André Brett wins Wollongong Local History Prize

Dr André Brett has won the 2020 Wollongong Local History Prize from a field of 16 papers on diverse topics about the history of Wollongong and its region. He received the award from Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery AM at a ceremony at Wollongong Library on 19 November.

His paper was titled ‘”The whistle blows, and we are whisked into a tunnel”: Railways and the environment in Illawarra, 1870s–1915″. It shows not only how railways caused large change to the landscapes through which they ran or how access to rail transport altered the use of local environmental resources, but also how residents and visitors to Wollongong and Illawarra experienced this new environment. Trains, for example, changed the local soundscape; the loud whistles of locomotives provoked complaints from some while providing a convenient marker of the passage of time for others. Meanwhile, the original Otford Tunnel became notorious as a hot, smoke-choked menace that inspired dread in passengers and crew alike.

At the award ceremony, Dr Brett spoke about how he wrote this paper to give something back to the community he has called home for three years. Rarely known for being lost for words, he had no expectation of winning the prize, having prepared his essay simply to contribute some useful information from his research to the library’s collection. His paper has now been added to the Wollongong Library’s local studies collection, alongside the other 15 entrants, all of which can be ordered by the public.