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Local History Prize

Our Local History Prize is held each year to encourage original research into the history of the Wollongong Local Government Area (LGA) and add new material our Local Studies collection.

The Local History Prize is kindly sponsored by the Friends of Wollongong City Library.

See below to read about past prize winners.

The 2020 Local History Prize was won by Andr√© Brett's paper 'The whistle blows, and we are whisked into a tunnel: Railways and the environment in Illawarra, 1870s-1915'. Panellists noted the high quality and large number of entries this year, and congratulated entrants for their hard work and research.

Each entry is available in the Library’s Local Studies collection and contributes to the ongoing documentation of the Illawarra’s history.

Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery AM with winner Andre Brett

Highly Commended

  • Joseph Davis - Vegetable Johns: Wong Gee and the forgotten Chinese market gardeners of Illawarra
  • Lorraine Neate – Burton’s purge: Wollongong and the 1840’s depression

Certificate of Recognition

  • Mark Johnston – A Wiseman by name
  • Ruby Ekkel – The Cedar-cutter’s romance: the romanticisation of the Illawarra red cedar industry
  • Alexander Lee – Protecting Australia’s soft underbelly: defending the Illawarra 1939-1944
  • Joseph Davis – The Wollongong vaccinator Dr. George P Lambert
  • Laura Kierse – Free life of the rover: 1st Bulli Rover Crew – the first ten years
  • Alastair Lawrie – An incomplete history of marriage equality in Wollongong
  • Joseph Davis – The shadow on the verandah of the most famous house in the Illawarra
  • Jamilla Smith – More than bricks and mortar: inquiry into the history of select disability support services in the City of Wollongong
  • Lorraine Jones – Civilian life in Helensburgh, Otford, Stanwell Park and Coalcliff during World War II
  • Joseph Davis – The earliest boat builders of Belmore Basin (from steam to sail)
  • Panayiotis Diamadis – Sideropole: the city of steel. A history of the Hellenic presence in the City of Wollongong
  • Claire Williams – The life and death of Henry Robert James
  • Joseph Davis – Unpolished cedar and the even more ‘unpolished cedar getters of the earliest Illawarra’

For the first time in 2019, our Local History Prize was open to local primary school children in years 4, 5 and 6.

Students chose a historical photo from the Illawarra Images collection as a starting point to research and write about a place or event.  They were also asked to explain why they selected that place or event, what it meant to them, and their vision of how it will be in the future.

34 entries were received by students from schools between Helensburgh in the north, and Port Kembla and Dapto in the south. A judging panel selected five winners, whose names are shown below with the image that inspired each entry.

'Coalcliff Shops' by Peggy, Scarborough Public School

Image catalogue number P18487.

'Dapto Railway Station' by Maiya, Lakelands Public School

Image catalogue number P03776.

'Dapto War Memorial Olympic Pool' by Zara, Lakelands Public School

Image catalogue number P17647.

'West Dapto Public School' by Addisen, Cedars Christian College

Image catalogue number P17689.

'Wollongong Show Ground' by Archie, Wollongong Public School

Image catalogue number P23487.

Our 2018 Local History Prize was shared between two winning entries:

  • A cottage, a convict and a cow: the veterans of Dapto Creek by J.G.D. Howes and Lorraine Neate. This research paper focused on the early settlement of West Dapto after the government provided land for retired military settlers in 1829. The paper includes an in-depth study of the lives of the veterans before and after their arrival in Australia.
  • George Ricket: of Helensburgh, master builder by Janet Lee. This paper looks at the life of George Rickett, a former Helensburgh identity. It looks at the buildings he erected, and his contributions to the Helensburgh and Stanwell Park communities during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Janet Lee, Josh Howes, Deputy Lord Mayor David Brown and Lorraine Neate

You can also read these 2018 Local History Prize entries which are held in our collection:

In 2017, we invited young people to submit a written work for the Local History Prize.

The winner was Lachlan Booth, with his work The Reid Family.  This written piece looked at the history of the family behind the suburb of Reidtown, which no longer exists; Reidtown was absorbed by Towradgi, Fairy Meadow and Fernhill in the early 21st century.

Our first Local History Prize competition was held in 2016.

The winner was Julianne Morris, whose work Wollongong Gaol 1859-1915 looked at six female prisoners in detail, and the circumstances that led to them being imprisoned.

2016 Winner

Top image: The Beach Shop, Coledale, c1943. See image details on our catalogue