Port Kembla is located on the Illawarra coastline approximately 10.5 kilometres south of central Wollongong, New South Wales, with the post code 2505. It has a mix of residential, commercial, industrial and harbour foreshore areas and has also been known as “Red Point”, “Kembla Bay” and “Five Islands Bay”.
The region has significant Aboriginal and European heritage. The beaches of the area and Hill 60 are of important archaeological significance, containing many Aboriginal shell middens and artifacts. During the Second World War, Hill 60 and the northern end of M.M. Beach became part of the coastal defence network and was used as a military precinct. Some of the military fortifications constructed during this time are still standing, such as the Illowra and Breakwater Batteries that housed munitions and explosives, the Historical Military Museum which was built as a lookout and disguised to look like a block of flats, a concrete bunker connected to an underground tunnel system, and concrete tank barriers that were originally placed on the beach to prevent tank movement.
Port Kembla is known as the lllawarra’s traditional home of steelmaking and heavy industry. Early industry in the region centred on commercial fishing around the Hill 60 / Fishermen’s Beach area. Aboriginal fishermen fished this area from the 1870s up until the Second World War, and sold their catch to local and Sydney fish markets. In the late 1880s, a port was opened here to ship locally-mined coal. A copper, gold and silver refinery opened in 1907 and the steelworks starting operating in 1930. The years 1940 to 1960 saw such an increase in shipping traffic, the port was expanded to accommodate the extra demand for docking and loading space.
The suburb name references the history of the area as a port and “Kembla” is an Aboriginal word meaning “plenty of wild fowl”. The harbour was named Port Kembla in the late 1800s by William Burall, who opened the nearby Mt Kembla Colliery and constructed the tramway between the colliery and the jetty.
Today, the face of Port Kembla is changing, with a shift away from heavy industry as new residents and businesses establish themselves in the region. The area is home to a thriving artists’ community, historic hotels, three beautiful beaches and an ocean pool, five schools (preschool, primary and high school) and the annual Port Kembla Billy Cart Derby.