Following a review in the mid-1980s of the RAN’s need for dockyards on the east coast of Australia, the Commonwealth Government decided that the dockyard on Cockatoo Island should be closed when the lease expired at the end of 1992.
Plans to sell the island for redevelopment fortunately came to nothing and, following intensive representations by community groups, particularly the Friends of Cockatoo Island, the site has been saved for the people of Australia. Cockatoo Island is now managed by the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, a self-funding agency created by the Australian Government which is responsible for the planning and management of Sydney Harbour sites including Cockatoo Island and Snapper Island in Sydney Harbour, Woolwich Dock and Parklands in Woolwich, HMAS Platypus in Neutral Bay, Georges Heights, Middle Head and Chowder Bay in Mosman, North Head Sanctuary in Manly, the Marine Biological Station in Watsons Bay and the Macquarie Lighthouse in Vaucluse. The Harbour Trust’s role is to cultivate a long-term vision and plan for these sites to ensure that they are integrated into the life of Sydney and create a lasting legacy for the people of Sydney and Australia.
In 2010, parts of Cockatoo Island were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, along with ten other historic sites which together form the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property. The sites are recognised as collectively representing the best surviving evidence of the large-scale convict transportation and forced labour used to support European colonial expansion. On Cockatoo Island the listing includes, in addition to surviving penal era buildings, the Fitzroy Dock and the Engineering Workshop (Building 138).