Bulli, Thirroul & Corrimal Stories

Everyone has a story. Listen to the memories of local residents as they recount their experiences of living in the Bulli, Thirroul, and Corrimal areas.

Click on the residents’ names or photos for more information and to listen to their stories.

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Gunter Grafenauer

Gunter is a master wood craftsman who ran a successful timber supply and cabinet making business and ran popular woodwork classes in Bulli.

Listen to Gunter’s story here.


Arthur Smith

Arthur Smith owned the pharmacy in Thirroul from the early 1960’s for many years, his three children Douglas, Gabrielle and Adrian followed in his footsteps working as pharmacists in Thirroul.

Listen to Arthur’s story here.


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Jack Draper Icon

Edith and Jack Draper

Edith lived at Stanwell Park in the early 1950s and returned to Bellambi in 1999 to share a property with Jack. Edith has been an art teacher and artist, and Jack and her daughter Wolf are also artists.

Listen to Edith and Jack’s story here.

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The Waves

Twenty-one houses in what was originally called Wave St, now The Waves, were occupied by families who had transferred from Sydney, Goulburn and other railway depots in 1939 to work with the steam trains at Thirroul. 

Listen to interviews with The Waves residents here.


Colin Gibson

Colin Gibson shares his stories of life in the Illawarra including his 57 years of experience as a barber and hairdresser in Corrimal since 1964.

Listen to Colin’s story here.


Albert Vreman

Albert Vreman was nineteen when he arrived in Australia from the Netherlands in 1955. He has worked and lived in the Illawarra for 56 years.  

Listen to Albert’s story here.


Dave Beswick

Dave has lived at Wombarra and Thirroul. He has taught in schools and TAFE, acted as Teacher Consultant for deaf students, served as the South Coast Teachers Federation representative, and has also been a community activist.

Listen to Dave’s story here.


Fred Wright

Fred worked at the Bulli mine for much of his life.  He talks to his daughter, Carol Wright, about growing up in Woonona, his adult life, mining, and the Depression.

Listen to Fred’s story here.


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Thirroul Railway Institute

The Thirroul Railway Institute Preservation Society (TRIPS) helped restore the Thirroul Railway Institute Hall and manages its use.  The society have a program of events to celebrate the hall’s centenary in 2020.

Listen to the Thirroul Railway Institute’s stories here.


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Paul Tuckerman

Paul has resided in the Northern suburbs all his life and has seen changes in the village of Thirroul.

Listen to Paul’s story here.


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Syd Atkins

Syd has given more than 40 years of voluntary service to Bulli Hospital as a board member, auxiliary committee member, and fund raiser. One of the hospital’s wards was named in his honour and he has been awarded an OAM for his service. This is a recording of a speech Syd made about the history of Thirroul at a Bulli Rotary Club meeting in 1997.

Listen to Syd’s story here.


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Rube (Mary Reuben) Hargrave

Rube was the first female alderman of Wollongong City Council. She also became the first female driving instructor for the Ford Motor Company in Australia and was awarded an OAM in 1993. In this interview from 1970 Rube talks of her childhood and adolescent years in Bulli.

Listen to Rube’s story here.


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Illawarra Folk Festival

The Illawarra Folk Festival was first held at Jamberoo in 1985 and has become one of the largest festivals in Australia run entirely by volunteers. It grew from the Illawarra Folk Club, which was established in 1980.

Listen to the Folk Festival’s stories here.

Preview 1 – John Spillane:

Preview 2 – Gail Norris:


Illawarra Grevillea Park

Illawarra Grevillea Park contains extensive display gardens and a rainforest. Grevilleas play a prominent role in the gardens, which feature plants from all over Australia. The park is maintained by a small group of volunteers, several of whom have been interviewed.

Access the volunteers’ stories here.


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Thirroul Poetry Club

The Thirroul Poetry Club meets at Thirroul Library at 4-5 PM on Tuesdays and shares poetry written by members.

Listen to the Thirroul Poetry Club’s story here.


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Thirroul Ski Club

Thirroul Ski Club celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019. Two early members – Gordon McComb and Hans Buettner – were interviewed.

Listen to the Thirroul Ski Club’s story here.


Robert Parsons Profile Portrait

Robert Parsons

Robert trained and worked as a typewriter mechanic and lived in East Corrimal with his wife Betty and their family. He was a member of the Arcadian Theatre Group and has a wonderful tenor voice.

Listen to Robert’s story here.


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Judy Bourke 

Judy is a community-minded pioneer who has been active within social and art movements in the Illawarra. She loves the sea and working creatively.

Listen to Judy’s story here.


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Joyce Chapman

Joyce remembers happy days in Woonona as a child and has lived in Corrimal for most of her life.

Listen to Joyce’s story here.


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Dorothy Sefton

Dorothy has lived in Thirroul for over ninety years and has many memories of life in the community.

Listen to Dorothy’s story here.


Bronwen Chamberlain Profile Photo

Bronwen Chamberlain

Bronwen grew up in Bulli. When she married, Bronwen lived at and operated Bulli Lookout Kiosk for twenty five years from 1950.

Listen to Bronwen’s story here.


This is an ongoing project and we welcome your contribution. If you are interested in sharing your recollections of Bulli, Thirroul, and Corrimal please contact us.

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