Extracts from Cockatoo Island History re-energised.
As the volume of shipping in Port Jackson increased, Governor Gipps proposed to his Imperial masters in London the construction of dry dock and workshops for the repair of Royal Navy and other vessels. Because of this, Cockatoo Island is important to the nation as a pre- and post-Federation shipbuilding complex. It operated for 134 years from 1857-1991. It was Australia's primary shipbuilding facility for much of this time and contributed significantly to Australia's naval and maritime history.
Shipbuilding began on Cockatoo Island in 1870 and by World War I over 150 dredges, cargo ships, barges and tugs had been built. In 1913, Cockatoo Island became the Naval Dockyard of the Royal Australian navy. At its peak during World War I, some 4,000 men were employed on the island to keep up with wartime demands.
During World War II, Cockatoo Island was the nation's leading shipyard in crucial shipbuilding programs and its engineering capacity was second to none. Some 250 ships were converted or repaired at Cockatoo Island during World War II. Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth were converted to troopships by Cockatoo Island workers. HMAS Australia, a veteran of the battle of the Coral Sea, was a regular visitor.
Merchant ships and luxury liners were converted to troop transports, stores and hospital ships. Post-war shipbuilding continued at pace including the daring class destroyers HMAS Voyager and HMAS Vampire. In 1979, the contract was signed for the construction of the last ship to be built on Cockatoo Island, the HMAS Success was launched in 1984 and was the largest naval vessel built in Australia. It can still be seen in Sydney Harbour today.
Other shipyards around the country depended on Cockatoo Island's technical experience. Many young men served their apprenticeship on the island. Thanks to deep skill base of the older tradesmen, and the exposure apprentices were given to every element of the shipbuilding trade, Cockatoo Island was responsible for refitting submarines, an exacting process taking up to two years to complete. HMAS Orion was the last submarine refitted at Cockatoo Island. On completion in 1991, it marked the end of a great dockyard's working life and it's long association with the Navy.
Sydney Harbour federation trust 2014.
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In regard to building submarines in Australia the Government should keep in mind it's not the extra cost of building them here is the problem, but making sure we have a highly skilled manufacturing workforce for the future is and building the submarines here is one way of achieving that. Just reminding the Government that the most important asset of a country is it's skilled people and not a balanced budget!