Slacky Flat’s unemployed village

Humpies like this were dotted around Slacky Flat from the depression years of the 1930s.
Humpies like this were dotted around Slacky Flat from the depression years of the 1930s [Note: This image is not at Bulli].

THE depression years of the 1930s resulted in over 100 adults and children developing a makeshift village on the area now known as Slacky Flat at Bulli.

The village, sometime called ‘Happy Valley’ consisted of shacks made from mainly corrugated iron, springing up where the Bulli trotting track is today.

Owned by the Bulli Colliery at the time, the únemployed were – in the majority – moved-on in the late 1930s and 1940s after a large parcel of the land was sold to Bulli Shire Council for recreation purposes. Despite this, some of the displaced moved into the bushland foothills of the escarpment, just west of the flat. There some of them remained for many years after.

As a boy, I remember there were two or three men still living in corrugated iron shacks or humpies just west of Slacky Flat in the foothills west of Bulli Showground in the late 1960s. I believe the infamous 1968 bushfires finally forced the last of the escarpment swaggies from their humpies.

humpy bulli 1
The remnants of a humpy behind Slacky Flat, Bulli, October 1987. The remains of a bed can be seen amongst the bamboo. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection
humpy bulli 2
Another image showing the remnants of a humpy behind Slacky Flat, Bulli, October 1987. The remains of a water tank can be seen amongst the ruins. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection


Considerable consternation was caused at Slacky Flat, at Bulli, on Monday, when the manager of Bulli Colliery (Mr. Welford) visited the ‘village’ and officially notified all the unemployed campers; together with their wives and families, to vacate the property by 21st instant. The area, embracing 710 acres, is to be submitted to auction by the owners, Bulli Colliery Ltd., on the date stated, in eleven lots varying in area from 14 to 165 acres, and regarded as suitable for farm, orchard and grazing purposes. There are now about 50 shacks on the property, accommodating over 100 adults and children. In some, cases families have had recourse to the vacant land because of difficulty in retaining tenancy in cottages, while others are men without encumbrances All originally established, themselves on the property without authority, the manager always definitely refusing official permission, and now the serious stage is reached where the company find it necessary to try and realize financially on the land. The buildings in which these unemployed are camped certainly are only ‘shacks,’ but it is generally admitted they are kept tidily and cleanliness well observed. The position of the campers, more particularly the women and children, is one for more than ordinary concern, in view of the difficulty facing them in knowing just where to go to again make a ‘home,’ and no doubt public assistance in some form, will be forth, coming.

– Illawarra Mercury Friday 6 September 1935.


There are eight occupied shacks at Slacky Flat, Bulli, constructed
of such material as hessian, white washed, galvanised iron, weatherboard, or a combination of these materials, Mr. E. Way, health officer, reported to Monday’s meeting of the Bulli Shire Council. His report continued: “The families in occupation consist of one of husband and wife and seven children, one of husband and wife and five children, one of husband and wife and two children, two of husband and wife and adult son, one of husband and wife without family, and two men occupying single shacks. With the exception of two pensioners, all the men are in regular work at the mines or steelworks. Three of the families have made application to the Housing Commission to be included in the next housing ballot, and a fourth family have indicated their intention of doing so. They are all willing to move off the area if better accommodation could be found, but if council desires to have the shacks removed, it will be bound to find alternative accommodation for the occupiers. The Slacky Flat area cannot be properly developed and improved until such time as all the shacks have been removed. The report was referred to the Slacky Flat Improvement committee.

– Illawarra Mercury Friday 30 August 1946.

For more on the characters who lived in the escarpment humpies, read the Looking Back story: The escarpment swaggies: ‘Bandy’ Sam, ‘Dumby’ Henderson and ‘Bernard the German’.


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2 thoughts on “Slacky Flat’s unemployed village

  1. Yes i remember meeting with an old swaggie named Bill who lived up the track to old Bulli mine, in the late 60s he was a nice ol fella, we use to bring him tea and sugar, in exchange for bush knowlage.


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