Wollongong is an industrial city located on the eastern coast of Australia in the state of New South Wales. It is 82km south of Sydney by rail in a part of the NSW South Coast known as the Illawarra. The name Wollongong is of Aboriginal origin and is said to mean "sound of the sea". Its nickname is "The Gong".
The City of Wollongong has a distinct geography. It lies on a narrow coastal plain flanked by the Tasman Sea to the east and a steep sandstone precipice known as the Illawarra Escarpment to the west. The coastal plain is widest in the south and narrowest in the north—to the north of Wollongong it becomes so narrow that the coastal road precariously hugs a cliffline and the Illawarra Railway must go through several tunnels to reach the Sydney metropolitan area. The Escarpment ranges between 150 and 750 metres above sea level, with locally famous mountains such as Mount Keira, Mount Kembla, Broker's Nose and Mount Murray. The Escarpment contains strata of coal measures, and the adit entrances to many coal mines have been established along the slopes of the Escarpment right throughout Wollongong. The plain itself is traversed by several short but flood-prone and fast-flowing streams and creeks such as Para Creek, Allans Creek and Mullet Creek. These plains consist of highly fertile alluvium, which made Wollongong so attractive to agriculturists in the nineteenth century. The coastline itself consists of many beaches characterised by fine pale gold-coloured sands; however, these beaches are sometimes interrupted by prominent and rocky headlands jutting into the sea. A large coastal saltwater lagoon called Lake Illawarra is in the southern part of the city, separated from the Tasman Sea by a long sandy spit. Just to the north of the lake is Port Kembla, a natural harbour that has been considerably expanded by human-made excavation and reclamation works.
The area was originally inhabited by the Dharwal Aborigines. The first Europeans to visit the area were the navigators George Bass and Matthew Flinders who landed in Lake Illawarra in 1796. The first settlers in the region were cedar cutters in the early nineteenth century, followed by graziers in 1812. Charles Throsby established a stockman's hut in the area in 1815. The first land grants were made in 1816. Further settlers arrived and in 1834 a town was planned. A road down the Escarpment through Bulli Pass was built by convict labour in 1835-6. By 1856 Wollongong had a population of 864. The Illawarra Railway to Wollongong was completed in 1887, and now continues as far south as the town of Bomaderry on the Shoalhaven River.
The navigator George Bass first documented the Illawarra coal deposits in 1797. There have been many coalmines in the district. Australia's worst coal mining disaster occurred in 1902, at the Mount Kembla mine when an explosion killed 94 men and boys, the youngest aged 14, the oldest 69. Two other men died attempting to rescue survivors.
Heavy industry was attracted to the region by the ready availability of coal. In 1928 Hoskins, later Australian Iron & Steel, started a steelworks at Port Kembla, a few kilometres south of Wollongong. The former Broken Hill Proprietary Company (now BHP Billiton after merging with Billiton) acquired AI&S in 1935, but has since spun-out their steel division as a separate company, now known as BlueScope Steel. The steelworks has grown to become a world-class flat rolled steel producer, operating as a fully integrated steel plant with a production of around 5 million tonnes per year. Other industries to have set up in the massive Port Kembla industrial complex—the largest single concentration of heavy industry in Australia—include a fertiliser plant, an electrolytic copper smelter (featuring the tallest chimney in Australia), a locomotive workshop, a coal export shipping terminal, a grain export shipping terminal and an industrial gases manufacturing plant.
Despite the decline of traditional manufacturing and blue-collar industries due to the abandonment of protectionist economic policies in the 1980s, many of these industrial installations still exist. This has not stopped Wollongong having the unenviable distinction of one of Australia's highest unemployment rates and rates of drug dependency. The city's economy is, however, on the rebound, thanks to diversification of economic activity including higher education, the fine arts, tourism, residential construction and eco-friendly electricity generation.
The Municipality of Wollongong was founded in 1859. It was incorporated as the City of Wollongong in 1942. The State Government forcibly amalgamated the City of Wollongong with the neighbouring Municipality of Northern Illawarra, the Shire of Bulli and the Shire of Central Illawarra to form the City of Greater Wollongong in 1947. Its name reverted to being simply the City of Wollongong in 1970. Its motto is "Urbs Inter Mare Montemque"—"City Between The Mountains And The Sea". Its corporate slogan is "City of Innovation".
In 2001 the city of Wollongong had a population of 181,612. The surrounding urban area including the City of Wollongong, City of Shellharbour and Municipality of Kiama comprise a metropolitan area population of 257,510.
Wollongong is noted for its high proportion of residents with Mediterranean ancestries from countries such as Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Italy, Greece and Turkey who migrated to Australia due to acute labour shortages and accelerating industrialisation in the boom period after World War II.
More recently, Wollongong has become an attractive destination for new residents moving from Sydney to escape inflated real estate prices, environmental degradation, traffic congestion and high crime in Australia's largest city. Wollongong's cheaper real estate, combined with efficient transport links to Sydney via the Illawarra Railway and the F6 Southern Freeway, have seen many young families move to new subdivisions in Wollongong while retaining jobs in Sydney.
Wollongong has one university, the University of Wollongong, which was formerly part of the University of New South Wales, and the Illawarra Institute of Technology, part of the State's system of TAFE colleges. These educational facilities have also seen many Sydneysiders move to Wollongong, along with international students from Asia and North America.
Census 2001 statistics
Population: On Census Night, 7 August 2001, there were 181612 people (90213 males and 91399 females) counted in the City of Wollongong. This represents an increase of 2.6% since the 1996 Census, and an increase of 4.5% since the 1991 Census. Of those people counted on Census Night, 96.5% were counted at home. The City of Wollongong has an area of 684 square kilometres, giving a population density of 265.5 people per square kilometre.
Indigenous Origin: There were 2661 people (1.5%) who identified as being of Indigenous origin in the 2001 Census.
Median Age: The median age of people in the 2001 Census was 36 years.
Country Of Birth: The number of people born overseas in the 2001 Census was 41444 (23.0%). Of those born overseas, the three main countries of birth at the 2001 Census were:
United Kingdom: 11876 (6.6%)
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: 3793 (2.1%) and
Italy: 3553 (2.0%).
Ancestry: In the 2001 Census, the three most common ancestries identified with were:
Australian: 63659 people (35.3%)
English: 58820 people (32.6%) and
Irish: 16855 people (9.3%).
Language: English was stated as the only language spoken at home by 141179 people (78.3%) in the 2001 Census. The three most common languages spoken at home other than English in the 2001 Census were:
Macedonian: 5859 (3.2%)
Italian: 5181 (2.9%) and
Greek: 2084 (1.2%).
Computer Usage: In the week preceding the 2001 Census, 72525 people (40.2%) had used a personal computer at home. The total number of persons who had used the Internet in the week preceding the 2001 Census was 61839. There were 7921 people (4.4%) who had used the Internet at work only, 33068 people (18.3%) who had used the internet at home only and 6148 people (3.4%) who had used the internet elsewhere only. There were 14702 people (8.2%) who provided a multiple response to the question of Internet use.
Marital Status: In the 2001 Census, there were 74855 married people (52.0%), 4460 separated people (3.1%), 10355 divorced people (7.2%), 9856 widowed people (6.9%) and 44321 people who had never been married (30.8%).
Education: In the 2001 Census, 4875 (3.4%) people held a postgraduate degree, graduate diploma or graduate certificate; 11632 (8.1%) people held a bachelor degree; 35629 (24.8%) people with an advanced diploma, diploma or certificate; and 91714 (63.8%) people did not have a qualification.
Unemployment: In the 2001 Census, 7337 people were unemployed, representing 9.1% of the labour force. The labour force participation rate was 67.5%.
Industry Of Employment: In the 2001 Census, 10880 (14.9%) people were employed in the Manufacturing industry; 5129 (7.0%) people employed in the Construction industry; 10649 (14.6%) people employed in the Retail Trade industry; 7332 (10.0%) people were employed in the Property and Business Services industry; 6861 (9.4%) people employed in the Education industry; and 7647 (10.5%) people employed in the Health and Community Services industry.
Income: The median weekly individual income for people aged 15 years and over in the 2001 Census was $300-$399.
Journey To Work: On Census day, 7 August 2001, 3017 (4.1%) people travelled to work by train only, 1016 (1.4%) people took the bus only and 233 (0.3%) people took both the train and bus. There were 48905 (66.9%) people who travelled to work by car, either as the driver or as a passenger and 3050 (4.2%) people either rode a bike or walked to work.
Families: In the 2001 Census, there were 22902 couple families with children (which comprised 47.1% of all families in occupied private dwellings), 17262 couple families without children (35.5%), 7684 one parent families (15.8%) and 743 other families (1.5%). There were 5500 people (3.2%) in group households and 16278 people (9.4%) in lone person households in the 2001 Census.
Dwellings: In the 2001 Census, there were 49651 separate houses (72.2%), 5549 semi detached, row or terrace houses and townhouses (8.1%), 11921 flats, units or apartments (17.3%) and 1213 other dwellings (1.8%). Of all occupied private dwellings in the 2001 Census, 44757 were either fully owned or being purchased, which represents (65.1%) of all occupied private dwellings, while 19313 (28.1%) were being rented.
- Wollongong City Council website (http://www.wollongong.nsw.gov.au/)
- "Illawarra Mercury" newspaper (http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/)
- University of Wollongong (http://www.uow.edu.au/)