Named for the towering fig free that once stood on the eastern side of the Princes Highway at the O’Brien’s Road intersection, travellers were directed to ‘turn at the giant fig tree’. In 1861 the Figtree Bridge was built by Moore and Vaughan. Sadly the tree that used to tell people they had arrived at Figtree had to be cut down in 1996 although a portion of its trunk remains. In 1998 Figtree Park was upgraded and features a 3m aboriginal mosaic. This was a community project and the name of the park has since been renamed ‘Moreton Bay Figtree Park’. During the 1998 Wollongong floods, Figtree was hard hit with flood waters passing through the shopping centre and many residents from the caravan park having to be rescued by the SES.
Of historical interest is the Figtree Inn, still standing at the site of the turnoff to O’Brien’s Road. A small weatherboard building, it dates back to 1867. In the 1802 the main industry in the area was farming. On November 25, 1903 Figtree Park was opened. Figtree Public School was founded in 1956, followed by Figtree High School in 1969, Figtree Heights Public School in 1972 and Nareena Hills Public School in the foothills of Mount Nebo in 1977
Located in the Local Government area of Wollongong on an area of approximately 8.4 sq km, the nearby suburbs include Cordeaux Heights, Mount Kembla and Unanderra. In 2006 10,318 people resided in Figtree with the largest age group being people between 50 and 59 years old. The largest sector of the population are employed full time and in general they are professionals with most travelling to work by care. Of the approximately 3,608 residential dwelling, 83% are houses of which 48.2% are fully owned, 34% being purchased and of all properties, 85% are owner occupied. 81% of the population is reported as married couples with no children.
There are 31 parks, an oval, a dog park, 3 child care centres, 3 primary schools and a high school. There are 4 churches of varying denomination, a club, hospital, post office, public swimming pool and a large shopping centre, Westfield Figtree. Opened in 1965 this two storey shopping centre includes Woolworths, Coles and Kmart. Extensively expanded in 2009, another 15 specialty stores were added including a mini-department store, The Reject Shop. It is now one of the largest shopping centres in the region and now ranks in the top 5. Next door to the centre is a park with sporting facilities, a baby health centre and a small sculpture garden. Nearby is a small commercial district and an area of food stores further north on the highway near the freeway entrance. There is also a chicken shop, bottle shop and video rental store on the east side of the highway at the O’Brien’s Road junction. A smaller residential area is Figtree Heights, a neighbourhood slightly raised above the general level of Figtree. Just south is Cobbler’s Hill where houses have also been built.
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