Narrated by David Field, with a striking musical score and dramatic reenactments of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, this documentary is a community treasure of national significance.

Coal Mining has been an integral part of the Illawarra Economy for over 150 years, but coal mining is more than that, it is also a part of the heart and soul of the Illawarra people, having shaped the men and women who lived the coal mining life…


The first mineral to be exported out of Australia is coal.
Convict miners were the first miners in Australia.


In 1887 the Battle of Bulli was lost by the miners. A 6 month stand off between coal mine owners and the miners and their families proved fruitless as the men were forced to return to work with no gain. The strike leaders were not rehired. 2 months later their pit blew up, 81 men and boys were killed and a community was shattered. The core of the militant miners were left behind…


Edmund Barton is involved in the Illawarra in a very interesting way…


During a dispute over the introduction of safety lamps to protect miners from naked light reaching gas, the Mt Kembla coal mine blew up, again the Illawarra faced tragedy and heartbreak.

“the only way they can do this is to contract, go back to what they know best, themselves… their own lives.”

This is Australia’s largest land industrial disaster to date.


The Great Depression and the rise of Communism through the mines


The Coalcliff Strike. Men are dying due to dust disease, some are only 35, but it is the war and the mines must keep working. The Illawarra goes on strike but then the young miners are all sent to serve in the armed forces. When all the soldiers and men return and the war is over, dust continues to kill the Southern district miners.


The south coast goes out on a nationwide strike. This is the largest industrial stoppage in Australian History


the Illawarra is the first place in Australia where longwall mining was trialled and introduced, increasing production well beyond expectations.


The 35hr week is spearheaded by the Southern District Miners and after a 20 year campaign, it is finally won.


The Appin Disaster killed 14 men.

Why Documentaries acknowledges that there are many more stories that are significant to the Illawarra and its people other than what was chosen for inclusion in the documentary.

Why Documentaries