History & Demographics
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History & Demographics

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Page Sections: Local History | Suburb ProfilesWollongong Maps

Wollongong Museum Trail

The Wollongong Museum Trail, created in partnership with Destination Wollongong, helps you explore our region's past and perhaps uncover some hidden treasures.  Download a copy below:

Wollongong Museum Trail

Local History

Located 80 kilometres south of Sydney, Wollongong covers 714 square kilometres and occupies a narrow coastal strip bordered by the Royal National Park to the north, Lake Illawarra to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the east, and the Illawarra escarpment to the west.

The name Wollongong originated from the Aboriginal word woolyungah meaning five islands. Archaeological evidence indicates that Aboriginal people have lived here for at least 30,000 years. Wodi Wodi is the tribe name of the Aboriginal people of the Illawarra.

Dr Charles Throsby first established a settlement here in 1815, bringing down his cattle from the Southern Highlands to a lagoon of fresh water located near South Beach.

The earliest reference to Wollongong was in 1826, in a report written by John Oxley, about the local cedar industry. The area's first school was established in 1833, and just one year later the Surveyor-General arrived from Sydney to lay out the township of Wollongong on property owned by Charles Throsby-Smith.

Our local steel industry commenced in 1927 with Charles Hoskins entering into an agreement with the state government to build a steelworks at Port Kembla, thereby commencing a long history of steel production that still continues to this day. Operations began in 1930 with one blast furnace of 800 tons capacity. In 1936, BHP acquired Australian Iron and Steel Limited and production at Port Kembla increased rapidly. The steel industry was a catalyst for growth for many decades, and laid the foundations for the city's economy, lifestyle and culture.

Wollongong is proud of its industrial roots, and is still known and acknowledged as one of Australia's leading industrial centres. While steel and other manufacturing industries remain an essential part of the local economy, the city has long recognised the need to diversify its economic base. Construction of the spectacular Sea Cliff Bridge to the north has given even more focus to the burgeoning tourism industry, and information technology, hospitality, health services and telecommunications continue to grow as key industries of the region.

Wollongong enjoys a rich sense of community and cultural heritage, with people from more than 30 different language groups and 20 religious backgrounds living in harmony. A deep respect for others' traditions and regular celebrations of diverse customs add to the vibrant tapestry of community life and provide another dimension to our increasingly sophisticated city.

More information on local history on the Wollongong City Libraries website.

Suburb Profiles

We have created profiles of Wollongong's suburbs that contain historical and factual information. Details of resources used in preparing these pages are available in the bibliography. The profiles also include links to other websites that contain useful information about the suburbs.

We are still working on a few suburb profiles. If you cannot find information for the suburb you are interested in please ring our Wollongong Central Library - Local Studies section on 4227 7418. Staff will be happy to help you find the information you need.

More information on suburb profiles on the Wollongong City Libraries website.

You'll also find information about our city's current and forecast population on our Demographic Information page.

Illawarra Images

Images of people, places and events dating back to the mid 1800s. The collection may include images or names of people now deceased.  

We need your help

We’re looking for more information to add to our files for the Illawarra Images database.


If you have detail such as names of people places and events contained in the images, you can email from the link online, visit the Local Studies Library on level 1 of the Wollongong Central Library or call us on 4227 7418.


Images can be viewed online at home or at any branch libraries at the Wollongong City Libraries website.

Wollongong Maps

Our online maps allow you to search for information about locations in the Wollongong Local Government Area (LGA) and view information held by Council about a specific location.

Wollongong Spy Glass 1948-51 to 2014

This online map allows you to view aerial photography in the Wollongong Local Government Area (LGA) in 1948/51, and a moving spyglass allows you to see how our city has developed over time by comparing an area with photography taken in 2014.

Screenshot of Spyglass webpage

Wollongong Spy Glass 1977 to 2014

An online map that allows you to view aerial photography in the Wollongong Local Government Area (LGA) in 1977, and a moving spyglass allows you to see how our city has developed over time by comparing an area with photography taken in 2014.

Wollongong Urban Morphology 1948 to 2014

This online app allows you to compare aerial photography over the Wollongong Local Government Area (LGA) for 1948/51, 1961, 1977/78, 2001, 2006 and 2014.
Urban Morphology map


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