Restoring Australia’s trade history

David McBeath and Mike MacBride are Volunteer Restorers at Cockatoo Island, in Sydney. We find out about a steam crane being restored, and restoring a captains boat. They share the history of the area, their experience in engineering, and what they enjoy about restoring these boats.

Dave McBeath started out working on the Cockatoo Island shipyard during the 1970s as a fitter and turner on the Royal Australian Navy's submarine fleet.

Now retired, he and a team of retired tradesmen, engineers and enthusiasts volunteer their spare time to helping the the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust to restore the equipment once used on the island.

Dave is currently working to restore a steam powered crane that was used on the island from the late 19th century on. Fellow volunteer Mike MacBride is helping to restore the captain's launch from the decommissioned Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney.

About Heritage Listing: 

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. Any changes or significant impacts to the site must be approved by the Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Water Resources.

As custodian of Cockatoo Island, the Harbour Trust is conserving significant buildings and structures, adaptively re-using historic buildings and interpreting the island's remarkable history. Cockatoo Island is a diverse site: its harbour location and spectacular views; the surrounding maritime environment; its dramatic landscape features transformed over decades of use; the layers of history found in Cockatoo's complex network of buildings and its gritty, industrial character.

As custodian of Cockatoo Island for the people of Australia, the Harbour Trust is working to protect its significant features so that future generations can experience and enjoy this unique island. The Harbour Trust aims to revitalise Cockatoo Island as an active part of Sydney's cultural life.

Cockatoo Island's connection to Australia's convict past, and its remarkable history make it a significant heritage place. Surviving historic buildings and rare industrial remnants showcase two centuries of changing use as a prison, shipbuilding facility and dockyard.

Cockatoo Island is recognised as being a significant heritage place for the people of NSW and Australia. It tells the story of the country's development from a penal settlement to a maritime industrial nation.

It is important to us because it: 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).

Cockatoo's significance to the people of Australia is recognised by listing of the island on: National Heritage List Commonwealth Heritage List

Cockatoo Island is also being submitted to UNESCO for consideration on the World Heritage List, as part of a nomination of 11 historic convict sites across NSW, Tasmania and Norfolk Island.

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VJ Rodney Meier