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Our Story

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The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust (Harbour Trust) brings to life the natural and cultural heritage of the unique places under our protection.

We strive to ensure a lasting legacy for all Australians, amplifying the rich stories of our lands through their conservation, remediation and adaptive reuse.

Our lands are places of enduring significance for First Nations Peoples. They also feature remnants from Australia’s colonial past, including the nation’s first coastal defence fortifications, and are home to rare and endangered native flora and fauna. Owing to their living history, many have State, National and World Heritage status.



The Harbour Trust was established by the Federal Government in 2001, following campaigning by the Defenders of Sydney Harbour Foreshores to ensure iconic places on Sydney Harbour remained public lands. The mandate given was to revitalise these former Defence and other Commonwealth lands, to ensure our great Harbour-side public spaces would be open and accessible to all Australians, the environment and heritage values protected and their rich stories revealed. Today, we work together with the community to protect and manage a network of unique places, including Cockatoo Island (Sydney Harbour), North Head Sanctuary (Manly), Sub Base Platypus (North Sydney) and the precincts that makeup Headland Park, Mosman – Georges Heights, Middle Head and Chowder Bay.


Harbour History

Discover why our network of historic sites has enduring significance for First Nations People and learn how they fit into the nation’s convict, colonial and defence narrative. Plus, check out DigiTales (NEW) – a series of entertaining articles, acquainting you with famous and obscure historical figures synonymous with our sites.

Image credit: Image credit: 'Cockatoo Island from Balmain, near the coal mine' (watercolour, 1864) by Charlotte McNeilly, State Library of NSW (Call No. V1/Har/Coc I/1).


Cockatoo Island Painting By Mcneilly 1864 650X550

Heritage Environments

Our protected places are rich in natural and cultural heritage. They contain delicate ecosystems comprised of rare and endangered native flora and fauna and some carry Commonwealth, National and World Heritage listings. We undertake works to protect our precious natural and built environments and ensure they are safe and enjoyable for the public.


Welcome Everyone

As the caretaker of culturally and historically significant places, we have a duty to share their unique stories with all Australians, make them easily accessible and promote them as sources of exploration and discovery.


Building partnerships

To ensure our sites occupy a central place in Sydney’s cultural landscape, we partner with organisations to deliver experiences that will captivate diverse audiences.

Building partnerships (Overview)

In addition to partnering with organisations, we work closely with special interest groups to deliver substantial benefits to the community and ensure the natural and heritage values of our sites are protected. Ultimately, nurturing meaningful partnerships helps us amplify the stories of our sites, ensuring we leave a lasting legacy for all Australians.

Partnership spotlight – Google Arts & Culture

The Harbour Trust has partnered with Google Arts & Culture to present our extraordinary places on Sydney Harbour to a wide audience and promote them as sources of discovery. We are proud to join the growing community of cultural institutions with a presence on Google Arts & Culture, an online platform making the cultures of the world accessible to anyone, anywhere.  


The Harbour Trust carries a significant responsibility and opportunity to assist in the national process of Reconciliation. Our agency was created to manage what is arguably the location of first continuous contact between Aboriginal peoples and non-Indigenous Australians: Sydney Harbour and its foreshores.