Cockatoo Island has been many things to many people. Its Dharug name, as it was known for centuries, is Wareamah, meaning “women’s land”, but since European settlement, it has been used as a prison, a grain silo, a dockland, a reformatory school and military college, and most recently, a tourist attraction, campground and, during the Sydney Biennale, an exhibition space. With such a rich and significant history, it’s unsurprising that the island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but now it’s not just Cockatoo’s past that Sydneysiders can marvel at – there’s an exciting future to look forward to as well.
The Harbour Trust has unveiled bold plans to transform Cockatoo Island, starting with its name. Greater efforts will be made to ensure it is known by its First Nations title, Wareamah, and dual-language signage is to be installed across the site wherever possible. There will also be a welcome to country played for people arriving on the island, sharing the traditional lore and history of this Gadigal land. The eastern edge of the island will be restored to its pre-colonial state. The Wareamah Tidal Terrace will follow the original foreshore as it existed before its industrial development, with native plants reintroduced, and boardwalks and pathways added allowing visitors to explore this new inner-city green space. There are also plans for a large Eora garden, that will grow produce for use in the island’s restaurants.
Photograph: Supplied/Harbour Trust | The new creative precinct on Wareamah/Cockatoo Island
In recent years, the island has become a major cultural destination, particularly for contemporary art. This connection with Sydney’s arts community will be cemented by the establishment of a new creative precinct, upgrading the former industrial buildings that have been repurposed as gallery spaces, as well as the construction of additional performance and exhibition facilities and outdoor stages. This will allow for a far more dynamic range of arts events to take place here and also allow for housing of permanent artworks and collections on the island.
These upgrades are expected to draw a significant increase in visitors, so the proposal also includes playground facilities, new accommodation options including upgrades to the existing glamping grounds, more eateries and bars and new retail spaces, as well as an education and outreach centre. Sydneysiders can have their say on the final designs by visiting the Harbour Trust website. The public consultation phase of the development process closes on June 11.