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Thirroul is a northern seaside suburb of the city of Wollongongmarker, Australia, with the name supposedly Aboriginal for "Valley of Cabbage Tree Palms". Situated between Austinmermarker and Bullimarker, it is approximately 13 kilometres north of Wollongong, and 69 km south of Sydneymarker. It lies between the Pacific Ocean and a section of the Illawarra escarpment known as Lady Fuller Park, adjacent to Bulli Pass Scenic Reserve.

General

It is a fairly old town, originally called Robbinsville and dating back to the early days of settlement in the area, when coal mining operations began and miners needed residences, though logging had been occurring before for some time. It has a lot of visible heritage.

The town's major commercial area lies between an area just north of Bulli Pass, where the Princes Highway splits to form the Lawrence Hargrave Drive, to Thirroul Stationmarker, on the South Coast Line, and over the bridge and past the main centre and the Anita's Theatre building, which underwent large-scale renovations in 2006/2007. Supermarkets include a BI-LO and Franklins. Thirroul is steadily growing in population, and many new shops are added regularly. Many cafes now exist in Thirroul's main commercial area, adding to its popularity as a seaside holiday town. The Beaches Hotel and Ryans Hotel are lively pubs for locals and tourists alike, both located on the main road. Thirroul also has a sub-branch of the Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL). The boutique clothing and jewellery shops, florists, conveniences stores, newsagencies and other shopping essentials make it the main shopping area for the northern suburbs of Wollongong.

There are two primary schools, St. Michaels and Thirroul Public School. St. Michael's [92556] is a Catholic school that was established by the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1940 and is located in Station Street. The current principal is Mrs. Louise Campbell. Thirroul Public school[92557]was established in 1889 and is located in Roxburgh Avenue. The current principal is Mr. Gary Graham. Thirroul also has a Thirroul Scout Group as part of the Scout Association of Australia, NSW Branch.

Thirroul is served by express and all stations trains on the CityRail South Coast line. All trains stop in Thirroul. In 2005, the station was expanded with elevators.

Thirroul is represented in the Tooheys Illawarra Rugby League by the Thirroul Butchers [92558]. The Butchers were established in 1913. Star players currently include Ben Couchman, Aaron Beath and Fuad Suljkanovic. The Thirroul Butchers attract crowds between 500 and 1500 a game, depending on their opponents. Thirroul is also home to a junior soccer club [92559]and rugby clubs, which include many male & female teams ranging form under 6's to under 18's. A new senior soccer side, the Thunder, has been established for the 2008 season. Soccer is played at the southern end of the local Thomas Gibson Park and rugby is held at the northern end which has a large grandstand. Thirroul is also part of the Northern Suburbs Netball Club. The Thirroul Amateur Swimming Club has been operating in Thirroul since 1954. Swim nights are conducted weekly between October and March. The club is non-profit and affiliated with NSW Swimming.

Thirroul is also part of the Northern Illawarra Chamber of Commerce [92560], which was established in 1996 and is recognised as an official body by the Wollongong City Council. Its aim is to promote the identity of the Northern Illawarra in co-operation with local business owners, the resident community, and government and tourism bodies to generate local business growth for the region.

The Northern Leader is a newspaper established for people living in the northern suburbs of the Illawarra. Thirroul has many fashion, gift & lifestyle shops along the main streets. Thirroul is also home to King's Theatre (1913) which has recently been refurbished and renamed to Anita's Theatre by the developer John Comelli, in honour of his late wife.

The annual Thirroul Seaside & Arts Festival is held over a weekend in the first week of April. It includes activities such as art exhibitions and workshops, kids activities, live stage entertainment, buskers, a variety of stalls, pony and carnival rides and face painting. The festival won the 2003 Illawarra tourism Award in the events/festivals category. Involved in organising the event is the Austimer-Thirroul Lions Club. The festival actively involves community organisations, educational institutions, sporting groups, performing and visual art studios, scouts, surf lifesavers and the general public.

In June 2009, the new Thirroul District Library and Community centre was opened. This library offers email and word processing, inter-library loans, photocopying and printing, free internet access and childrens programs. [92561].

Demographics

Thirroul has one of the least culturally diverse populations in the Wollongong local government area (LGA). In 2001, 13.8% of the Thirroul population was born overseas, compared to 23.0% for the Wollongong LGA. In addition 4.5% of the Thirroul population reported in the 2001 Census to speaking a language other than English in the home, compared with 17.1% for the Wollongong LGA.

The 2001 census also indicated that the median weekly individual, family and household incomes in Thirroul are higher than those for the Wollongong LGA. 16.3% of Thirroul individuals earn more than $1000 a week, which is significantly higher than the Wollongong area. Levels of qualification in Thirroul are also higher than the Wollongong LGA.

Many former Sydneysiders have moved to Thirroul and now commute to work from the northern area. Few employment opportunities exist in the suburb with much of the labour force commuting to Sydney for work. Thirroul's major industry of employment is education, with 14.5% of the labour force employed in this area. Health and community services is Thirroul's second major employer.

Thirroul Beach

The beach is a prominent feature, as well as the backdrop of the 400 metre high escarpment, attracting many bushwalkers to northern Austinmermarker and surfers to both beaches. Thirroul beach is popular with both locals and tourists, becoming particularly busy in summer months and long weekends. The beach is 1 kilometre long and backed by a large, grassy reserve. Swimming can be potentially hazardous because of permanent and shifting rips. The beach is patrolled in Summer and a 50 m ocean pool is located near the beach. The Thirroul Surf Lifesaving Club [92562] was established in 1907 as one of 14 foundation clubs in NSW. There have also been complaints of under-age drinking, noise and anti-social behaviour occurring on Thirroul Beach Park after dark, especially in the summer months. Former Iron Men Champions Darren and Dean Mercer are from Thirroul and their parents still reside in the town.

Thirroul SLSC is also the home of the Thirroul Seagulls IRB (inflatable rescue boat) Racing Team, who have competed strongly for the last 15 years.

Aerial photo from north west


Thirroul is an exposed beach and reef break, and has reliable surf all year. The most desirable wind for surfing in Thirroul is offshore winds from the west north-west. Most of the surf in Thirroul comes from groundswells, with the best swell direction the south-east. The beach break provides for both left and right-handers. Caution should be taken with rips, rocks, sharks and, during the summer, bluebottles.

Natural Environment and Wildlife

The Sandon Point Stockland development, has given rise to much controversy and conflict between developers and environmental and Aboriginal groups over Aboriginal heritage and coastal wetland and floodplain since 1989, is just south in Bulli. This protest is ongoing, and included a 24/7 picket for five years before an arson attack, and a continuing Aboriginal Tent Embassy. Resident Jill Walker has been heroic in taking Stockland and the Minister for Planning to both the Land and Environment and Supreme Courts over a number of outstanding environmental issues relating to the development. It is also the starting/finishing point to the bike track that runs south to Wollongong, the Wollongong to Thirroul Bike Track. The escarpment area is rich in its variety of birdlife. Recorded birds in the northern suburbs of Wollongong include the Australian King Parrot, Crimson Rosella, Eastern Sea Eagle and the Brown Gerygone.

History

Before European settlement, Wodi Wodi Aborigine inhabited the area known then as Thurrural, meaning "The Valley of the Cabbage Tree Palms". Cabbage tree palms were once plentiful in the area, hence the name. Early white settlers used cabbage tree palms to make strong fence posts. The trees are still present on either side of Bulli Pass.

Early settlement began in the late 1860s in the hilly area of the village as the lower beachside area was swampy and susceptible to flooding with high tides sometimes combining with heavy rain. Occupations consisted of farming, cedar logging, whaling and fruit growing and eventually mining when the [Bulli Mine was opened in 1859. The township was known as North Bulli until February 1880 when, after a meeting of the town's residents, the name of Robbinsvale was chosen. The town was then known as Robbinsvale until 1895, when the name "Thirroul" was officially adopted.

In 1888 the rail link with Sydney was finished. Early construction workers on the railway caused a population increase, and the eastern side of the town progressed rapidly. The Railway Institute Hall where workers once studied has been classified as a heritage building. The construction of the rail link also created an increase in tourism for Thirroul. It became a popular family seaside holiday destination with boarding houses and holiday cottages in demand.

Two known early residents include Samuel McCauley and Frederick Robbins. McCauley was one of the oldest residents of the Illawarra district when he died in June 1899 in Thirroul. A street in Thirroul has been named McCauley street. Robbins was a prominent resident who gave his name to the township of North Bulli as it was then called. He was made the first postmaster of Robbinsville in 1888 after, along with other residents, lobbying the government to supply a post office and railway platform.

In 1898 the Amy was shipwrecked on the rocks at the southern end of Thirroul beach. All of its crew died. A memorial plaque to the Amy and her crew is located in the Thirroul Beach Park.[92563]

The world famous English author, D. H. Lawrence visited Thirroul in 1923 and wrote the novel Kangaroo about Australian fringe politics after the First World War whilst there. Over looking the Pacific Ocean, his house Wyewurk is the earliest Australian bungalow to show the influence of the Californian Bungalow style of architecture. He gave this description of the town... "…The town trailed down from the foot of the mountain towards the railway, a huddle of grey and red painted iron roofs. Then over the rail line towards the sea, it began again in a spasmodic fashion….There were wide unmade roads running straight as to go nowhere, with little bungalow homes…..Then quite near the inland, rose a great black wall of mountain or cliff…..". The book D.H. Lawrence at Thirroul by life-long Thirroul resident Joseph Davis was published by Collins (Sydney) in 1989 and questioned many of the assumptions made by Robert Darroch in his 1981 work entitled D.H. Lawrence in Australia published by Macmillan (Melbourne). The Cambridge edition of Kangaroo (edited by Bruce Steele) tended to accept the views of Davis rather than those of Darroch. Davis has gone on to write a number of books about art and the environment in Thirroul and the local area, including Lake Illawarra: an ongoing history (2005).

Artist Brett Whiteley died from a heroin overdose in the Beachside Motel in Thirroul on the 15th June 1992, aged 53.[92564] The artist Paul Ryan (many times short listed for the Archibald Prize) is a long-term resident of Thirroul, as is the up and coming 'outsider' art practitioner Frank Nowlan.

In 1993 the Thirroul Village Committee won the prestigious Basil Ryan gold award at the Rise & Shine Awards presentation for improved streetscapes. The Thirroul Seaside and Arts Festival began as "the Growing Green Kids Festival' - a not-for-profit event which was the brain-child of resident Cate Wilson. Cate is also President of the Thirroul Action Group (TAG) - an environmental group which has functioned for around 30 years. Residents concerned about health risks picketed against the Telstra phone tower in 1997. Storms and floods severely affected the Thirroul area in August 1998.

In August 2007, Thirroul's CBD and beach was declared an alcohol free zone as a council initiative to prevent public drinking on streets and footpaths within the designated area. A local developer, John Comelli, re-opened the old King's Picture Theatre In Thirroul as Anita's Theatre in 2007 after a lavish refurbishment.

References

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