The city of Wollongong. Photo: Paul Jones

Celebrating 50 years since Wollongong gazetted as a city

Celebrating 50 years since Wollongong gazetted as a city

UOW and Wollongong City Council put spotlight on city’s transformation

This week marks 50 years since the City of Greater Wollongong was gazetted as ‘The City of Wollongong’.

The anniversary, which falls on Friday 30 October, celebrates what was the first step towards Wollongong’s rapid transformation into “The City of Innovation” over the next half century.

To recognise this milestone, the University of Wollongong (UOW) and Wollongong City Council (WCC) are highlighting how these two organisations have contributed to fostering a spirit of innovation and resilience in the city.

For a city built on steel and mining, Wollongong has over the past five decades transformed into a place of research and education, while still being a leader in Australia’s manufacturing sector.

WCC and UOW have been working together to drive economic growth and diversify the region’s economy, while creating a sense of pride in the city and its identity.

At the heart of this has been a greater focus on health care and accommodating an ageing population; advanced manufacturing; breakthroughs in innovative and smart materials; state-of-the-art medical research; energy solutions; and a move towards creating a smart city by using the Internet of Things.

Wollongong's successful reinvention

UOW Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings CBE, says Wollongong’s successful reinvention and revival reflects the traits of ‘rust belt’ cities that have become ‘brain belts’ in Europe and the United States.

“These emerging hotspots of global innovation have a research-intensive university at their core,” Professor Wellings said.

“In Wollongong, transition and jobs growth over recent years has been assisted by university research in economically and socially relevant fields, such as intelligent materials, super-conductors, future building design and construction and health service delivery and policy.”

Professor Wellings said UOW’s Innovation Campus was an example of how the University was working with local, state and federal government to transform the city of Wollongong. The award-winning research, innovation and commercial precinct is a nexus in strengthening business, education and research ties locally and globally.

“Innovation Campus is a major NSW precinct and a key asset for Wollongong’s prosperity into the future,” he said.

“It is home to unique start-ups and business incubators, ground-breaking research centres, and multinational and national companies. Innovation Campus also offers premium office space that will help the city to adjust to the future needs of its working population, by enabling employees across a range of industries to stay connected to their workplace, no matter where it is based.”

Reflecting on the past, looking to the future

In an advertorial feature published in the Illawarra Mercury to mark the anniversary, Professor Wellings and Wollongong Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery reflect on the role the University has played in helping the city pivot away from traditional manufacturing and towards the industries that will help the city prosper for generations to come.

“Our Invest Wollongong partnership is accelerating innovation, which results in the creation of new jobs and new industries, along with improving the productivity of existing industries,” Professor Wellings said.

In interviews with ABC Illawarra this week, UOW academics have looked back on the history of Wollongong and forward to how the city can address future challenges.

Professor Wellings said he was incredibly proud of the role the University has played in helping the city to transform over the past half century, and said while the COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges for all industries, the city had a bright and exciting future.

“2020 has been a difficult year across many fronts, but Wollongong is a resilient community, and we’ll come out the other side stronger,” he said.

“Opportunities will continue to arise from research in areas including advanced manufacturing, energy, health and ageing, and smart cities technology. The University will continue to support the local community and looks forward to help shaping Wollongong over the next 50 years.”

The advertising feature in the Illawarra Mercury was made possible by the philanthropy of the McKinnon Walker Trust.

About the McKinnon Walker Trust

In 2016, former UOW Vice-Chancellor Emeritus Professor Ken McKinnon AO and Suzanne Walker, a UOW alumna, gifted $1.3 million to UOW for a fund that supports the “green shoots” of new ideas and fosters a culture of innovation. Philanthropy is and always has been the backbone of UOW.

The University was founded on donations from local residents and a Lord Mayoral Appeal. UOW is deeply grateful to its donors. Their support has made a significant impact on the University, and in turn its capacity to impact positively on society.