The South Coast of NSW is credited with being the birthplace of co-operative enterprise in Australia. These early dairy co-operatives took advantage of their collective power to counter the market domination of the commercial vendors based in Sussex Street, Sydney. With the extension of the Illawarra railway and the introduction of mechanical cream separation the scene was set for the unity of dairy farmers through the co-operative initiative. This period would see market power shift back to the farmers who were increasingly coordinating themselves along the co-operative line.
The Illawarra Central Co-operative Dairy [ICCD] factory was an influential co-operative with strong linkages to the extension of the south coast railway line. Formed in 1898 at the Commercial Hotel in Albion Park, the Illawarra central co-operative commenced work on the construction of the factory in the following year on land donated by G. L. Fuller. The factory was designed by C. D. Meares, a leading figure in the development of the early dairy industry in NSW who would later become a government dairy adviser.
In 1903 the factory became the first industry in the region to generate its own electricity. Over time modifications were made to the factory to adhere to stricter hygienic regulations. In 1912 this saw the installation of a Babcock and Wilcox boiler and chimney stack to enable testing of the milk fat standard. The factory was closed in 1985 and all machinery was removed, however the building continued to be used for dairy related purposes having been purchased by the Australian Country Farmers for use as a supplies store. Since the factory's closure in 1985 the site has been administered by Railcorp. In this time the external site fabric has been significantly restored however the internal structure possesses significant interpretive value having been left largely intact.
The former ICCD factory is located on land owned by the State Rail Authority that fronts Creamery Road, Albion Park Rail. The complex is bordered along its western perimeter by the rail line, and on this side of the building the rail siding is still extant. The factory is of local and state significance for its social record of the lives of local farmers and factory staff who rallied together against great hardship over the extended period of its operation. A number of prominent advocates of co-operative enterprise in the early dairy indstry served as chairmen or directors of the factory, including J. Fraser, A. H. Weston, M. J. Hindmarsh and George Couch. The factory also has strong associations with G L Fuller, an early settler of the area, who had offered his land to be the site for the construction of the factory.
For interested persons there are a number of collecting bodies with artefacts and photos associated with the factory over its extended history. The Tongarra Bicentennial Museum has in its collection a pair of Avery platform scales used at the factory, as well as a butter roller and wrapper of the "Warilla" brand of butter that was manufactured at the factory after c.1956. In addition to these items, a number of historical photographs may be accessed through the Wollongong Library's local studies collection. These images are electronically available through their website, [http://mylibrary.wollongong.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/spydus.exe/MSGTRN/PIC/BSEARCH].
Want to know more?
An introduction to the Company is available on the companion wikispace, by following this link. In this resource, one may discover the related records to objects related to the factory in the collection of regional museums in New South Wales and also a link to information about the company's building in Albion Park, New South Wales.
An interview with John Charlton Graham, Manager of the Illawarra Central Cooperative Dairy Co. Ltd is available by following this link.
Also on the site is an interview with Michael John Hindmarsh, a dairy farmer from Ivy Mount, Gerringong who was a supplier to the ICCD factory. Follow this link.
Image Credit: The image depicts the processing of butter at the ICCD factory in 1950. The individual on the right is Kevin Raftery and to his left is Brian Walsh. The author of the photograph is unknown, and it is available online through the above link.
The first image was taken by Carly Todhunter on 11/12/2009.