Discover the stories behind Sydney Harbour's largest island.
Take a guided tour of Cockatoo
The history of Cockatoo Island is emblematic of Australia's history. Before the arrival of Europeans, it was undoubtedly used by the first Australians, the Aboriginal tribes of Sydney's coastal region. In 1839 it was chosen as the site of a new penal establishment by the Governor of the colony of New South Wales, Sir George Gipps.
Convicts were put to work building prison barracks, a military guardhouse and official residences. Not long after, the maritime history of Cockatoo Island began with the construction of the Fitzroy Dock by convicts.
For the next 50 years the island was both a place of incarceration and the site of the colony's ship repair and shipbuilding activities. During the twentieth century maritime activity grew, notably during World War I and World War II. For a time, Cockatoo Island was the largest shipbuilding yard in Australia.
When the shipyard closed in 1992, Cockatoo Island lay dormant for a decade until the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust was established and given the responsibility of revitalising this significant site. The Trust is rehabilitating the island and creating one of the most unusual places to visit in the city.