|Site Name:||Miners Tribute|
|Address:||Junction of Foothills Road & Caldwell Avenue Fernhill|
|GPS Coordinates:||H 305259 E 6193536 HSL 29.0 metres|
|Site Access:||Public access|
Origins of the Project
The Tribute is a project designed to acknowledge and commemorate those who worked in one of the main industries of the Illawarra, coal mining, and all those who supported them. It has a particular focus on one mine which was located near the site of the memorial. It provides a static presentation of selected images and text that pay tribute to the pit ponies and coal miners that worked at the Corrimal Colliery located on the escarpment above, and coal mining industry in general in the Illawarra. The project was initiated by an organising committee of former miners, and was funded jointly by unions, business and the community. It was designed by a local artist, and installed in what is now a public park, which Wollongong City Council have undertaken to maintain.
Elements of the Tribute
The memorial itself comprises three main elements, and addresses a number of themes. A centrepiece consists of a granite plaque outlining the purpose of the memorial, and a loaded skip, a wagon used to bring coal from the working face of a mine to the surface. To its right is a solid memorial wall, and to its left an arched memorial wall capped by a representation of a miner’s safety hat, designating the Miners Federation Peace Grove. Both left and right walls display numerous tiles with embedded graphics describing a number of relevant themes. The right wall largely addresses one of the major themes, that of the role of pit ponies in the industry hauling coal underground. Hundreds of pit ponies were used over the years for this purpose, sometimes working up to twenty years. They were usually well cared for and fed like racehorses, becoming part of work teams underground. The last pit ponies were used in Illawarra mines in 1972 in the Mt. Kembla and North Bulli No2 mines.
The left wall (the Peace Grove wall) focuses more on the industrial organisational aspect of coal mining, and acknowledges the role of the Miners Federation and in particular that of their Ladies Auxiliary. The latter not only supported the miners, but also actively participated in some disputes (as for example, that at the Bulli Mine in 1887). Several notable disputes are depicted, both where workers elected to stay underground in protest – at Glen Davis in 1952 and Kemira Sit In . More information of the role of the Miners’ Federation in the industry may be found here in an article by Mr Barry Swan, now retired former President of the Miners’ Federation and member of the Joint Coal Board of Management
The site of the memorial is itself of historical significance for the industry. As noted, the Corrimal Colliery was close to the site, and what is now a Crown Land reserve was at one time the paddock where the pit ponies would graze when not at work underground. It was also the entry point to the walking track to and from the colliery by both the miners and the pit ponies. The memorial layout itself seeks to embody remnants of that actual path.
A time capsule intended for opening in the year 2043 has been buried adjacent to the Tribute. The capsule contains digitally stored photographs, personal accounts of individual coal miners, items of historic memorabilia and a piece of coal with its own story.