Harbour Trust Ranger

Peter Murphy is a rangers on Sydney Harbour Federation Trust site, Cockatoo Island. He shares what's involved in his job in monitoring safety aspects of the island and a bit of the history of the island.

"We're the eyes and ears of the Trust, the primary aim of this role is to regularly monitor and report on the status and condition of infrastructure and the natural features of Sydney Harbour." Peter (39) has been a Harbour Trust Island Ranger for 11 months.

He particularly enjoys the contact he has with the general public, being in the outdoors and looking after the public safety issues on the island. Peter has worked in security and hospitality in the past and he says both skills sets come in handy in his current job.

Peter is interested in the changing function of the island overtime from a convict prison, to a navy ship building yard and now a tourist destination with camping grounds and art exhibitions.

On the job Peter walks the length of the island tending to public safety hazards before they turn into public liability issues. Peter makes sure everything is presentable and in order for the visitors that come to the island seven days a week.

About Rangers:

Harbour Trust Rangers must have a first aid certificate. Security experience is also good. It is a role which requires flexibility and multi-tasking, a good level of fitness, a lot of walking up to 10km day up hill and around tracks, fitness is a criteria and high standard of communication.

Rangers use their interpersonal skills to deal with public, skills in negotiation and conflict resolutions, public relations, admin skills- computing to undertake required admin duties, fill out daily report of things that occurred on site and hazard reporting eg. spills and accident reporting.

About Cockatoo Island:

Cockatoo Island is Australia's most unusual urban park - a heritage-listed island in the middle of beautiful Sydney Harbour. It lies at the junction of the Parramatta and Lane Cove Rivers, Moocooboola. Cockatoo Island is the largest island in Sydney Harbour.

It is a former imperial prison, industrial school, reformatory and goal. It is also the site of one of Australia's biggest shipyards during the twentieth century. The first of its two dry docks was built by convicts and was completed in 1857. The island's maritime industrial activity ceased in 1992.

Today Cockatoo Island retains many remnants of its past. Its prison buildings have been nominated for World Heritage listing and the large workshops, slipways, wharves, residences and other buildings retain the feeling of the island's industrial past.

The history of Cockatoo Island is emblematic of Australia's history. Before the arrival of Europeans, it was used by the Aboriginal tribes that belonged to the Sydney coastal region. In 1839 it was chosen as the site of a new penal establishment by the Governor of the colony of New South Wales, Sir George Gipps.

Convicts were put to work building prison barracks, a military guardhouse and official residences. Not long after, the maritime history of Cockatoo Island began with the construction of the Fitzroy Dock by convicts. For the next 50 years the island was both a place of incarceration and the site of the colony's ship repair and shipbuilding activities. During the twentieth century maritime activity grew, notably during World War I and World War II.

For a time, Cockatoo Island was the largest shipbuilding yard in Australia. When the shipyard closed in 1992, Cockatoo Island lay dormant for a decade until the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust was established and given the responsibility of revitalising this significant site. The Trust is rehabilitating the island and creating one of the most unusual places to visit in the city.

Time line- operated as a convict goal (1839 -1869) became a reformatory and industrial school for girls, a recreation area for boys from the training ships, Vernon and Sobraon, and then reverted to a goal again (1888-1908) developed as a dock and shipbuilding yard (1847 -1992)

Currently the island workshops are housing Sydney Biennale artworks.

It is also a new campsite, which is totally unique for its waterfront location and proximity to the city as well as the historical points of interest.

Listing on the National Heritage List and the Commonwealth Heritage List means that Cockatoo Island will be cared for and managed so that future generations will be able to experience and understand this special place.

Sydney Harbour Trust is a commonwealth agency, Department of Environment Water Heritage and the Arts- Federal government department. Any changes or significant impacts to the site must be approved by the Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Water Resources.

A Rangers job on the island is different to a National Park Ranger, they are caretakers who have an important role in looking after the public visitors, the historical infrastructure and general duties on the island. The rangers working on Cockatoo Island usually have security industry, military and police force backgrounds.

There are no specific tertiary qualification pre-requisites to become a ranger. Although you must have finished year 12, you must have first aid training, safety awareness, good communication skills and they must be very fit and healthy.

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VJ Rodney Meier

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