Cockatoo, the island dockyard: island labour and protest culture

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Publication details

Milner, L 2015, 'Cockatoo, the island dockyard: island labour and protest culture', Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 19-37.

Article available on Open Access

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The Cockatoo Island dockyard, off the shores of Balmain in Sydney Harbour, was the largest and most important shipbuilding and repair site in Australia for many decades. It has also been the nation’s most convoluted and industrially complex and disputatious site. The nature of the island and its dockyard workforce from 1850 until its closure in 1992 made for unique industrial and social outcomes, and affected how people were organised, and how they shaped the physical and cultural spaces of Cockatoo Island. Cockatoo Island constituted a geographically concentrated force of power. This article interrogates the cultural and industrial constitution of the Cockatoo Island workforce through its industrial life in the mid-twentieth century. Employing the perspectives of labour geography with its emphasis on space and place, and an emphasis on worker agency, it discusses the importance of a spatially, locally and globally constituted island workforce to the nature of Cockatoo Island’s working culture. It argues that interrogating the concept of place is vital to understanding the industrial history of the island-dockyard.

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