Ceremony to honour steelworks’ history


Newcastle, the steelworks industry and the world has changed drastically over the past two decades.

Despite this, the Newcastle Industrial Heritage Association (NIHA) wants to preserve the important part the ‘Steel City’ played in Australian history for future generations.

This month marks 20 years since BHP closed its Mayfield-based plant.

The NIHA is set to host Open Days at The Muster Point monument on Sunday 29 and Monday 30 September – the day it officially shut down in 1999 – from 10am to 3pm.

The Muster Point memorial sculpture opened two weeks before the plant’s closure.

A cross was built into it to honour those people killed at BHP during its 84-year existence.

Former steelworks general manager Lance Hockridge, the man at the helm when it closed, will attend a cake-cutting ceremony at 11am on Monday.

Members of the public can then tour the state-heritage listed Delprat’s Cottage, originally built in 1914 for Guillaume Deprat to supervise the construction of the Newcastle steelworks.

The NIHA, which has been involved in its restoration for the past three years, aims to include displays and exhibitions at the site.

Association president Bob Cook said BHP steelworks’ existence had a much bigger impact on Australia than many people realised.

“The operation of the steelworks between the two World Wars changed Australia in profound ways,” he said.

“Fortress Newcastle was a title used during the second World War and referred to the fortresses of military installations around Newcastle that were protecting it from an enemy attack.

“The government realised that things happening in Newcastle in the second World War were going to make or break Australia’s capacity to win the war.
“Making munition and all things for the war – bullets, guns and all sorts of machines – was happening here in Newcastle.

“The coal that was being sent out of the port at that time was fuelling all the ships, trains and power stations.

“So, Newcastle was protected because it was so important.

“What we’re saying as a group is [the steelworks] has been important in Australia’s history and future generations shouldn’t forget that that ever happened.”

The ceremony’s assembly point is at Selwyn Street, Mayfield, opposite the old computer centre.

A bus will then be available for those who wish to visit Delprat’s Cottage.

Everyone is welcome to attend the free event.

Email [email protected] or visit niha.org.au for more information.

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