Future of old Bulli Hospital site unsure, as heritage significance questioned




ALMOST 130 years of history will come to an end next month when the old Bulli Hospital is expected to be decommissioned.

A new $50 million Bulli Hospital and Aged Care Centre will replace the old hospital on a new site located on the opposite side of the road.

While welcoming new facilities, concern has been growing over the future of the original two hectare (almost five acre) hospital site, partly purchased from community funds, and partly donated by early land owners.

The NSW Government has been urged to preserve the rich heritage of the Bulli Hospital before a decision is made to sell-off the site.

A year after the 1887 Bulli Mine Disaster, a methane gas explosion that killed 81 men and boys, the community gathered for a meeting to push for public a hospital for the region.

The Bulli Cottage Hospital was officially opened on May 20, 1893, chiefly from funds raised by local coal miners, who sacrificed part of their wages. The hospital was built by the community through fundraising efforts. It consisted of a five-bed male ward and two-bed female ward. By 1908 an additional male ward and operating theatre were also opened.

bulli hospital large 1910 copy

Bulli Cottage Hospital 1910. Picture: Supplied





Bulli Hospital 1.jpeg

A part of the Bulli Hospital believed to date back to the turn of last century.

State MP for Keira, Ryan Park has called for the facility’s rich heritage to be remembered, and asked the NSW Government to “hold-off” plans to sell the old site on Hospital Road.

“I am aware they have plans to sell off the site. The Government has advised me that the site may need contamination remediation work prior to the disposal of the site,” Mr Park told the Bulli & Clifton Times.

“I have urged the Government to hold off the sell off until an assessment is undertaken after the hospital has been operating. I am not convinced there is sufficient parking and the old site could easily be used for parking.”

Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District Executive Director Infrastructure Development Suzanne Harris said there are no formal heritage-listed items on the old Bulli Hospital site. However, parts of the old hospital clearly date back to early last century, and many architectural features are clearly evident from that era.


The familiar main entrance to generations: The Bulli Hospital.

“The Local Health District has undertaken a heritage review of the existing Bulli Hospital precinct,” Ms Harris said.

“ISLHD is reviewing the artwork depicting the original facility and a selection of archived information and pictures will be on display in the new hospital to commemorate the hospital’s history.”

A Wollongong City Council spokesperson said the hospital is not listed as a heritage item under the Wollongong Local Environmental Plan 2009 or any other statutory heritage list, and that the NSW Government (Department of Health) has specific legislative responsibilities for the identification and management of significant heritage assets under the NSW Heritage Act.

Mr Park meanwhile said he has not been made aware of any heritage items on the site.

“I would expect the Government to be open, transparent and sensitive to any historically sensitive items,” he said.

The Bulli & Clifton Times asked the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District what the intentions are for the old site. Ms Harris said ISLHD is continuing to work with the NSW Ministry of Health and Health Infrastructure, and will consult with Department of Planning, Infrastructure and Environment, on plans for the old Bulli Hospital site in line with NSW Government guidelines and procedures.


Another section of the Bulli Hospital believed to date from the turn of last century


What looks like a sandstone chimney from the kitchen of the Bulli Hospital

A Wollongong City Council spokesperson said Bulli Hospital is located on several lots of about two hectares or almost five acres of land, all zoned low-density residential, with a variety of permissible land uses.

“Council has not had any discussions with developers regarding the future use of the site,” the Council spokesperson said.

Mr Park said after concerns were raised over the future of the old site by his constituents he wrote to the Minister for Health and to the CEO of the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District.

Mr Park has requested that prior to selling off the land that sufficient parking be set aside for the new facility.

“I reminded the Government that Bulli Hospital was built by the local community and the proceeds should be reinvested back in the community that paid for it in the first place,” he said.


An older part of the Bulli Hospital


Another section of the hospital


One of the murals in the former children’s ward of the Bulli Hospital



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About Mick Roberts

A journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of Australian pubs and associated industries for over 30 years. He is working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick managed several community newspapers. He has been editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), the Sydney city newspaper, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW.


One thought on “Future of old Bulli Hospital site unsure, as heritage significance questioned

  1. Thank you enjoyed my first e-mail history Bulli hospital i was a miner for many years in the area & find all this very interesting.

    Thank you,

    Ray Lapham.

    On Sat, Feb 22, 2020 at 1:37 PM The Bulli & Clifton Times wrote:

    > Mick Roberts posted: ” By MICK ROBERTS ALMOST 130 years of history will > come to an end next month when the old Bulli Hospital is expected to be > decommissioned. A new $50 million Bulli Hospital and Aged Care Centre will > replace the old hospital on a new site located ” >

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Ray Lapham | February 22, 2020, 4:32 pm

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