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Celebrating 100 Years of Steel in Newcastle

(originally published 17 June 2015)

In June 2015, it was 100 years since the Newcastle BHP Steelworks officially began steel production on reclaimed swamplands at Port Waratah. While the Steelworks closed in 1999, Liberty OneSteel remains a significant employer in the region, producing a range of products that meet the needs of today’s construction, mining and agricultural industries. 

It’s thought that around 50,000 men and women have worked at the Steelworks during its 84 years of iron and steelmaking, providing steel initially for the war effort, and the rapidly expanding national railways. In the late 1920s, the Steelworks received an order for 10,500 tonnes of steel for a new crossing that came to be known as the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Today, our businesses employ more than 1500 people in Newcastle.

The Liberty OneSteel Newcastle Rod Mill became part of Liberty OneSteel in 2000 and continues to produce a range of steel rod products from steel billets that are delivered from Whyalla, South Australia and the Sydney Steel Mill. The finished product is further processed into products such as wire, springs, nuts, bolts, reinforcing and various other products by downstream GFG Alliance businesses and customers across Australia.

Working in the steel industry in Newcastle today has some similarities but many differences to the traditional steelworker’s role. Many people are employed with specialist skills such as engineers and trades, and the industry continues its long tradition of growing young talent through the employment of apprentices, cadets and graduates. While the closure of iron and steel making at the Steelworks and the ongoing reshaping of local steel manufacturing has delivered a very different looking steel industry from that of decades past, the region continues to support a strong and passionate industry that is very much a part of Newcastle’s future.

Whyalla Steelworks Celebrates 50 Years 

More than 1000 past and present employees and their families turned out on a cool weekend in May 2015 to celebrate the golden jubilee of the Liberty OneSteel Whyalla Steelworks. 

Highlights included Sunrise weather presenter and former local, Edwina Bartholomew, officially opening the day; five hours of non-stop stage entertainment, family friendly activities and historical displays. The milestone was also valued by the wider GFG Alliance company, with former Chief Executive Steve Hamer in attendance to thank employees for their hard work and dedication over many decades.

General Manager of Whyalla Steelworks Theuns Victor said it was great to see so many past and present employees catching up with old friends and enjoying themselves.

“It was a fantastic event and we’ve received a lot of positive feedback from those who attended,” he said.

“We believe it’s the least we could do given these employees – and their families – have been paramount in our success and longevity over the past 50 years.”