Digging through rubble on their Port Kembla block of land about two weeks ago, Romeo Ornelas and his father-in-law Wayne Marland struck metal.
Wedged between broken roof tiles and brick pillars that remain at the site of their new home, the two men unearthed a blackened World War I medal - a 1914-15 Star.
Tiny letters on the back spelt out the name "AJ Robinson".
"My father-in-law was digging and as we combed back all the rubbish he saw something buried, not really that deep," Mr Ornelas said.
"We couldn't get home and get on the internet quick enough to see if we could track down whose medal it was.
"We are actually about to bulldoze everything on the block to start building so it's pretty lucky we found it."
Using records from the Australian War Memorial and National Archives, Mr Ornelas and his family have pieced together details of the Anzac Cove tragedy of Wollongong digger Arthur John Robinson.
Born in Wollongong in 1895, the 20-year-old farmer signed up to go to war from Bangalow on the NSW North Coast because that is where his parents lived.
He was in the 15th Battalion and travelled to Gallipoli, landing late in the afternoon of April 25, 1915.
He died on May 9 at Quinn's Post, the most advanced post on the Anzac line.
"We found out that he didn't survive long, only about two weeks," Mr Ornelas said.
"But we researched his battalion and they ended up going to the western front and just being obliterated.
"Even if he was lucky enough to survive Anzac Cove he probably would have been killed later."
Accounts in the National Archives describe Private Robinson's death, saying it occurred in the trenches as Turkish soldiers stormed the Anzac line.
"He was in our tent and I was with him right along ... we were being infiltrated on both flanks ..." a Canadian soldier, Sgt Harden, wrote in a telegram.
"He was hit in the face by a bullet which pierced right through his head.
"The Turks were after us but I had to leave him lying on his back in the trench."
Mr Ornelas said other records show Pte Robinson's parents, Margaret and Arthur Robinson, moved back to a house on Keira Street in Wollongong after his death.
The Ornelas family now hope to return the long-lost medal to any living relatives of Pte Robinson they can track down.
"Our intention is to give it back to someone from the family," Mr Ornelas said.
"It might be one of his sisters' children or grandchildren, I don't know, but maybe they would like to wear it on Anzac Day next year, because it's a part of our history.
"It means a lot to find something like this, because of what it represents in terms of Australia.
"We have to remember those people who have fought and sacrificed so much."
How the medal came to be buried in Port Kembla was a mystery.
"Maybe one of his family members was wearing it one Anzac Day one year and it slipped down a crack," Mr Ornelas said.
"We have owned this block for about 10 years, so who really knows how long it's been buried, it could have been lost for years."