The story of Cockatoo Island is composed of two sequential segments: first, its use for 70 years as a prison, followed by its operation for the next 80 years as a naval dockyard. Both segments will be elaborated in this talk.
The Island’s use as a prison began in 1839 when Governor Gipps settled 60 transported convicts onto the Island to quarry grain silos from of its sandstone. Although the nature of the prison changed over the years, it only closed when Long Bay jail was fully opened in 1909.
The Island’s use for shipbuilding began in 1913 when it became the naval dockyard for the newly established Royal Australian Navy. Over 50 naval vessels of all types were built there, including five minesweepers for the Royal Navy and two for the Indian Navy.
Since being decommissioned in 1991, the Island has been successfully transformed by the Sydney Harbour Trust into a major cultural precinct.
Don Napper was educated at Sydney and Cambridge Universities in molecular chemistry. He retired from Sydney University in 2003 as the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Sciences & Technology), where he is now Professor Emeritus. He has worked as a volunteer guide on Cockatoo Island.
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