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The harbour fronted town of Ulladulla on the south coast of New South Wales was originally the land of the Dhurga, Walbanja and Wadandian Aboriginal people who were noted by Captain Cook during his exploration of the south coast in 1770. Settlement in the Ulladulla region began in the 1820s when the cedar forests of the nearby inland town of Milton saw Rev Thomas Kendall move to the area, beginning a timber getting industry in Milton. Taking its name from a local Aboriginal word meaning 'safe harbour', Ulladulla was soon being utilised as a trading port for the timber and farming industries of the surrounding districts and by the 1840s an Inn and Post Office had been established in the town.
With a reliable supply of timber, the 1840s also saw Ulladulla harbour used for ship building, and this construction of schooners and brigantines using local wood would continue for the following 20 years. Despite the fact Ulladulla harbour had been a working port since the 1820s, very few improvements had been made on the harbour itself and a wooden jetty which was built in the late 1850s would be replaced by a long stone pier when Ulladulla was finally surveyed for a harbour in 1868.
Although one of the safest harbours along what was otherwise a notoriously treacherous piece of the New South Wales coastline, a number of minor shipwrecks at Ulladulla saw the construction of a lighthouse as part of the Ulladulla harbour upgrades. Originally built at the end of the pier in 1873, the lighthouse would be moved to nearby Warden Head in 1889 where it stands today, and its light continues to provide safety for the harbour, allowing for the pier to be used at night.
With fisherman amongst the first settlers in Ulladulla, the fishing industry has a long history in the region. An influx of European migrants settling in Ulladulla in the decades following the World Wars would be instrumental in growing the local fishing community and in 1956 those fisherman who operated trawlers from Ulladulla harbour would form the Ulladulla Fisherman Co-operative. The Italian fishing families would stage the first 'Blessing of the Fleet' the same year, and the event which was watched by 2500 local residents began a tradition which has continued into today with Ulladulla's annual Blessing of the Fleet Festival. With the largest fishing fleet in New South Wales operating out of Ulladulla Harbour today, the fishing industry continues to provide the town with a sustainable economic backbone.