By MIKA ROSS-SOUTHALL
On holiday in Australia recently, one of the most bizarre places I came across was Cockatoo Island. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site in the middle of Sydney Harbour and, until Sunday, the host of Sydney’s twentieth art biennale. Before all this, though, it has had an extraordinary past.
Named after its sulphur-crested inhabitants, Cockatoo Island has, since 1839, been a prison for particularly bad convicts; an Industrial School for Girls, which took over the same prison buildings (you can still see crumbling-brick cells, ceramic sinks, faded tiles and childlike scribbles on the walls – imagine what it must have been like for those school children); and a ship-building yard, at its peak during the Second World War. The island then lay dormant for a decade in the 1990s, underwent restoration from 2001, and was opened to the public in 2007. There are camping areas now, too. (I’m not quite sold on that idea.)