May 5, 2021 | By Bronwen Largier

Sydney Harbour Federation Trust has released its draft concept vision for the World Heritage-listed Cockatoo Island, setting out a potential way forward for the largest of the islands in the Harbour, also a current event venue catering to major and smaller events.

Community consultation in 2019 showed that there was a desire for the island to deliver “more diverse experiences for more diverse audiences” and to recognise its historical and continuing importance for First Nations people as a sacred women’s place.

“With two of the world’s most recognised icons of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House across the water, there is an opportunity for Cockatoo Island to play a larger part in the Harbour’s role in Sydney’s position on the global stage,” writes Chair of the Trust, Joseph Carrozzi in the introduction to the draft vision, which is intended to guide the development of the island over the next decade.

“The vast nature of the island and the many precincts means that it is likely to be delivered in several stages over the coming decade. Each stage must necessarily add to the story and draw more visitors to support the overall achievement of the island’s potential.”

“We also recognise that access and awareness of the Island are crucial elements to activation. In particular, we recognise the need to work closely with the New South Wales government to ensure transport links and access to the Island match growing visitor levels, as well as tourism and event links to increase visibility of this unique site.”

Carrozzi also indicates the vision will require support from governments, the corporate sector and benefactors in order to be realised.

The draft document specifically flags new opportunities for the island as a multipurpose event space in a new Creative Precinct, including for major events, concerts, conferences and large-scale exhibitions – many of which already take place on the island, there’s a poignant and nostalgic message still on the Cockatoo Island website advising that the island’s event venues are fully booked for the first half of 2020. The vision also suggests further opportunities for permanent event infrastructure such as auditoriums fitted out with lighting and acoustic specifications, professional kitchen and catering facilities, a green room and box office. The opportunity to develop the event spaces to better cater to the hosting of multiple events at a time is also flagged in the vision.

The document also highlights the value of events for boosting the profile, reputation and word-of-mouth endorsement of Cockatoo Island.

In the Fitzroy Dock area of the island, additional accommodation has been suggested as an opportunity to enable small conferences, corporate retreats and special events to operate over multiple days. The area has also been flagged for its potential to host an exhibition pavilion, alongside dining and bar options, which have also been recommended for other parts of the island.

On the island’s North Apron, the Powerhouse has also been earmarked for its events possibilities.

An important First Nations site, Cockatoo Island was also a penal facility during the convict era, and later a major centre for maritime activities, until 1991. It opened to the public in 2007.

The vision is currently open for community consultation and feedback until June 11. You can view the draft concept vision here.