The Gallery boasts one of the most significant holdings of Colonial and Early Australian art in Australia, focusing on the Illawarra and New South Wales South Coast art.  Several gifts and bequests have greatly enhanced this area of collection.

The Sredersas Gift, donated to the city by steel worker Bob Sredersas in 1976, includes a collection of English porcelain and miniatures, 15 oceanic artefacts and 87 paintings, including works by Julian Ashton, William Ashton, AME Bale, Rupert Bunny, Nicholas Chevalier, Grace Cossington Smith, JH Carse, Anthony Datilo-Rubbo, Frederick Leist, Samuel Elyard, AH Fullwood, Erik Langker, Arthur Streeton, John Peter Bell, Margaret Preston, Charles Bloomfield, Sydney Long, Mary Edwards, Arthur Murch, Margaret Olley, William Young, and Ernest Buckmaster.

In 1992, the Sredersas Gift was complemented by the receipt of another major bequest consisting of a collection of 60 paintings, again mostly Australian landscapes, and a substantial endowment fund to enable the collection to be further developed. The George and Nerissa Johnson Memorial Bequest has funded the acquisition of over 100 works of the Illawarra and the South Coast spanning over a century of visits to these regions by significant artists including Eugene Von Guerard, Conrad Martens, Tom Roberts, Adelaide Perry and Grace Cossington-Smith.