Coal mining history and nature reflected in playground artwork


Artist, Celeste Coucke and local school students at the Helensburgh playground.

THE Helensburgh playground has been given an added touch of history with artworks by local school students.

Last year, Wollongong City Council officially cut the ribbon and opened the Charles Harper Playground with more than 140 students from Helensburgh Public School, Holy Cross Catholic School and Helensburgh Pre-school on hand to mark its opening.

And while the playground has been open, the final touches in the form of artworks were recently installed, wrapping up the project.

The playground is decorated with artworks and panels that reflect the natural environment and Helensburgh’s coal mining history. Artist Celeste Coucke worked directly with students to design the entrance wall art, the dry creek bed feature and the large Perspex art panels that decorate the playground.

During this design consultation, students experimented with different art techniques including making cyanotype photograms – a type of historic photographic print that uses the sun to create permanent prints.

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said the Helensburgh Historical Society also supplied a number of photographs of objects found within the old Helensburgh mines.

Images of bolts, nails and tools decorate the artwork panels around the playground giving children using the playground a look back into their community’s mining past.

“I’d like to give a special thank you to the schools who worked with Council staff to make sure that children’s voices were at the heart of this community space.,” Cr Bradbery said.

The playground was made possible by the hard work of local students from Helensburgh Public School, Holy Cross Catholic School and Helensburgh pre-school.

Cr Bradbery said that children’s voices were at the heart of the design process for this project.

“The Charles Harper Playground is a real labour of love created by local students, artist Celeste Coucke and the Local Historic Society. Council is committed to involving children and the broader community to help design our playgrounds. It is always a pleasure to create something special that reflects the local community.”

Can’t make it to Helensburgh?

Many of our other playgrounds have reopened. Here’s our list of some of our favourite playgrounds to visit in the north these school holidays. For more visit Council’s website.

Luke’s Place Playground

Princes Highway, Corrimal

Lukes PLace Corrimal

Luke’s Place, Corrimal

Luke’s Place is an inclusive playground designed for children of all abilities. This playground offers accessible and inclusive play activities including a roundabout, nest swing, water play and a no-step slide.

Thirroul Playground

Cliff Parade, Thirroul

Thirroul regional playground has a giant net dome, a flying fox, slides, swings and climbing items for a broad range of ages. Created with the help of local children, this playground includes a stone elephant’s head that was inspired by an early circus that used to visit Thirroul village.

Towradgi Beach Playground

2 Towradgi Road, Towradgi

Towradgi Park’s iconic rocket slide overlooks Corrimal Beach and Towradgi Ocean Pool. Many of the features in this park are maritime-themed, reflecting the nearby 1800s Queen of Nations shipwreck.

Stuart Park Playground

George Hanley Drive, North Wollongong

Stuart Park is one of our most popular regional playgrounds, a short distance from the City Centre and North Beach. Climb the 8.6m high Sky Tower, with three giant tube slides. There are also two flying foxes, swings, a cubby house, sound bells, and other fun features to explore.

Wollongong Botanic Garden All Abilities Playground

Murphys Avenue, Keiraville

Our All Abilities Playground at Wollongong Botanic Garden has been designed for a wide range of ages and physical abilities. Located near the entrance to the Botanic Garden, this space includes swings, a sandpit, slippery dip, climbing net, viewing platform and a maze.

For more information visit Council’s website at or call Customer Service on (02) 4227 7111.


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.


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