Tin City: Take a Stroll to the End of the Earth

Thursday March 15, 2018 Written by Brett Patmann

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Lost Collective is the brainchild of Brett Patman, a visual and written record of the forgotten and neglected built environments that dot the Australian landscape. In this post, Brett walks us through his most recent photos: the eerie ‘Tin City’, just north of Newcastle. 

'Tin City' is a unique collection of 11 self-built shacks, nestled between the dunes and the shoreline of Stockton Beach, New South Wales – a site of significant Indigenous history for the local Worimi people.

Originally, Tin City was a camp made up of a community of homeless men during the Depression. By 1936, 33 families called the place home. Today the shacks remain governed by a 100-year lease, signed in 1920 under longstanding squatter’s settlement rules. They are not owned in a traditional sense, but are privately occupied and passed down to family and friends. Under this agreement, the shacks cannot be sold or rebuilt, but they can be maintained.

The constantly shifting sands, blowing ocean winds and relentless sea spray require the residents to maintain the structures through constant patch-ups; a lot of energy is expended digging half-buried shacks out of the sand to weather another year.

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The fact that the shacks cannot be rebuilt is what gives them such a unique character. In any other scenario, it would make more sense to rebuild the structures altogether. By relying on never-ending stopgaps to keep the shacks standing, the buildings take on a uniquely ramshackle appearance.

The shacks themselves are made of a patchwork of corrugated iron, timber, scrap metal and conveyor belt rubber, with no connection to public utilities. Instead, the shacks rely on, solar panels, wind and diesel generators for electricity. With no road access to the site, the only way to reach the site is by 4WD from the shoreline of Stockton beach or by foot from Bobs Farm over the dunes. It’s a difficult trek, but worth it just to behold these ghostly relics. 

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This article first appeared on Lost Collective. It has been edited for length and tone. Brett will be selling prints of his photos at Finders Keepers in Sydney this May. Head here for more details.

Photography: Brett Patman