Today, Shipyard Stories, a new exhibition about the life and times of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard officially opened at Biloela House on Cockatoo Island.

“The new exhibition is an important addition to Sydney’s social history and cultural life,” said Senator Simon Birmingham, Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment.

“This initiative by the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust has brought Cockatoo Island’s rich maritime heritage to life in a very personal way by sharing the stories of the people who used to work there.

As part of the exhibition’s preparation, the Harbour Trust invited former dockyard workers to contribute their photos, memorabilia and stories about working on the island. Former-workers also assisted the exhibition’s curators in telling the stories of what was once Australia’s most significant shipbuilding dockyard.

“Although the dockyard closed over 20 years ago, Shipyard Stories is an exhibition of living history as many people still have strong and lasting connections to Cockatoo Island. It is a tribute to the island’s hard-working men and women and the large and thriving shipyard they once worked in.

“These rarely-seen images portray the rich diversity of the Cockatoo Island dockyard’s working life. Some photos capture the drama and spectacle of those major ship launches when the public flocked to the island. Other images document the tough, demanding work of shipbuilding and ship repair.

“However, Cockatoo Island was never just a ‘clock-on, clock-off’ place of work. The exhibition also celebrates the mateship and camaraderie of this island community, and the fact that it was one of Australia’s most important training grounds for apprentices in the industrial trades. 

“Along with the recently-opened convict solitary confinement cells, Shipyard Stories is another important example of how the island’s rich history is being told for the benefit of the public, and gives locals and tourists alike yet another compelling reason to visit this unique, historic island in the middle of Sydney’s beautiful harbour.” said Senator Birmingham.

The Shipyard Stories exhibition runs from 1 September to 31 December 2014 and entry is free.

Shipyard Stories is supported through funding from the Australian Government’s Your Community Heritage Program.