Past Events – Fantastic Memories

Past Events

We have fantastic memories of all of our past events – except of course the annual Commemoration of the Bulli Mine Disaster 1887, which is always one redolent with some sad memories, but with some hope in there as well – and of course the Commemoration of Private Victor Theodore Smith killed on duty 9.4.1940


From January 6 2019  – February 10 2019 :

Newsprint in their blood – who brought the news to our homes ?

Did you know that newspapers were in the NSW Colony from the early 1800’s ? That the Illawarra Mercury began in 1855 ? Kiama has had quite a few papers ? Who can remember the South Coast Times or the other newspapers of the Illawarra ?

Were the Newspapers of the Past also like the Facebook of their day ?

What have been the jobs in the news ? Did anyone in your family work for the newspapers ? Why not share some photos & stories ?

Ask to see our Exhibition folder to see more on other Illawarra news outlets – newspapers, radio and television

From October 7 2018 – February 10 2019 :

50 Years since the 1968 Bushfires !

Who could ever forget those dreadful 1968 bushfires ? Just like 2018, there had been a long dry spell in 1968 – and a bushfire initially contained.

Then wild winds whipped up on October 28th 1968. A terrifying scenario emerged that continued into November 1968.


From Farmborough Heights up to Coledale there was devastation.

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Ultimately it would rewrite how future bushfires would be managed – and the resources needed to fight them. What do you remember ? Do you have photos or stories to share ?



From September 30 2018 – February 10 2019 : 130 Years of the Sydney to South Coast Railway – who worked on the railways in your family ?

Finally, in October 1888 you could travel all the way from Wollongong to Sydney by train

What did it mean ? How did it change the South Coast ?

From the 1850’s, the NSW Railways opened up lots of different jobs for many people.

Have there been engine drivers, fettlers, porters, signalmen in your family ?

Where did they work on the railways  – up the coast, out west, just the south coast ?

We’d love to hear about them !

130 years - from wollongong to sydney on south coast railways - 1888 - 2018

Why not drop into the museum and share some stories & photos ?

National Family History Month : “Woonona Memories” & incorporating “Out of the Crates – Hidden Items from the Woonona Blinkco Collection”

– items from High St Woonona home of the Blinkco family rarely  displayed

Sundays from August 5th  2018 : 1 – 4pm. Note – groups midweek by appointment.


  • April 8th and 15th : 1 – 4pm : Seniors Festival : Did You Ever Go to sherbrooke when you were young ?
  • April 22nd & 29th 2018 : 1 – 4pm : Heritage Festival : Sherbrooke on Bulli Mountain – Origins of Sherbrooke and Bulli Mountain’s People – Convicts, Assisted Immigrants & Aboriginal Connections
  • May 6th & 13th 2018 : 1 – 4pm : Sherbrooke on Bulli Mountain – 100 Years of Strong Women of Sherbrooke & Bulli Mountain

2018 Seniors Week April 8 & 15 1- 4pm : – Did You Ever Go To Sherbrooke on Bulli Mountain ? what stories can you share ?

– supported by a NSW Government NSW Seniors Festival 2018 Grant

Also incorporating – Remembering the Blinkco’s – April 15 2018 : from 11am

– can you share stories of the Blinkco’s with us ?

2018 Heritage Festival from April 22nd 2018 : 1 – 4pm – Sherbrooke on Bulli Mountain

    • Sherbrooke & Bulli Mountain – of Convicts, Boat People, “Duchesses” & Dharawal – Origins of Sherbrooke and Bulli Mountain’s People – also their descendants – April 22nd & 29th 2018 : 1- 4pm 

    • Not Quite Feminist Icons in the Deep Valleys & Tall Timbers : The Strong Women of Sherbrooke on Bulli Mountain – May 6th and 13th 2018 : 1 – 4pm – click for more information

  • Cataract – the Dam that Killed a Village – Sundays from May 20th 2018 – 1- 4pm – and stories of the people who planned, built, operated & protected the dam & its catchment – click for more information 

1887 Bulli Mine Disaster Commemoration

March 23 2018 at 1.30pm – remembering Australia’s 2nd Worst Industrial Disaster with 81 men and boys lost

Sporting Days of Yesteryear : November 2017 – March 2018

We scoured our files and archives for sporting pics from the past ! And we found so many different sporting codes & activities beyond cricket, rugby league and soccer (aka British Association Football). From wrestling to physical culture and vigaro, rugby union, tennis, olympic swimming and rowing, fishing, boating, rifle shooting, Bulli Show events, lawn bowls, surfing and surf lifesaving. Do you recognise any of your family in these pics?

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June – July 2017 : 1887 – 2017 : 130 Years since the Railway came to Bulli and the South Coast

How did the Railway change the Illawarra and its peoples ?


And what were the implications of the Railway for Sherbrooke, the now lost village on Bulli Mountain ? Part of the Museum’s Sherbrooke One Place Study Research Programme.

April – May 2017 : NSW National Trust Heritage Festival – Disasters – Mine Explosions – Floods – Bushfires – Shipwrecks such as the Queen of Nations

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queen-of-nations-ww-slv D M H Little

Also : How Sherbrooke on Bulli Mountain faced Natural Disasters


Part of the Museum’s Sherbrooke One Place Study Research Programme

March 2017 : 1887 – 2017 : 130 Years since the Catastrophic 1887 Bulli Mine Disaster – where 81 lives were claimed.

So many lives were lost – the impact on their families and the whole coal mining village of Bulli was very profound. Who were they ? What were their stories ?


The victims also  included some of Sherbrooke’s family connections- discovered as part of the Museum’s Sherbrooke One Place Study Research Programme


March 3 – 12 2017 – Seniors Week 2017 Theme : Growing Young

Disasters and Story Telling : New Ways of Sharing and Telling

Baby boomer seniors have been the ultimate technology adopters since their early childhoods from televisions to mobile phones, digital cameras and social media like Facebook. And they’ve brought their parents along for the ride.

Our Museum Research Focus for 2017 is Local Disasters.

So we invited our local Seniors  to pass on their experiences with past disasters- what happened – how they coped – capturing stories  with digital media


1916 & 1917 – the Years that Changed Us

December 2016 – February 2017

And the world would be in upheaval following  the Russian Revolution.

Did you know that Black and Decker patented their first portable electric drill ?

That hemlines were moving above the ankle ?

So what else was happening in the Illawarra in 1916 – 1917 ?

Illawarra in the Vietnam Years & Afterwards

August 14th  to November 27th 2016 : Sundays 1- 4pm

Groups at other times by appointment – or ph 42671488

Hundreds of local Illawarra young men served in Vietnam. One was even at the Battle of Long Tan. Others were at the bigger battles of Coral and Balmoral.

View photos of Illawarra Veterans in Vietnam – in combat and during occasional relaxation – our Roll of Honour of local men who never came home – the nurses – the entertainers – the media – and those who followed their conscience to oppose the conflict and conscription.

About the Exhibition :

What did you know about Illawarra in the Vietnam War ?

Maybe that hundreds of Illawarra’s young men served there – and five never came home?

It was said to be the most televised war .. yet how much do we really know about the Vietnam War – or that they call it the American War in Vietnam ?

Did you even know that there was a Wollongong man at the Battle of Long Tan ? Or that the battles of Coral and Balmoral were even bigger than Long Tan ?

That of the 11 Tracker dogs in Vietnam, that Illawarra men looked after 3 of them ?

That Dapto’s John Fairley was one of the photographers who took so many photos over there ?

When did Dasher Wheatley VC’s family seek sanctuary and a quieter life in the Northern Illawarra ?

That Illawarra anti-conscription protestors chained themselves to the railing in the Senate at Parliament House in Canberra or lay down in front of trains carrying conscripts to National Service Training  in the Vietnam era? Did you know that they took the Conscripts to Sydney by train ?

That the protestors in the Vietnam era were following in the path of one of the most strongly anti-conscription areas during the WW1 Conscription Plebiscites of October 1916 and December 1917 that virtually split Australia in two ? Or that a local State MP was tipped out in the 1917 elections for supporting conscription ?

The Black Diamond Centre Museum’s latest exhibition “Illawarra in the Vietnam Years and Afterwards” seeks to answer these questions.

If you have photos or information to share, then please contact us at

Against All Odds  – the Family that should never have been … 

Our Black Diamond Districts’ History through Chilby eyes – descendants of Sherbrooke’s Edward Spinks & Agnes Henry


September 18 – November 27 2016 – Sundays : 1- 4pm

Groups at other times by appointment

We sometimes overlook the less famous families like the Chilby Clan who records show, were in the Illawarra by 1834 – noted particularly for their sporting prowess since the 1850’s, especially in Cricket and Soccer … and there nearly wasn’t a Chilby family at all !

And did you know that they are also Descendants of Sherbrooke, the Lost Village on Bulli Mountain – descended from Edward Spinks and Agnes Henry, of one of Sherbrooke’s oldest pioneering families ?

And where is Chilby’s Hill ? Is there a Chilby Lane yet ?

Did you know that they lost family in tragedies like the Bulli Mine Disaster of 1887 and at Fromelles on the Western Front in WW1 ? And like all our families, where we try to hide the skeletons in the closet, they have a black sheep or two, as well as community angels.  It really is quite a saga.

Against All Odds - Sherbrooke

Part of the Museum’s Sherbrooke One Place Study Research Programme


NSW National Trust Heritage Festival Exhibition Series :

Sundays April 17 – May 29 2016 : 1- 4pm – season was extended to August 7th 2016 

      1. History of Surfing & Surf Lifesaving –  Wandering the South Coast :

Sundays April 17 & 24 2016 : 1 – 4pm

Heritage Festival 2016.1

2. Swim Between the Flags – Surf Lifesaving on the South Coast :

Sundays May 1 & May 8 2016 : 1 – 4pm

Heritage Festival 2016.2

3. Catching a Wave Down Memory Lane – Champions in the Water :

Sundays May 15, 22 & 29 2016 : 1 – 4pm

Heritage Festival 2016.3

Youth Week : Sundays April 1o & 17  2016

A chance to discover photos of surfing and surf lifesaving in the Illawarra – perhaps submit your own surfing photos ?

Seniors Week : Sundays April 3 and April 10 2016

Catching A Wave Down Memory Lane – History of Surfing and Surf Life Saving in the Black Diamond Districts – A Nostalgia Exhibition

Surf Lifesaving has been part of the Illawarra for over 100 years – our exhibition will feature stories and photos of surf lifesaving in the Black Diamond Districts.

Surfing : Discover our Surfing history – why not turn up in your favourite retro Hawaiian shirt ? There’ll be pics of surfing over the last 80 years – and all sorts of surfing gear too. Never too old !

March 28 2016 : Special Screening of Take to the Sky – Lawrence Hargrave by Geoffrey Sykes

March 26 2016: Visit by Peter Lowry Chair of Transport Heritage NSW

Commemorating the 1887 Bulli Mine Disaster Exhibition : Sundays March 20 and March 27 2016

Service March 23 2016 : 1.30pm at Mine Disaster Memorial – photographs  from last year’s commemoration are shown below

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 Pop Up Exhibition : Up and Down Bulli Mountain – Over 120 Years of Touring and Photography Up and Down the Bulli Pass : Sundays from  7 February to March 13 2016 : 1 – 4pm

View historic photos, charming vintage cameras … not to mention a quirky collection of railway touring memorabilia and ephemera. And discover who were the writers and artists in the North Illawarra over the last 200 years. Pics below show our “next gen” members James, Bess and Marcus assisting our Museum VP & Assistant Curator, Pamela,  to set up the vintage cameras and railway memorabilia of our Pop Up exhibition

And why not also visit one or two of our local galleries when you wander down the South Coast …

      • Articles Fine Art Gallery – Stanwell Park
      • Beach Art Gallery – Bulli
      • Bulli Historical Art Gallery & Picture Framing – Bulli
      • Egg & Dart Gallery – Thirroul
      • Fireworks Gallery Cafe – Austinmer
      • Gallery Equinox – Moore St Austinmer
      • Juanita Studio Gallery – Austinmer
      • Martin Place Gallery – Thirroul
      • PD Art Gallery – Coalcliff
      • The Hanging Space Art Gallery – online only ex Woonona
      • Wombarra Sculpture Garden – Wombarra

Weddings of the Black Diamond District – 120 Years of Weddings

Sundays September 2015 –  January 2016 : 1 – 4pm – launched by Councillor Vicki Curran

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0I1 llawarras Own ANZAC Angels1

Our South Coast ANZAC Angels was launched by Cunningham Federal MP, the Honourable Sharon Bird

Thomas Gibson – The Last Thirroul ANZAC Home from WW1 in 1921

A Teacher blinded in 1918 in WW1 who retrained as a physio – a miracle worker – elected to Bulli Shire Council and Wollongong Council – nothing could hold him back

Black Diamond Heritage Centre : Sundays May 24, 31 and June 7 2015 – 11am to 4pm – launched by Ryan Park MLA for Keira

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 All Aboard : The South Coast Railways and Town Bands in WW1

Many of our soldiers, sailors and nurses were farewelled and welcomed home in the WW1 years at their local Railway Station with their local Town Band.

Black Diamond Heritage Centre : Sundays  May 3 – June 7 2015 : 11am – 4pm – launched by the Honourable Sharon Bird MHR for Cunningham


Join us in commemorating their railway journeys to war and returning home down the South Coast Railway Line – old photos of the Stations from Helensburgh to Bomaderry 

– and the wonderful Railway Station performances of all those Town Bands 1oo years ago!

May 17 2015 11am

Black Diamond Heritage Centre Bulli – event information

In conjunction with Lost Wollongong and Illawarra Family History Group.

Event has been supported by an Australian Federal Government ANZAC Centenary Local Grant, facilitated by the Electorate Office of Sharon Bird MP for Cunningham

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More information on the South Coast Railways & Town Bands in WW1 Project – click here

The Lost Village of Sherbrooke – Finding Sherbrooke’s Sons in WW1

part of the Monuments & Memorial Exhibition of the NSW National Trust Heritage Festival – Conflicts & Compassion – Sunday March 29 – April 26 2015.

hosted by the Black Diamond Heritage Centre at the Museum in Bulli

in conjunction with the Sherbrooke Sisters and the Illawarra Family History Group

Includes : Stories of the Bishop, Blinkco, Fletcher, Haberley, Hunt, Jones, Kimbrey and Knight Family Network who served in WW1.

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Bulli – Monuments & Memorials from Bulli 1887 Mine Disaster to WW1 & Beyond

Black Diamond Heritage Centre : March 29 – April 26 2015.

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Bulli – Beyond Memorials & Monuments

hosted by the Bulli Uniting Church as part of their Sesqui – Centenary : 1865 – 2015

in conjunction with the Black Diamond Heritage Centre and Illawarra Family History Group

held at the Bulli Uniting Church on April 11 2015 – 1 – 4pm

Uniting Church Bulli built in 1865

Uniting Church Bulli built in 1865

 Commemorating Private Victor Theodore Smith – killed on duty 9.4.1940

Served in the 34th Battalion, Wombarra’s Vic Smith was listed as first Illawarra Man to Die in the WW2 Years in the Illawarra Mercury Roll of Honour in November 2010.

April 9 2015 – Scarborough Cemetery – 11am – attended by family and representatives from Coledale RSL Sub Branch

Bulli Mine Disaster 1887 – Commemoration – March 23 2015 1.30pm at the Disaster Memorial in Park Rd Bulli – exhibition at the Museum

part of the Monuments & Memorial Exhibition of the Conflicts & Compassion NSW National Trust Heritage Festival – Sunday March 22 – April 12 2015

At our 2015 commemoration we had descendants and family of the following victims of the disaster :

Greener Brodie, William Brodie, Cecil Cavill, George Ralph, Richard Smith Wade, William Wade, William Williams – and since had contact with family of John Wynn

Illawarra Media Stories & Articles


Illawarra Mercury – Disaster Commemoration & Memorial Letter from 2014 – 2004

Michael Organ – Lessons from the Past 

The Battle of Bulli

NSW State Records of the Bulli Mine Disaster

Donald Dingsdag

Illawarra News Online

Gravestones and Memorials of the Miners killed in 1887

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Note – not all of the Victims had gravestones at St Augustine’s Bulli – those that have been recorded are : John Bentley, Greener Brodie, William Brodie, Cecil Cavill (Knight), Joseph Crompton, William Henry HickmanRobert Millward, Abel NewtonRobert Newton, John Rigby, William Schofer, John Urwin Smith. There were also nine miners who could not be identified and were buried with the date of the disaster but without a name.

The following Gravestones for the Victims buried at Corrimal Catholic Cemetery : Thomas Gibbons, Francis Henry Harris, Thomas Harris, Thomas H Harris, John O’Neil, George Robinson, John Ryan

At the old Woonona Presbyterian Cemetery were buried – Edwin Bean, Thomas Davis, Henry Greenslade DeanJohn Thomas Gallaway, Luke Jackson, Richard Smith Wade, William Wade, Thomas Wishart. There are no gravestones remaining at Woonona, only memorial plaques.

Henry Fry – The Father of Bulli : March – April 2015

Henry Fry was a leading figure in the development of European Bulli – as a shopkeeper, Anglican Churchwarden and community leader supporting activities such as the Bulli Cottage Hospital.

Coaching to Sydney – Bulli Mountain and the Black Diamond Districts from 1840s to 1920s – June 2014 -March 2015

Ever wondered how our ancestors travelled to and from Sydney in the 1800’s ? Did they sail in ships to Sydney or travel up and down the treacherous Bulli Pass through Appin to Campbelltown to get Sydney ? What happened when the Railway came in 1887 ? Ever heard of Henry Mant’s Livery Stables & Coaching Service – and how Sherbrooke Sister Sharynne’s grandmother Sylvia Mant, as a 14 year old used to take travellers up over Bulli Mountain  for her dad Henry Mant ? So much of our Black Diamond history still to be discovered.

The answers to these questions are in the Black Diamond Heritage Centre’s June-July 2014 exhibition –  Coaching to Sydney up Bulli Mountain –  check out the displays – open every Sunday afternoon from 1-4pm at the Black Diamond Heritage Centre Museum, Bulli Railway Station East.

And of course our Sherbrooke display continues as well as photos of the history of coal mining in the Black Diamond districts – including photos of the terrible 1887 Bulli Mine Disaster, the second worst Industrial Disaster ever in Australia’s history.

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The Family of James & Margaret Hicks – a Northern Illawarra Pioneering Family – November 2014 – March 2015

The Hicks family of our President Kerrie Anne Christian were community leaders and one of the Pioneering Families of the Northern Illawarra. In 1830 James Hicks applied for a land grant at Russell Vale, now the site of the Golf Course before buying Westmacott’s 300 acres covering most of Austinmer. His eldest son was active in community affairs from the 1860’s – a North Illawarra Council Alderman, JP presiding over Court Cases at the Bulli Court House, owner operator of the Mount Hope Guesthouse in Thirroul, Captain of the Bulli and Woonona Rifles and much more more. His son Alexander served as Mayor on North Illawarra Council and as President of the Miners Federation. Middle son George served in the Boer War and rose to Captain in WW1 when he served at Gallipoli and Palestine. Another son Harry was an a noted Soccer player, Surf Club President and also served as a Captain in WW1 on the Western Front in Europe. Henry and nearly all of his brothers were keen cricketers with clubs such as the Bulli Black Diamonds from the late 1850’s.

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September 16 2014 – Community Open Day for the Archaeological excavation of the Oxford Hotel Wollongong – photos courtesy of Sandra Jones and Pamela Rose McGovern

400 people turned up to the Open Day

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Sunday May 18 2014 – Continuing on our National Trust Heritage Festival 2014 programme -it was  International Museum Day on Sunday May 18 2014 – a chance to view the Coal & Rail exhibits as well as Up and Down Bulli Mountain – Discovering the LostVillage of Sherbrooke – and a chance to test out the Museum’s ability to host people with mobility issues – yes you can bring a wheelchair or walking frame through the Museum !

IMD Banniere_eng

Up and Down Bulli Mountain – Discovering the Lost Village of Sherbrooke – NSW National Trust Heritage Festival 2014 – April 13 and May 4, 2014.

The old Sandstone Sherbrooke School, last standing building at Sherbrooke after construction of Cataract Dam

The old Sandstone Sherbrooke School, last standing building at Sherbrooke after construction of Cataract Dam

Photographs were shared from private collection of Robert Trevis Clifford Jones, showing the lost village of Sherbrooke which was situated above Bulli Pass, and was sacrificed in 1903 for the building of the Cataract Dam. Descendants of old Sherbrooke residents told stories of their families, at the Black Diamond Heritage Centre (houses Rail & Coal exhibits of the Black Diamond Districts)

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Commemoration of 1887 Bulli Mine Disaster

March 23 2014 2pm at Bulli Mine Disaster Monument Park Road Bulli  – Honouring the 81 miners lost in March 23 1887 Old Bulli Mine Disaster

Ray Brown’s Schoolbooks at the Black Diamond Heritage Centre  – November 2013 – March 2014

The incredibly popular Pixie O’Harris exhibition at the Black Diamond Heritage Centre – March 2010

BDHC Pixie O Harris-1l

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Great Railway Journeys of Australia

Archives from the 1990’s – our old newsletters mention lots of Museum events from 1993 to 1995 …

1990’s Bulli Bush Ball

1989 – Back to Bulli Festival Celebrations



1 Response to Past Events – Fantastic Memories

  1. Marlene Davidson says:

    Fascinating history thank you. Must pop in when next going south.
    Interested in Hazeldene .. William Henness died there in 1918

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