Taking no prisoners: Cockatoo Island

Story and photos by VPOPR

Sea spray, rugged shorelines and stunning harbour views all add to the drama as you approach Cockatoo Island only to be entranced by the art installations of Sydney’s 18th Biennale.

This is the third time the World Heritage-listed island, located in the heart of Sydney’s famed waterways, has provided the backdrop to Sydney’s premier arts festival, which is held every two years.

Just 20 minutes by ferry from Circular Quay the island is becoming recognised as a cultural getaway for music and film festivals, campers and of course art lovers. It’s a far cry from its beginnings in 1839 as a penal settlement hand-built by convicts complete with solitary prison cells, hand carved silos, a guardhouse and convict workshops. From 1870-1880 the island became home to wayward and orphaned boys and girls attending industrial and reformatory school until teenage pregnancies became so rife the island returned to shipbuilding and repairs. Its location at the mouth of three waterways made Sydney Harbour’s largest island the ideal spot for maritime activities during its time under New South Wales Governor Sir George Gipps.

Later on, during World Wars I and II, Cockatoo Island’s Fitzroy Dock became home to Australia’s largest shipbuilding yard until it closed in 1992.

Twenty years on the rusting artefacts of these bygone industrial eras are just as captivating as the art works themselves.

18th Biennale of Sydney: all our relations until Sunday September 16
Artistic Directors: Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster


Leave a Reply