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Celebrating 10 years: Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property

Ten years ago, today, the Cockatoo Island Convict Site (1839-69) was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List with 10 other heritage sites.

Collectively known as the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property, these sites offer insights into the conditions endured by convicts who were exiled to Australia and put to work on the colony’s ambitious building projects.

An outstanding example...

There are more than 3000 convict sites nationwide; however, the Australian Convict Site World Heritage Property features outstanding examples of remnant convict structures.

These include Cockatoo Island’s Fitzroy Dock – the only surviving example, nationally, of a dry dock constructed by convicts. It was completed over a ten year period (1847 to 1857) under the direction of Gother Kerr Mann, the island’s Engineer in Chief and, later, superintendent of the penal establishment.

Other convict era landmarks at Cockatoo Island include the Guardhouse, Mess Hall, Solitary Confinement Cells and Biloela House, constructed from sandstone quarried by the island’s prisoners.

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Fitzroy Dock is the only surviving example, nationally, of a dry dock constructed by convicts.

Fitzroy Dock, Cockatoo Island, NSW c.1888, At Work and Play - 04392, State Library of New South Wales
Heritage conservation...

In 2001, the Harbour Trust was granted the privilege of stewardship over Cockatoo Island. Since then, we have delivered heritage conservation works and public programs to reveal and amplify the island’s convict history and firmly weave this breathtaking site into Sydney’s rich cultural fabric.

In addition to being part of the Australian Convict Site World Heritage Property, Cockatoo Island has also been inscribed on the National Heritage List since August 2007, and parts of the island are inscribed on the Commonwealth Heritage List.

The other sites...

Earlier this year, the Australian Convict Sites Steering Committee unveiled a video (below) showcasing the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property, which includes Cockatoo Island's Convict Site.

The property also includes Kingston and Arthur’s Vale Historic Area (Norfolk Island), Old Government House and Domain (Parramatta Park NSW), Hyde Park Barracks (Sydney NSW), Brickendon-Woolmers Estates (Longford Tasmania), Darlington Probation Station (Maria Island National Park, Tasmania), Old Great North Road (Wiseman’s Ferry NSW), Cascades Female Factory (Mount Wellington, Tasmania), Port Arthur Historic Site (Port Arthur, Tasmania), Coal Mines Historic Site (Norfolk Bay, Tasmania) and Freemantle Prison (Fremantle, Western Australia).

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The Harbour Trust has delivered works and programs to reveal and amplify the island’s convict history.

Helpful links

Learn more about the Australian Convict Site World Heritage Property and delve deeper into Cockatoo island’s convict history...