Shopping Centre at Warrawong was not always part of the Westfield portfolio. It originally opened in 1960 as Lake Market Shopping Centre and was known locally as the Big W, meaning the Big Warrawong. It was acquired by Westfield in 1985.

* Prior to becoming President of the United States of America in 1928, Herbert Hoover worked for a time in the early 1900's at the Dapto Smelter in Kanahooka Road as a mining engineer.

Lake Illawarra:

* In the 1920’s and 1930’s there was a dance hall on Gooseberry Island, Lake Illawarra. Locals would put on their best frocks and suits and sail across to the island. Dances were held on weekends twice a year and would attract residents from all over the Illawarra, many coming by horse and sulky. The dances ended in the mid 1930’s as times were tough, residents pulled apart the hall to recycle the materials. Today Gooseberry Island is a nature reserve.

* Lake Illawarra has an average depth of 1.9m; it has a water area of 35 square kilometres and 40 kilometres of shoreline. Lake Illawarra is the second largest lake in N.S.W.

* Lake Illawarra was first sighted in 1770 by captain cook and in 1796 Bass and Flinders made reference to the Lake Illawarra entrance as “canoe river”.

* A railway line was built on Windang Island to carry rock cut from the south-western side of the Island through to the mainland side of the Island. This rock was used to build the breakwaters at Windang.

* There is a rumour that not only does Lake Illawarra have its main sea entrance next to Windang Island, but it once had a mystical second natural sea entrance apparently somewhere along the eastern stretch of the inland waterway near Warrawong. However this isn’t actually the case, it was not in fact a second sea entrance but the World War II Kemblawarra Tank Trap. Two large adjoining ditches between Perkins Beach, Port Kembla and Lake Illawarra and Brownsville and to the western shore of Lake Illawarra were dug to prevent Japanese tanks and other wheeled vehicles attacking the Port Kembla Steelwork. The tank trap was built over in 1950.

* In 1880 there were four fishermen working on Lake Illawarra to supply the Sydney market. Nowadays lake Illawarra supports about 20 professional fishermen with an annual catch of some 200 tonnes.

* Camping by Lake Illawarra was popular as far back as the 1920s, where bookings at Windang House were always full during holiday periods.

* The population around Lake Illawarra was around 5000 in 1950 and today the population is approximately 90,000.

* The Lake Illawarra Authority was established in 1988 with the task of repairing the damage that had occurred to the lake and its foreshores over the past 200 years.

* In 1938, a bridge was constructed across the entrance channel connecting the shores of lake Illawarra for the first time. The current bridge Windang Bridge was constructed in the early 1970s.

* In the 1800’s aboriginal people in the area called Lake Illawarra “Jubborsay”.

* In April 2010 a 2m long juvenile Great White shark was spotted in Lake Illawarra, It stayed in the lake for a number of weeks. To many it signalled the health of the lake. The pristine waters providing a plentiful supply of food for a growing shark. 


* Sand was taken from Warilla beach and Perkins Beach at Port Kembla between the 1940’s and 1970’s and used in Waikiki in Hawaii and other similar locations to cover the black sand.

* Killealea Beach affectionately known as “The Farm” is a popular surfing beach near Shell Cove it is a km stretch of beach managed by the national parks, it is recognised as a national surfing reserve due to its unique location. The Killealea state park land was once a farm land hence the name “The Farm” There was a farm house on the property and the farmer charged beach goers a small fee to pass through his property.

* On January 1st 1996 Shellharbour became a city.

* Shellharbour was originally known as Yerrowah and later as Peterbourough.

* Warilla was once home to Shellharbour Council between 1969 and 1991. It is now located nearby at the Shellharbour City Centre.

* The native name for Windang Island was Kauyanggang, which meant saved by the big bear who pulled the island into its present position. It has been known as Windang Island as far back as 1848.

* The first Europeans to set foot in the Shellharbour area were explorers George Bass and Matthew Flinders in 1796.

* Bass Point was regularly used by the Wodi Wodi Aborigines to catch fish and gather shell fish from the rocks. A number of shell and stone artefacts have been found here, including one of the most ancient edge-ground axes outside of tropical Australia. Some remnants, such as middens, indicate there was human activity in this area at least 17 000 years ago.

* In 1887 a railway line was established in Shellharbour which ensured the survival of the area. With this came an influx of tourists and day trippers.

* Rich deposits of Basalt or 'Blue Gold' are quarried at the jetty located at South Shellharbour's Fullers Bay. It begun operation in the 1880's and is still in use today. The lease for this site is valid until 2020.

* The Ocean Beach Hotel at Shellharbour was built in 1929 to accommodate the tourist trade and take advantage of the pretty location of Shellharbour. The hotel could house sixty guests and was described as being modern and artistic. Under the hotel was and old but well constructed cellar believed to have been built in the 1850's to serve the working harbour. It was used to store goods on route to Sydney. An anchor was salvaged from the wreck of the ship called Rangoon at Stack Island, Minnamurra and was placed at the car park once owned by Captain William Wilson who helped with the salvage and rescue of the Rangoon and crew.

* Illawarra cattle were originally bred in the Illawarra region and are now the 3rd largest bred in the country in terms of population. They are large dark red cows and sometimes have white patches. They produce large amounts of high butter fat and high protein milk; they are durable and are suited to the Australian climate.

* Macquarie Pass is a 8 kilometre long section of the Illawarra highway passing through Macquarie Pass national park. It was opened in 1898. Macquarie Pass links the coastal town of Albion Park with the Southern Highlands town of Robertson.

* Macquarie Pass was built over the route of an Aboriginal Trail.

* The Illawarra regional airport at Albion Park was built in 1941 as a Royal Australian Air force operating base during World War II in order to protect the Port Kembla steel works in case of a Japanese attack.

* Albion Park was originally called Terry's Meadows.

* By the 1890's Albion Park had become the major centre in the Shellharbour region and in 1897 the council relocated from Shellharbour Village to Albion Park which saw the decline of Shellharbour Village and the growth of the dairy and cattle industry at Albion Park.

* Shellharbour Municipal Council was constituted on the 4th of June 1859 and the chambers were built on Addison Street Shellharbour Village in 1865. 

*The suburb of Tullimbar was named after an Aboriginal leader named Tullimbar who's tribe camped on the land surronding Macquarie Rivulet at the foot of Macquarie Pass.


* Saddleback Mountain at Kiama and Mount Kembla are extinct volcanos.

* The local aboriginal people called the Kiama blowhole Khanterinteree. The big blow hole can squirt water as high as 25 metres and 600,000 people visit the big Kiama blowhole each year.

* The small town of Jamberoo in the beautiful Jamberoo valley was once its own municipal council. It is now part of Kiama municipal council.

* Jamberoo Recreation Park at Jamberoo is New South Wales largest recreation park.

* The first recorded reference to Kiama was by George Bass in December 1797. He anchored his 28ft whaleboat in the sheltered bay now known as Kiama Harbour.

* Jamberoo is reputed to be the home of the famous cattle called "Illawarra Shorthorn" The Illawarra breeders were credited with a flair for stock breeding and an "eye for a good beast".

* Kiama was proclaimed a Municipality in 1859.

* Stack Island at Minnamurra is often referred to as Rangoon Island. In 1870 a ship called the Rangoon was wrecked here on a voyage between Melbourne and Newcastle.

*The name Kiama is a corruption of the Aboriginal word Kiaram-a, which is believed to mean "where the sea makes a noise" and referring to the Kiama Blowhole.

Illawarra Quotes:

 " seemed, on descending and entering Illawarra, that we had suddenly become transported into a glen of tropical vegetation; ...the dry arid soil of the stringy-bark forest, with its stunted vegetation, was exchange for a damp, humid region presenting a prodigal luxuriance and wealth of vegetation almost inconceivable."

 "George Angus 1847"

“...this day we crossed the shallow entrance from the sea of Lake Illawarra...The Lake was illustrated by Natives in their canoes, looking very characteristic and beautiful, now that the process of English civilization had disarmed this part of the coast of those savage dangers with which it threatened Mr Flinders and Mr Bass, when they were here in the Tom Thumb...

- view was so picturesque - the lake, the hills, the Aborigines, the spirit of them all - as to deserve a painter...”

 "Barron Field, 20 October 1823"

"It was perhaps his favourite collecting area in the whole colony, a place where he was to find many a "botanical novelty" with a wet, temperate climate and sub-tropical vegetation, Illawarra was a welcome change from the dry scrubby brush which was typically found in the environs of Sydney. The unique Geography of the area - bounded as it was to the west by a sheer, 2000 foot high escarpment; to the east the Pacific Ocean; and on average no less than ten miles wide - gave rise to a natural hot house effect, creating a breeding ground for native flora, especially in those areas under the shadow of the escarpment."

 "About Allan Cunningham's visits to Illawarra between 1818 to 1830" 

Illawarra Poems:

Windy Gully

Lonely the wind sings,
Lonely the bird wings
Through fold of hill
Then all is still
In Windy Gully

Deep in the mountainside
Ninety-six miners died
Loud were there cries
Smoke filled the skies
Of Windy Gully

Closed now, the old pit
Sealed up, the mouth of it
Paid for the coal
Exacted the toll
In Windy Gully

Only the Rains Weep
Only the hills keep
Watch were men died
Know where they lie
In Windy Gully, in Windy Gully

"Wendy Richardson 1972" 

Mickey Brennan's Ghost

Back in nineteen hundred and two after the Mt Kembla mineshaft blew
And men went back under working in the panels
One body was never found and remains underground
Entombed forever in Mt Kembla's history annals.

Winning coal was their mission, but there was always suspicion
Of any noise from a pit prop or post
Any timber creek or groan was interpreted as a moan
And attributed to Mickey Brennan's ghost.

Mickey loved it down there the mine and to while away the time
He wandered through the tunnels, his favourite haunt
He thought it was a lark that the pit was always dark
And there was always lots of men down there to taunt

But around sixty nine productions slowed down at the mine
And Mickey's ghost could see the writing on the wall
When they closed the bugger down he'd be stuck there underground
All alone, with no one there to haunt at all

Well he was not the type to roam so he had to find another home
A place where people gathered, a social hub
And he thought of just the place, there'd be people there to chase
So he left the pit and moved down to the pub.

He now lives happily in the cellar, a very contented fella
And comes out only sometimes, late at night
When it's dark and bleak he might illuminate and speak
Just to give the publican a fright

So if you're ever in Mt Kembla with a taste for liquid amber
And you're greeted by an ashan faced mine host
If he's still decidedly pale by the time you drink your ale
Chances are he's just encountered Mickey's ghost.

"Alan Tubman 2002"
Written for the Mt Kembla Mine Disaster Centenary Commemoration 31st July 2002
Winner in section of Poet's Breakfast 2003