New South Wales is Australia's most populous state and it is located in the south-east part of the country. It was discovered by James Cook during his 1770 voyage and it was first colonized in 1788 by some 1,400 people embarked on the First Fleet.
Illawarra Lake and region were also first sighted by Captain Cook. They were later explored (1796) by the renowned Mathew Flinders and George Bass.
Also in 1796, Black Caesar - the first Australian outlaw - was shot and killed near Sydney by pursuers that were highly motivated by the five gallons of rum reward offered by Governor John Hunter, a man whose name would be later borrowed by the famous Hunter Valley.
During the same year a party of 17 survivors of a ship wrecked in the Bass Strait trekked up the coast toward Sydney. Fourteen of them had been killed by elements and hostile Aborigines but the remaining three men managed to reach Sydney in 1797. They brought news of coal seams outcropping in the Illawarra region. Learning that George Bass jumped on Governor Hunter's whale-boat and a short 8 days later he returned with hard coal specimens.
An October 1795 census found 1,362 male and 546 female convicts living in the new penal colony. For comparison, in 1820 there were 3,000 full-blooded Aborigines living in the Illawarra district. By 1899 their ranks were reduced to 33.
Paul Edmund Strzelecki was the first to provide a substantive description of Illawarra's Carboniferous fossils and to produce geological maps in 1839-1843.
Coal was first indentified at Mt. Keira by Rev. W.B. Clarke in 1839. Albert Mine near Mt.Keira was opened in 1849 by James Shoobert.
Port Kembala's first coal shipment was made in February 1883 when S.S.Arawata sailed out carrying about 2,000 tons of Illawarra coal.
For Aborigines Illawarra most likely meant 'high place near the sea' because the region's most prominent feature is an abrupt and almost impassable 750 m high escarpment that bounds a narrow coastal plain.
The 280,000 people city of Wollongong - 'sound of the sea' - is nestled in a coastal sea plain and enjoys a mild coastal climate with average maximum temperatures ranging from 17 C in the winter to 26 C in the summer. Summer days are cooled by local sea breeze while hot nights are sometimes relieved by a front of rapidly moving wind - the southerly buster. July and August are windy with westerly gale strong winds reaching 100 km/h. The first half of the year is wetter with occasional flooding events possible during the summer period.
Mount Keira forms part of the Illawarra escarpment and it is covered by eucalypt forest and rainforest cover. Plants include the cabbage tree, the giant stinging tree, tamarind, and red cedar. Echidna, wallabies, Rusa deer and the Australian king parrot also live in the forest. Numerous parks protect the wildlife and flora and they are big touristic attractions.