History: Looking Back

Looking Back history feature: The registered club movement in the Illawarra

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Looking Back

Helensburgh Workmens Club UOW Helensburgh Workmen’s Club, C1898. Picture: Wollongong University Archives

By MICK ROBERTS © 

REGISTERED clubs, with their assortment of restaurants, cafes, gymnasiums, and ‘mini-casinos’, have come along way from the timber cottages, offering dominoes and newspaper libraries, that first appeared throughout colonial New South Wales during the 1890s.

Prior to the 1890s, membership of colonial clubs was confined to the elite.

The premises of the first clubs emulated British gentlemen’s clubs and accommodated the style of living to which their members were accustomed. Club entertainment principally consisted of drinking, dining, billiards, card games and a literary library.

Clubs catering for colonial working class men first appeared in the late 1880s and 1890s. They first appeared in the Illawarra and Hunter regions of NSW as workmen’s clubs, chiefly established to cater for coal miners. They were men only venues, far from what members expect of their registered clubs today.

Kembla Heights Workmens Club Committee 1896 UOW Kembla Heights Workmen’s…

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About Mick Roberts

A Sydney 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 pubs, inns and associated industries in Australia for over 30 years. He is currently 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 has owned and managed several community newspapers. He was one time 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), Sydney based, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW. He currently calls the inner-Sydney suburb of Surry Hills home.

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