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Volunteer success stories (blog)

Our volunteers enable us to deliver benefits to the community, including tours and talks, and execute capital works such as restorations to heritage buildings and machinery.

Read up on some of their recent successes, including the ways in which they are helping us preserve and promote the heritage values of our sites.

Oral history volunteers

Our volunteers have interviewed more than 90 people who have lived or worked at Harbour Trust sites and maintain a special connection to that place. Volunteer interviewers have captured stories from former soldiers who served at North Head, Middle Head or Woolwich; former dock workers at Cockatoo Island; even those who spent their childhood on our sites. These stories are being transcribed and kept so these memories will not be lost.

Restoration volunteers

Our Restoration Volunteers at North Head Sanctuary and Cockatoo Island continue to use their lifetime of skills to restore the heritage of these sites. Some of their achievements include:

The restoration at North Fort: The restoration of North Fort at North Head Sanctuary, Manly has been ongoing for several years. Most recently, 18 members of our Volunteer Restoration Team restored the underground engine room, which powered two 9.2 inch guns during World War II. Their work involved repairs to the engines, power distribution board and cooling tanks. In helping us preserve the site’s defence history, these specialist volunteers have also enhanced the guided tour experience for visitors.

The playground at Sub Base Platypus: In May 2018, Sub Base Platypus – an emerging public domain on North Sydney’s waterfront – was opened to the public with the assistance of our Volunteer Restoration Team. To complement a shaded barbeque area and an over-water walkway linking Sub Base Platypus to Kesterton Park, our volunteers constructed a maritime-theme playground. Paying homage to the site’s history as both a submarine base and torpedo factory, the playground features an Oberon Submarine centrepiece as well as periscopes and torpedo-shaped stepping logs corresponding with the phonetic alphabet.

Steam crane restoration at Cockatoo Island: In October 2017, Cockatoo Island’s No. 2 Travelling Steam Crane was restored to its former glory. The project was completed over a three-year period, during which the metal behemoth was dismantled, inspected and repaired. The No. 2 Travelling Steam Crane, and its matching, unrestored twin, are rare examples of early steam powered cranes and are amongst the oldest in Australia. Located at Fitzroy Dock, it played an indispensable role in the operation of the Island’s dry docks, placing props and scaffolding when ships docked for repairs. The crane operated on steam until the late 1980s, before being converted to oil firing. Today, thanks to the Harbour Trust’s Volunteer Restoration Team, the crane has been restored to its former, steam-powered glory.

Volunteer tour guides

Over the past 15 years, volunteers have guided thousands of visitors through unique features including underground tunnels, fortifications, a cemetery and even to the top of a Lighthouse. Without Volunteers giving their time to these unique tours, these amazing places could not be visited by thousands of Sydneysiders and visitors to our city

Volunteer speakers

Volunteer Speakers present to over 1500 people each year at venues around Sydney including Probus clubs, U3A, historical and community groups. As part of our free Community talks, volunteer speakers allow us to spread the word about our amazing sites and how you can visit. The Harbour Trust Volunteer team includes 250 Volunteers across 17 roles so these are just a few Success Stories. 


Helpful links

Learn more about the Harbour Trust and our extraordinary places on Sydney Harbour.