Wollongong City Council is launching the Illawarra Remembers Project this month in the lead up to the 100th anniversary of the first World War.

The project will provide an invaluable resource for future generations, by creating a digital collection of the stories of local men and women who fought in the Great War.

Targeted Services Coordinator and supervisor of Wollongong Library’s Local Services Rosemary Worley, is excited to bring the individual stories to life.

“When you see these diaries and letters; that’s a person. It’s not just this glorious army, it’s made up of individual people.”

Ms Worley believes the project will gain the interest of younger generations because it is a resource that is easy to access, use and share within the community.

“It will alert people to a part of the Illawarra’s history that they don’t know about. That it didn’t just begin and end with steel works: but there are other stories out there. Stories are important, stories about our culture and past are important.”

By choosing to use a digital medium, the Council is also ensuring that important parts of our local history are preserved.

“The idea is that it will link into other collections,” says Ms Worley. “To think that at the click of a button you can have access to all this amazing material is pretty exciting. And that will make sure that it doesn’t die and disappear because this material is fragile.”

University of Wollongong history tutor and PhD student Jennifer Roberts, also believes that the digitalisation of the archives will forge a link across generations.

“This digital archive gives the younger generation a connection with the past that they can relate to… because that photo might have been taken 100 years ago, but you can see what he looked like, you can see the look in his eyes: it means something.”

Roberts, who specialises in the study of Australian war history, feels that this will reinforce the local impact of WWI, while also emphasising it’s cultural relevance as ANZAC day approaches.

“It had a measurable impact on the community. Professional people who could have had a huge impact were dead at the age of 20, 21, 22; they didn’t come home.”

The collection will hold photographs, letters, diaries and oral histories brought forward by members of the community. It is also hoped that the project will inspire locals to investigate their own family history.

“It will encourage more and more people to become interested in, not only the contribution that this area has made, but also understand perhaps a little bit more about their own history,” Roberts mused. “I really hope that it tells the individual stories because that’s what makes history come alive.”

The project will be launched this Monday, April 15 at Wollongong City Council. To attend, RSVP by April 12, on 4227 7414

Words: Alyce Wearne
Pictures: Kathleen Haines
Video: Janai Velez