carry coals to Newcastle

Newcastle, New South Wales

The Newcastle metropolitan area is the second most populated area in the state of New South Wales and includes most of the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie Local Government Areas. It is the hub of the Greater Newcastle area which includes most parts of the Local Government Areas of City of Newcastle, City of Lake Macquarie, City of Cessnock, City of Maitland and Port Stephens Council.

Situated NNE of Sydney, at the mouth of the Hunter River, it is the predominant city within the Hunter Region. Famous for its coal, Newcastle is the largest coal export harbour in the world, exporting 80.2 million tonnes of coal worth AUD $5.3 billion in 2005-2006. Beyond the city the Hunter Region boasts massive coal deposits.


Pre-European settlement

Newcastle and the lower Hunter Region were traditionally occupied by the Awabakal and Worimi Aboriginal People.

Founding and settlement by Europeans

The first European to explore the area was Lt. John Shortland in September 1797. His discovery of the area was largely accidental; as Shortland had been sent in search of a number of convicts who had seized the HMS Cumberland as she was sailing from Sydney Cove.

While returning he named the river after New South Wales' Governor, John Hunter. Shortland also returned with reports of the deep-water port and abundant coal in the area. Over the next two years, coal mined from the area was the New South Wales colony's first export.

Newcastle gained a reputation as a "hellhole" as it was a place where the most dangerous convicts were sent to dig in the coal mines as harsh punishment for their crimes.

By the turn of the century the mouth of the Hunter River was being visited by diverse groups of men, including coal hewers, timber-cutters, and more escaped convicts. Philip Gidley King, Governor of New South Wales from 1800, decided on a more positive approach to exploit the now obvious natural resources of the Hunter Valley.

In 1801, a convict camp called King's Town (named after Governor King) was established to mine the coal and cut timber. In the same year, the first shipment of coal was dispatched to Sydney. This settlement closed less than a year later.

A settlement was again attempted in 1804 as a place of secondary punishment for unruly convicts. The settlement was named Coal River, also Kingstown and then re-named Newcastle, after England's famous coal port. The name first appeared by the commission issued by Governor King on 15 March 1804 to Lieut. Charles Menzies of the Royal Marines, appointing him superintendent of the new settlement.

The new settlement comprising convicts and a military guard, arrived at the Hunter River on 27 March 1804, in three ships, the Lady Nelson, the Resource and the James. The convicts were rebels from the 1804 Castle Hill convict rebellion.

The link with Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, its namesake and also from whence many of the 19th century coal miners came, is still obvious in some of the place-names - such as Jesmond, Hexham, Wickham, Wallsend and Gateshead. Morpeth, New South Wales is a similar distance north of Newcastle as Morpeth, Northumberland is north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

In 1816, the oldest public school in Australia was built in East Newcastle.

Newcastle remained a penal settlement until 1822 when the settlement was opened up to farming. During its time as a penal colony the military rule was harsh, especially at Limeburners' Bay, on the inner side of Stockton peninsula, where convicts were sent to burn oyster shells for making lime.

Newcastle's last convicts were sent to Port Macquarie in 1823.

Civilian government

After removal of the last convicts in 1823 the town was freed from the infamous influence of the penal law and began to acquire the aspect of a typical Australian pioneer settlement, and a steady flow of free settlers poured into the hinterland.

Early steamers

The formation during the nineteenth century of the Newcastle and Hunter River Steamship Company saw the establishment of regular steamship services from Morpeth and Newcastle with Sydney. The company had a fleet of freighters as well as several fast passenger vessels, including the PS Newcastle and the PS Namoi. The latter vessel's first-class cabins had the latest facilities and overnight passage to Sydney, where passengers would arrive fresh for the new day, was considered preferable to the long and arduous railway journey right into the inter-war period.

Because of the coal supply, small ships plied between Newcastle and Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide, carrying coal to gas works and bunkers for shipping, and railways. These were commonly known as "sixty-milers" based on the nautical journey between Newcastle and Sydney, and continued in service until recent times.

World War II

During the Second World War, Newcastle was an important industrial centre for the Australian war effort. Consequently, it was considered to be a potential Japanese target during the Second World War.

In the early hours of 8 June 1942, the Japanese submarine I-21 briefly shelled Newcastle. Among the areas hit within the city were dockyards, the steel works, Parnell Place in the city's now affluent East End, the breakwall and Art Deco ocean baths. There were no casualties in the attack and damage was minimal.

Economic history


Coal mining began in earnest in the 1830s, with collieries working close to the city itself and others within a radius. Most of Newcastle's principal coal mines (Stockton, Tighes Hill, Carrington, the Australian Agricultural Company, the Newcastle Coal Mining company's big collieries at Merewether (includes the Glebe), Wallsend, and the Waratah collieries), had all closed by the early 1960s, being steadily replaced over the previous four decades by the larger coal mining activities further inland at places such as Kurri Kurri and Cessnock.

On 10 December 1831, the Australian Agricultural Company officially opened Australia's first railway to carry export coal from near the Anglican Cathedral at Newcastle to the wharf area.


About 1850, a major copper smelting works was established at Burwood, near Merewether. The English and Australian Copper Company built another substantial works at Broadmeadow circa 1890, and in that decade a zinc smelter was built inland, by Cockle Creek.


The largest factory of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere was constructed in 1885, on a site between the suburbs of Tighes Hill and Port Waratah, by Charles Upfold, from London, for his Sydney Soap and Candle Company, to replace a smaller factory in Wickham. Their soap products won 17 medals at International Exhibitions, and at the Sydney International Exhibition they won a bronze medal "against all-comers from every part of the world", the only first prize awarded for soap and candles. Following World War I the company was sold to Messrs Lever & Kitchen (today Lever Bros), and the factory closed in the mid-1930s.


In 1911, BHP chose the city as the site for its steelworks due to the abundance of coal. In 1915, the BHP steelworks opened, beginning a period of some 80 years dominating the steel works and heavy industry. As Mayfield and the suburbs surrounding the steelworks declined in popularity because of pollution, the steelworks thrived, becoming the region's largest employer.

In 1999, the steelworks closed after 84 years operation and had employed about 50,000 in its existence, many for decades.


The most tragic maritime accident of the twentieth-century in Newcastle occurred during 1934 when the Stockton-bound ferry Bluebell collided with a coastal freighter and sank in the middle of the Hunter River. The Bluebell Collision claimed three lives and caused fifteen passengers to be admitted to the Newcastle Hospital, two suffering severely from the effects of immersion. However, the tragedy was but only one chapter in Newcastle's very long history of shipwrecks including the 1974 beaching of the Sygna, the 2007 beaching of the MV Pasha Bulker and the tragic sinking of the SS Cawarra in 1866 that claimed sixty-lives.

1989 Newcastle earthquake

On 28 December 1989, Newcastle experienced an earthquake measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale which killed 13 people, injured 162 and destroyed or severely damaged a number of prominent buildings which had to be subsequently demolished. These included the large George Hotel in Scott Street (city), the Century Theatre at Broadmeadow, the Hunter Theatre (formerly 'The Star') at Merewether, and the majority of The Junction school, also at Merewether. Part of the Newcastle Workers' Club, a popular venue, was also damaged but later restored. The following economic recession of the early 1990s meant that the city took several years to recover.

2007 Hunter region and Central Coast storms

On 8 June 2007 the Hunter and Central Coast regions were battered by fierce storms which resulted in extensive flooding throughout the areas. Nine people eventually lost their lives in what was described as being the worst series of storms to hit New South Wales in 30 years.

During the early stages of the storms the long bulk carrier ship, MV Pasha Bulker, ran aground at Nobby's Beach after failing to heed warnings to move offshore.

On 9 June 2007, the Hunter and Central Coast regions were declared natural disaster areas by the state Premier Mr Morris Iemma. Although further flooding was predicted by the Bureau of Meteorology this never eventuated to the extent predicted. On 2 July 2007 the Pasha Bulker was finally refloated on the 3rd salvage attempt despite earlier fears that the ship would break up. After initially entering the port for minor repairs it departed for major repairs in Asia under tow on 26 July 2007.


Newcastle is located on the southern bank of the Hunter River at its mouth. The northern side is dominated by sand dunes, swamps and multiple river channels. A 'green belt' protecting plant and wildlife flanks the city from the west (Watagan mountains) around to the north where it meets the coast just north of Stockton. Because of this, urban development is mainly restricted to the hilly southern bank. The small town of Stockton sits opposite central Newcastle at the river mouth and is linked by ferry. Much of the city is undercut by the coal measures of the Sydney sedimentary basin, and what were once numerous coal-mining villages located in the hills and valleys around the port have merged into a single urban area extending southwards to Lake Macquarie.



The metropolitan area of Newcastle is the second most populous area in New South Wales and includes most of the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie local government areas as well as Fern Bay, a southern suburb of Port Stephens Council. At the 2006 census it had a population of 288,732. The population of the City of Newcastle itself at the 2006 census was 141,753 while Lake Macquarie was actually larger with a population of 183,138.

Newcastle is often quoted as being the seventh largest city in Australia. However, this is misleading as the area represented extends well beyond both the City of Newcastle and the Newcastle metropolitan area. The area, officially the Newcastle Statistical District, is referred to as Greater Newcastle or the Lower Hunter Region, which includes most parts of the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Cessnock, Maitland and Port Stephens local government areas and has a total population of 493,465. Despite their proximity, all of the LGAs in the region maintain their own individual identities, separate from Newcastle, however Newcastle remains the regional hub for most services.

Modern times

The Port of Newcastle remains the economic and trade centre for the resource rich Hunter Valley and for much of the north and northwest of New South Wales. Newcastle is the world's largest coal export port and Australia's oldest and second largest tonnage throughput port, with over 3,000 shipping movements handling cargo of 85.6 million tonnes per annum, of which coal exports represented 80.2 million tonnes per annum in 2005/06. The volume of coal exported, and attempts to increase coal exports, are opposed by environmental groups.

Newcastle has a small shipbuilding industry, which has declined since the 1970s. In recent years the only major ship-construction contract awarded to the area was the construction of the Huon class minehunters.

With the closure of the steel works in 1999 the era of extensive heavy industry has passed. Many of the remaining manufacturing industries have located themselves well away from the city itself, focusing on cheap land and access to road transport routes and lack the concentrated social impact of BHP on the city's life.

Newcastle has claim to one of the oldest theatre districts in Australia, with its still standing Victoria Theatre on Perkins Street the oldest purpose-built theatre in the country. The theatre district that occupied the area around what is now the Hunter Street Mall vanished during the 1940s when much of Newcastle's cultural appreciation disintegrated in the very industrial-oriented city.

The old city centre has seen some new apartments and hotels built in recent years, but the rate of commercial and retail occupation remains low as alternate suburban centres have become more important. The CBD itself is shifting to the west, towards the major urban renewal area known as \"Honeysuckle\". This renewal, to run for another 10 years, is a major part of arresting the shift of business and residents to the suburbs.

The old central business district, located at Newcastle's eastern end, still has a considerable number of historic buildings, dominated by Christ Church Cathedral, seat of the (Anglican) Bishop of Newcastle. Other noteworthy buildings include Fort Scratchley, the Ocean Baths, the old Customs House, the 1920s City Hall, the 1890s Longworth Institute (once regarded as the finest building in the colony) and the 1930s art deco University House (formerly NESCA House, recently seen in the film Superman Returns). Residents of Newcastle refer to themselves as \"Novocastrians\".

Domestic architecture

A heritage area to the east of the Central Business District, centred around Christ Church Cathedral, has many fine Victorian terrace houses, embedded in architecturally \"sympathetic\" later housing developments.


The University of Newcastle (formerly established in 1951 as part of the University of New South Wales) obtained its autonomy in 1965 and now with a student population of just over 20,000, it offers over 150 undergraduate and graduate courses.



Newcastle holds a variety of cultural events and festivals.

This Is Not Art is a national festival of new media and arts held in Newcastle each year over the October long weekend. Since its humble beginnings in 1998, it has become one of the leading arts festivals in Australia dedicated to the work and ideas of communities not included in other major Australian arts festivals. The umbrella program includes the independent festivals Electrofringe, the National Young Writers' Festival, National Student Media Conference, Sound Summit and other projects that vary from year to year.

The Shootout Film Festival, first started in Newcastle in 1999. This is the film festival where film-makers come together in one place to make a short film in 24 hours. It is run annually in July.

Mattara, founded in 1961, is the official festival of Newcastle with a more traditional 'country fair' type program that combines a parade, rides, sporting events, band competitions and portrait and landscape painting exhibitions.

Rainbow Visions holds its annual Festival in October for the local Gay and Lesbian Community. Set over 10 days the festival ends with annual Picnic day where up to a thousand Gay and Lesbians gather together with their family and friends.

The Newcastle Jazz Festival is held across three days in August, and attracts performers and audiences from all over Australia.

The Newcastle Regional Show is held in the Newcastle Showground annually. There are a mixture of typical regional show elements such as woodchopping displays, showbags, rides and stalls and usually fireworks to compliment the events in the main arena.

The Newcastle Entertainment Centre, located inside the Newcastle Showground is a popular venue for regular events including wrestling, concerts and monster truck shows.


Newcastle has an active youth music culture, as well as a Conservatorium of Music which is part of the University of Newcastle. It continues to support local bands and has a large underground music scene. Silverchair, the highly successful Australian band, hail from Newcastle, as does the Australian band The Screaming Jets. It has a fertile punk rock and hardcore scene, and over the past 15 years has spawned many successful local acts.

Visual arts and galleries

Noted Australian artists John Olsen and William Dobell once lived in Newcastle and today the city Newcastle is home to a wide range of public, commercial and private galleries. The Newcastle Regional Art Gallery is home to an extensive collection of works by contemporary and historical Australian visual artists. Gallery Director Nick Mitzevich is the youngest gallery director in Australia and has given the gallery a much more contemporary focus since he took over in 2002. The gallery is currently planning a major redevelopment which is the subject of an architectural design competition.


Newcastle has a variety of smaller theatres, but the main theatre in the CBD is now the Civic, at Wheeler Place, (seating capacity about 1500), one of Australia's great historic theatres built during 1929 in Art Deco style. It hosts a wide range of musicals, plays, concerts, dance and other events each year. Newcastle previously boasted several large theatres, among them the oldest purpose-built theatre in Australia, the Victoria Theatre on Perkins Street (built 1876, capacity 1750), saw touring international opera companies such as the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, and other troupes, and played host to some of the greatest stars of the age, such as Dame Nellie Melba, Gladys Moncrieff, and Richard Tauber, (it is now closed and derelict); the Century, Nineways, Broadmeadow, (built 1941, capacity 1800) although largely used as a cinema was a popular Symphony orchestra venue (demolished 1990 after being severely damaged by the 1989 earthquake); the Hunter (capacity 1000) at The Junction, had advanced modern stage facilities, but was eventually sold and demolished to make way for a motel that was destroyed by the 1989 earthquake. The decline in theatres and cinemas from the 1960s onwards was blamed on television.

Newcastle has also been home to noted Australian actors, comedians and entertainers, including Sarah Wynter, John Doyle (part of comic act Roy and HG), Susie Porter, Celia Ireland, Yahoo Serious and Jonathan Biggins. The cast of the Tap Dogs show also come from Newcastle.

Media arts

Newcastle is home to the Octapod Association, a New Media Arts collective established in 1996. Octapod presents the annual This Is Not Art Festival and is also home to the Podspace Gallery.



Newcastle's No.1 Sports Ground was for many years a stopover on the tour itinerary for visiting international teams as they faced the Northern New South Wales XI. In 1981-82 the ground was allocated a Sheffield Shield match when the SCG was unavailable, and healthy crowds saw No.1 then become host to at least one first-class fixture featuring the New South Wales Blues each year.

Horse racing

Newcastle Jockey Club Limited races 35 times annually at Broadmeadow, a spacious turf track with a home straight.

Ice hockey and skating

The Newcastle North Stars are Newcastle's representatives in the Australian Ice Hockey League championships. Originally based in Newcastle West in the 1970-80s, the North Stars now play out of the Hunter Ice Skating Stadium in Warners Bay.


The Hunter Jaegers (Commonwealth Bank Trophy - Netball) are based at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. Officially opened in June 1992, the Centre offers 5,000 square metres of clear span floor space and is capable of catering for capacities from 2,000 to 6,500 for entertainment style events. The Centre was built to house the now defunct Newcastle Falcons National Basketball League team and was also home to the Hunter Pirates before a lack of sponsorship forced them to relocate to Singapore after the 2005-06 season, where they were renamed the Singapore Slingers. The Slingers played one home game at the Centre during the 2006-07 season.

Rugby League Football

Newcastle sports teams playing in national competitions include the Newcastle Knights, a team that plays in Australia's premier rugby league competition, the National Rugby League. The Knights play at EnergyAustralia Stadium, situated in the suburb of New Lambton. After a recent upgrade, the stadium now has capacity for almost 27,000 spectators. In May 2008, the NSW state government agreed to provide a further $20 million for further upgrades to increase the crowd capacity to 40,000 by end of 2010. The stadium is the only sports venue of its class north of Sydney.


The Newcastle United Jets soccer team, which plays in Australia's highest level comp the A-League, also play at EnergyAustralia Stadium. The Newcastle United Jets won the A-league competition in their third season, defeating local rivals the Central Coast Mariners FC in the grand final

Water sports

Newcastle has an abundance of beaches and surf breaks for which the city is internationally well known. Newcastle hosts the annual surfing contest 'Surfest' on the world professional surfing tour. Four time world champion surfer Mark Richards grew up surfing at Newcastle's Merewether Beach, and is a local icon, appearing at many local functions, and supporting local charities. Nobbys beach is a very popular kitesurfing spot, especially during the warm summer months when there are North Easterly sea breezes.


Newcastle is served by a daily tabloid, The Herald (formerly The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate and then The Newcastle Herald), several weeklies including the Newcastle Star, The Post and the bi-monthly The Hunter Advocate.

Other alternative media in the city include the university's student publication Opus, and Urchin (a zine published by the media and arts organisation Octapod).

The city is also served by several local radio stations, including those owned by the ABC and SBS.

Newcastle is also served by 5 television stations, three commercial and two national services, and by Foxtel pay television.


The Newcastle metropolitan area has an extensive system of both road links and road based public transport services (bus, taxi etc) which cover most areas of both Newcastle and Lake Macquarie and which extend beyond the metropolitan area itself. Rail transport, however, is accessible to only a relatively small percentage of the population along the major rail transport routes and ferry services are restricted to those commuting between Newcastle and Stockton. Within the metropolitan area the car remains the dominant form of transportation. At the time of the 2001 Census, less than 4% of the population caught public transport, of which around 2.5% travelled by bus and 1% used the train or ferry to commute to work. On the other hand, over 72% of the population travelled by car to and from work.


Newcastle is connected to surrounding cities by the Sydney-Newcastle Freeway (South), New England Highway (West) and the Pacific Highway (North). Hunter Street, the main shopping street in the Newcastle CBD, is the major link to the Pacific Highway from the CBD.


Bus services within Newcastle are operated by Newcastle Buses & Ferries, a subsidiary of the State Transit Authority of New South Wales. Trips within a designated area of the Newcastle CBD on State Transit-operated bus services are fare-free under the Newcastle Alliance's Free City Buses programme.

The network radiates from a bus terminal near CityRail's Newcastle station, on the waterfront of Newcastle's CBD. Major interchanges are located at the University of Newcastle, Wallsend, Glendale, Warners Bay, Belmont, Charlestown, Westfield Kotara and Broadmeadow Station.


Newcastle is serviced by two CityRail lines providing local and regional commuter services. The Newcastle & Central Coast Line has hourly train services to Sydney and more frequent services to the Central Coast. The Hunter Line has twice-hourly services to Maitland and less frequently to Scone and Dungog. Countrylink (an intercity/interstate rail service) operate two lines through the Newcastle area using Broadmeadow Station. These provide services to Moree, Armidale, Brisbane and Sydney.

Newcastle once had rail passenger services to Belmont and Toronto, on Lake Macquarie, Wallsend, Kurri Kurri and several towns and villages between Maitland and Cessnock, but these lines have today been closed. Since the late 1990s, there had been intense debate about the viability of the rail line into central Newcastle. The New South Wales government had planned to cut the line at Broadmeadow, ceasing rail services into the city and to sell the land where the railway ran for development. The State government has subsequently decided, since Premier Morris Iemma took power, and at least partly in response to a huge public outcry, to keep the rail service.


The Port of Newcastle is crucial to the economic life of Newcastle and the Hunter Valley region beyond. Over 70 million tonnes of coal is shipped through the facility each year - making it the largest coal exporting port in the world. The Port of Newcastle claims to be Australia's first port. Coal was first exported from the harbour in 1799.

Newcastle Buses & Ferries operates a ferry service across the Hunter River between Newcastle's CBD and Stockton.


Newcastle Airport is located north of the Newcastle CBD (by road). The airport, which is a joint venture between Newcastle City Council and Port Stephens Council, has experienced rapid growth since 2000 as a result of an increase in low cost airline operations. The airport is located at RAAF Base Williamtown, a Royal Australian Air Force base on land leased from the Department of Defence. Broadmeadow Helipad is also in service as it is used by the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service.

The closure of Belmont Airport, commonly referred to as Aeropelican, in the Lake Macquarie suburb of Marks Point has caused Williamtown to become Newcastle's only major airport and residents in the south of the Newcastle metropolitan area must commute up to by car to reach Williamtown.


See also


Other references

  • Docherty, James Cairns, Newcastle - The Making of an Australian City, Sydney, 1983, ISBN 0-86806-034-8
  • Susan Marsden, Coals to Newcastle: a History of Coal Loading at the Port of Newcastle New South Wales 1977-1997 2002
  • Marsden, Susan, Newcastle: a Brief History Newcastle, 2004 ISBN 0-949579-17-3
  • Marsden, Susan, 'Waterfront alive: life on the waterfront', in C Hunter, ed, River Change: six new histories of the Hunter, Newcastle, 1998 ISBN 0-909115-70-2
  • Greater Newcastle City Council, Newcastle 150 Years, 1947.
  • Thorne, Ross, Picture Palace Architecture in Australia, Melbourne, Victoria, 1976 (P/B), ISBN 0-7251-0226-8
  • Turner, Dr. John W., Manufacturing in Newcastle, Newcastle, 1980, ISBN 0-9599385-7-5
  • Morrison James, Ron, Newcastle - Times Past, Newcastle, 2005 (P/B), ISBN 0-9757693-0-8

External links

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