Kurri Kurri its History & its Future

The township of Kurri Kurri and the surrounding district was first established when coal was discovered at East Greta Junction now known as Gillieston Heights. In those early days at the end of the 19th Century the coal mine employees lived in very primitive conditions in villages surrounding the future township of Kurri Kurri.

In 1902 after considerable lobbying by the coal miners a permanent settlement was established. The first lands in Kurri Kurri were sold in 1903.

From its early establishment as a town the people of the community always struggled for an identity and to have control of their own destiny. In 1906 the town was handed over to the Tarro Shire and later became part of the Kearsley Shire, (The only Communist Council in the country) which later became Greater Cessnock City. During this period of destabilisation, the community suffered from discrimination and deprivation from all levels of government.

It was in this climate that Kurri Kurri business people established their Chamber in 1913, less than ten years after the establishment of the town out of a need to establish such basic needs as banking and phone services for the growing business district. The early business people were also concerned at the lack of support for the district at Local, State and Federal government level.

For many years the township suffered from a period of political agitation and posturing that saw the community used to promote the aspirations of the local politicians. Business Development lobbying has remained a key focus for the business people of the area since the town’s establishment.

Coal was the economic driver until the late 1960’s when mine closures such as those that were located in the area created high unemployment. When the ALCAN smelter arrived in 1969 it provided employment opportunities for some of the displaced workforce. During the late 70’s and early 90’s the textile industry also provided an income for the girls/women of the district, but this was short lived as the industry quickly moved offshore chasing cheaper labour.

In more recent times the business people had to lobby hard for the establishment of Weston Aluminium and Signode Strapping operations. Both of these businesses have brought moderate relief to our employment woes.

When the smelter shut down in 2012 it set back the community at least ten years. Now with the imminent announcement of the redevelopment of the smelter site and adjacent buffer zone into residential lands things will change for the better.

With this project we will see the commencement of serious economic development for the Kurri Kurri district as the town reinvents itself; and we will witness a future prosperity not seen since the establishment of the coalmines more than 100 years ago.

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