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Traditional Custodians of Illawarra Land
Local communities of Aboriginal people were the original inhabitants and Traditional Custodians of Illawarra Land. Their dialect is a variant of the Dharawal language. Before European settlement, the Aboriginal people of the region lived in small family groups with complicated social structures and close associations with specific areas. Suburb boundaries do not reflect the cultural boundaries of the local Aboriginal community. Traditional Custodians today are descendants of the original inhabitants and have ongoing spiritual and cultural ties to the Land and waterways where their ancestors lived.
Port Kembla - History
Port Kembla was originally known as Red Point. It has also been referred to as "Kembla Bay" and "Five Islands Bay". The residential and industrial areas of Port Kembla are situated on 2200 acres of land granted to David Allan in 1817. The land was called "Illawarra Farm".
In 1883 a port was opened to ship coal brought from the mine at Mt Kembla. Because of its association with the jetty serving the Mount Kembla mine, the area previously called Red Point became known as Port Kembla. The earliest reference to this name seems to have been in 1892. The new harbour was named Port Kembla by William Burall who opened the Mt Kembla Colliery and constructed the tramway between the colliery and the jetty. Kembla is an aboriginal word meaning "plenty of wild fowl".
David Allan was one of the first five land grantees in the Illawarra, Allan was originally promised land in the Airds district of New South Wales in October 1813, by Governor Macquarie. It was 1816 before Deputy Surveyor Meehan located land for the grant, which is shown as Portion 53, on the Parish of Wollongong map. The land was described as 'bounded on east by ocean, north by Tom Thumb Lagoon, Allan's creek, a line southerly to Illawarra Lake at Griffin's Bay, then easterly to 'Red Point".' (Dowd. p. 11)
Allan named his property 'Illawarra Farm'. On 1st November, 1827, Illawarra Farm was sold to Richard Jones. Richard Jones sold it to William Charles Wentworth in 1828. Wentworth renamed the property 'Five Islands Estate'. The present day Steelworks is now located on a section of this grant. (Dowd, 1960; Port Kembla Public School : Heritage Assessment, 2002)
In 1826 Captain Bishop and a small attachment of the 40th Regiment was established at David Allan's property, Red Point (now Port Kembla). Bishop was the Civil and Military Commandant of the Five Islands District. Because of the increasing numbers of bushrangers and 'vagabonds' now roaming the area, it was felt that the presence of this regiment was needed to protect settlers from attacks by these outlaws.
Bishop's duties also included returning any escaped convicts to Sydney, and ensuring no cedar was taken illegally from the government. Eventually the Regiment was moved to Wollongong, and located where the courthouse and goal fronting the harbour were later built. (Catterall, 1994; City of W'Gong Heritage Study. Vol 2, 1991)
David Allan was appointed Deputy Commissary General of the Colony in 1813. He arrived in Sydney on June 11th of that year, on board the 'Fortune', a male convict ship. He took up his land grant (see above) in 1816, naming it 'Illawarra Farm'. Allan's time with the Commissariat Department was short lived. He and Governor Macquarie argued about the manner in which Allan carried out his duties, and he was eventually dismissed from the post after continuing to issue Promissory Notes when expressly forbidden to do so by Macquarie. In January 1819, he was replaced by Deputy Commissary General F. Drennan.
Allan continued living at 'Illawarra Farm', grazing cattle. A report from the period 1819-1820 states that Allan had 2,340 sheep, 850 cattle and 20 horses. After his dismissal from government service, Allan and his wife and family of 9 sons and 3 daughters, left the farm and returned to England on the 'Surrey'. Allan retained his holdings, leasing them out for general farming. The farm boasted a 'good' cottage and offices. Allan's cottage was occupied by his managers Mr. and Mrs. Wholohan, with 2 rooms of the cottage occupied by soldiers of the Military Station, Red Point. Allan's farm was sold on 1st November, 1827 to Richard Jones. (Catterall, 1994; Dowd, 1960)
Aboriginal Commercial Fishing
In June 1876 the Illawarra Mercury recorded that George 'Trimmer' Timbrey and Billy Saddler had requested and obtained a fishing boat from the Colonial Secretaries Office, Sydney. Timbrey and Saddler were two of the Aboriginal fisherman who fished the Hill 60/Fishermen's Beach area. They sold the fish they caught to local and Sydney markets.
The Aboriginal fishermen fished this area up until the Second World War.
Blackfish (Luderick) was the main fish caught. The fishermen chipped a hole in the volcanic rock adjacent to the beach, making holding pens. The fish were kept in these holding pens until the train transporting them left from Port Kembla railway station. Some of the local residents would also truck the fish to Sydney or Wollongong for the fishermen. Wednesday was 'Government Day', when the proceeds of fish caught that day was taken by the government as payment for the fishing boat and gear given to the fishermen.
During the World War II years, the Aboriginal fishermen left Hill 60, and at this time the first white men applied for permission from the Army Commander to work the beach. Nowadays, very little industrial fishing takes place here, but before the War, the enterprise was highly successful, producing sufficient fish to supply the Sydney and local markets. (Dallas, 2000; Catterall, 1994)
Port Kembla Harbour
In 1882, the Mount Kembla Coal and Oil Co. built a private jetty at Port Kembla, with a rail link to the Company's mine at Mount Kembla. Because of its association with the jetty servicing the Mount Kembla mine, the area became known as Port Kembla, rather that Red Point. (Port Kembla Public School Heritage Assessment, 2002)
The first shipment of coal from Port Kembla was on the 'S.S. Arawata' which took on approximately 2000 tons of coal on 27th February, 1883. Seven years later, the Southern Coal Company built a jetty at Port Kembla, which was linked by rail to the State Rail system near Unanderra. In 1889, a total of 233,438 tons of coal shipped from these private jetties.
As the Coal Company extended during 1880s, it constructed several buildings near the end of the railway line and jetty. These buildings were occupied by a number of company employees and their families. In the late 1890s the Mount Lyall Company erected a Coke Works at Port Kembla. Around this time the colliery, and other commercial interests in the area, proposed an artificial harbour.
The Port Kembla Harbour Act was passed on 23rd December, 1898. The Act allowed for the building of 2 breakwaters, which would give protection to the many ships that were now visiting the port. In 1900, the Public Works Department resumed nearly 500 acres for harbour works. Stone from local quarries was used, with work commencing in 1900. For every linear foot of breakwater required 100 tons of rock! A small boat harbour was built from stones too small for the breakwater.
In 1908, a low level jetty was built by the newly established Electrolytic Refining and Smelting Co. (ER & S) and was known as No. 4 jetty. It was to be used for general cargo loading and unloading. (Catterall, 1994; Port Kembla Public School Heritage Assessment, 2002)
In 1928 Hoskins' Iron & Steel leased land south of No. 1 jetty and built No. 2 Jetty. No. 2 Jetty was continuously used until the opening of the Inner Harbour, when it became redundant.
The years 1940 to 1960 saw such an increase in shipping traffic, that it was recognised that a secondary harbour was needed to cope with the extra demand for docking and loading space. The State Government eventually agreed to proceed with construction, and dredging commenced in the 1950s The Inner Harbour opened on 28th November, 1960. (Catterall, 1994)
Australian Iron & Steel (AIS) / Broken Hill Pty Co Ltd (BHP)
In 1927, Charles Hoskins entered into an agreement with the State Government to build a steelworks at Port Kembla, as part of the building of the Unanderra - Moss Vale train line (See Kembla Grange page). Hoskins acquired land near Cringila, and in 1930 operations began at Port Kembla with one blast furnace which had a daily capacity of 800 tons.
In July 1935, AIS began negotiations with BHP to merge the two companies. This merger became effective on 18th October, 1935.
Australia's first hot strip mill was officially opened by Prime Minister Robert Menzies in 1955. During the 1950s, BHP was involved with the State Government in the construction of the Port Kembla Inner Harbour. (Catterall, 1994)
Electrolytic Refining and Smelting Co. (ER & S)
ER & S began operations at Port Kembla in 1907. It was the first industry established at Port Kembla. Initially the refinery was used to treat 'Blister Copper', brought in from Mount Morgan and Mount Lyall, with the first batch of copper produced on 11th February, 1909.
ER & S specialised in treating gold, silver and copper ores from various centres throughout Australia. Platinum, Palladium and Selenium were also treated. In September 1990, the company was sold to CRA and is now known as Southern Copper.
The company's smoke stack is a landmark of the Port Kembla industrial skyline. It stands above all the buildings in this industrial area, at a height of 650 feet above ground level. Building of the stack began in 1960. It was built by Tileman and Co of concrete (9,800 tons), bricks (220,000) and steel reinforcement (531 tons). The total weight of the stack is 14,000 tons. (Catterall, 1994)
Private railway lines
In 1882 a railway was constructed by the Mount Kembla Coal and Oil Co from Mount Kembla colliery to Port Kembla first jetty (7.5 miles), at a cost of 3,000 - 4,000 Pounds. In the same year a rail incline was built from the pit tunnel to the valley below.
In 1887 the Mount Kembla signal box was built at Unanderra where the colliery line crossed it. In 1889 a second crossing was opened for the Southern Coal Co. The Australian Coke Co established its ovens adjacent to this second crossing. They were served by a siding built in October 1889. (Stone, 2002; Singleton, 1984)
Government railway lines
The first mention of the Dept of Railways in the Port Kembla area was on 7th February 1912 when it was decided to add a siding at the junction of the Southern Coal Company's line.
The rail line to Port Kembla opened on 3rd July, 1916. Until 1920 the line was used solely for carrying goods. The first passenger services commenced to Wollongong on 5th February 1920. (Catterall, 1994)
In 1889 construction began on a bridge over Tom Thumb Lagoon to connect Wollongong and Port Kembla. The bridge was built by volunteers and completed in 1902 or 1903. The bridge was constructed of rough bush timber and was was approximately 3 feet (1 metre) wide. During spring high tide the bridge would sometimes be underwater. Before the bridge was built, men coming to Port Kembla from Wollongong to work had to cross the channel either by wading across or using a flat bottomed punt.. (Catterall, 1994)
The Public Works department made a decision to build Military Rd in 1907. A motor bus service was established in 1913. (Port Kembla Public School : Heritage Assessment, 2002)
Port Kembla - Historic buildings
Situated between the eastern breakwater and the north beach (M.M. Beach) Built around 1930. This is a 4 storey brick and concrete structure, gun pill box and air raid shelter. It is a good example of functional architecture, originally built as a lookout disguised to look like a block of flats. (City of W'Gong Heritage Study, 1991)
E.R. & S. Assay Office - Military Road, Port Kembla
The Assay Office was built in 1910 for the Electrolytic Refining and Smelting Company Pty. Ltd. The office produced tests for various ores such as copper, silver, gold and platinum. The building represents the early technological and industrial development of the Wollongong district. The building is constructed of brick with a corrugated metal roof. (City of W'Gong Heritage Study, 1991)
Built in 1890, and originally named the Great Eastern Hotel. Constructed of brick with tiles on the exterior lower floor. A verandah with its wrought iron lace has been removed. In 1921 it was purchased by Tooths, and later, the Lindsay family. It was renovated in 1938. It was the first hotel overlooking the harbour. This is an imposing landmark of the area, dating back to the beginnings of the town as a Port and industrial centre. (City of W'Gong Heritage Study, 1991; Ali, 1980)
Hill 60 Military Installations - Military Road, Port Kembla
Illowra Battery (Military Reserve)
Built in 1910, these early fortifications once housed a steel gun from the H.M.A.S. Adelaide. The gun is now at Port Wakefield, South Australia, with only the mount remaining at Hill 60. The battery once housed munitions and explosives. (Ali, 1980)
Gun Emplacement. Illowra Battery
This is a concrete bunker connected to an underground tunnel system. Hill 60 is honeycombed with tunnels. The site of a World War II gun emplacement, which is of military historical significance. This is one of many gun emplacements which are part of the military precinct. All fittings have been removed. (City of Wollongong Heritage Study, 1991)
Military Installations - northern end M.M. Beach, Port Kembla
One of two gun emplacements with related underground facilities. The emplacements once housed 6" (inch) ex-naval guns. Of Military historical value, and part of the coastal defence network and military precinct. (City of W'Gong Heritage Study, 1991)
Concrete Tank Barriers
High concrete tetrahedrons originally placed on beach to prevent tank movement. These were originally located at Berkeley Harbour. (City of W'Gong Heritage Study, 1991)Port Kembla Primary School - Military Road, Port Kembla.
The school was originally founded in 1890, The existing 2 storey building was built in 1916. It was designed by the Government architect. The building is indicative of industrial development and associated population growth at the turn of the last century. This is a rare public building that dates the industrial growth period of Port Kembla. (City of W'Gong Heritage Study, 1991)
Port Kembla is located approximately 10.5 kilometres south of central Wollongong. It is bounded on the east by the Pacific Ocean. To the north its boundary lies at the northern most aspects of the Steel Works along Springhill Road. On the West, the boundary of the suburb lies along Shellharbour Road, Warrawong and the boundary of the Steel Works to Cringila. To the south the boundary lies along Parkes Street, and Cowper Street, then Surfside Drive to Kemblawarra.
Port Kembla - Environment
The general area of Port Kembla is formed on inter-bedded quartz-lithic sandstone, siltstone and claystone of the Illawarra Coal Measures. The Coal Measures are exposed at the headlands and rock shores, with coarse marine quartz Holocene sands. Upon settlement, much of the land was cleared for grazing and the foreshore of Port Kembla Harbour is based on disturbed land with introduced rock and soil fill.
On the coastal strip, sand dunes support a variety of native and exotic vegetation, with Banksia and coastal heath predominating. Hill 60 rises steeply above Fisherman's Beach to a peak of 71 metres above sea level. The area around Hill 60 is heavily infested with Lantana and Bitou Bush. There are a number of active clean up and regeneration groups now working at restoring the area to its original condition. In particular, the beaches of the area and Hill 60 are of important archaeological significance, containing many Aboriginal shell middens and artefacts. (Dallas, 2000)