Go to top of page

Executive Director's Summary

I am pleased to present the Harbour Trust’s 2019-20 Annual Report.

This year, our nation faced far reaching unprecedented challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic, following terrible bushfires and extreme weather conditions. These events have changed us all.

I am proud of the work of the Harbour Trust in responding with agility, imagination and compassion to the significant challenges of this year. Guided always by our values, we have ensured during this difficult time that we have focused on providing support and opportunities to our community.

Through the COVID-19 restrictions, we have ensured that our parklands remained safe and open, places of recovery and repose during the early days of the COVID-19 restrictions. We moved our education and public programs online, launching DigiTalks — a series of live webinars and DigiTales — a series of historic stories, for a broader community to connect with each other and learn more about our sites.

As an entity that relies upon revenue from our tenants, holiday accommodation, events and programming to sustain our operations, the introduction of restrictions to keep our community safe had a significant impact across our organisation.

With the support of the Australian Government, the Harbour Trust was able to provide support to our commercial, not for profit and residential tenants most significantly impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions. In addition, we were able to provide some new support for social service providers to assist women and families.

We continue to monitor the situation very closely recognising that changes in our public health environment will have ongoing impacts across our work.

We expect that in the coming year there will be softness in the rental market which will impact our vacancy rate and rental levels, food and beverage business and function centres will continue to face challenges, and our revenue from own source activity will be lower than usual. With this outlook, the Harbour Trust, has instituted various savings strategies to respond to these circumstances.

The Harbour Trust has taken tangible steps in our journey to reconciliation through the implementation of our first Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). We will continue to build on this work as we move into our second RAP.

Capital and restoration work continued across our sites in 2019-20. Stage 1B Platypus was completed and opened to the public including the introduction of new way finding and interpretation panels, a pop up food and beverage provider Torpedos and an exhibition by Studio A. Conservation work was undertaken on the historic Powerhouse on Cockatoo Island, and, with our restoration volunteers, work on the underground Plotting Room at North Head. The Harbour Trust continued to work closely with adjacent land managers on environmental management and bush fire mitigation strategies.

This year also saw improvements in wayfinding and interpretation across our sites; included in this was First Nations interpretative panels at Cockatoo Island and finalisation of wayfinding for the Bondi to Manly 80km walk. We worked with partners to support a range of activities at our sites to bring new audiences and visitors. The Harbour Trust welcomed back long-standing cultural partner, the Biennale of Sydney for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney: NIRIN. COVID-19 restrictions resulted in the temporary closure of this event, however, I am pleased that we were able to support the Biennale for its reopening in June. We were also delighted to host Sail GP on Cockatoo Island for the 2nd year, and welcome First Nation performers and their families to Cockatoo Island as part of our partnership with Sydney Opera House for Dance Rites.

The work of the Harbour Trust is varied and extensive. As such, continued efforts this year were focused on ensuring our risk and compliance framework and approach were right.

Throughout this year we worked with our community advisory committees; the General Community Advisory Committee, Sub Base Platypus Advisory Committee and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Advisory Committee. I am most grateful for their contribution over the year.

Our magnificent volunteers continue to contribute in many ways to the Harbour Trust — with more than 22,000 hours donated to support our work. While COVID-19 restrictions required the temporary suspension of the program, I am looking forward to the volunteer program returning in full in 2020-21.

My great thanks to my colleagues at the Harbour Trust for their extraordinary work in a year of significant challenge and change. I am very proud to work with skilled and passionate staff, who bring their best to everything they do. I am privileged to work alongside the Harbour Trust Executive Team. My thanks to the Chair, Joseph Carrozzi and Members of the Trust for their leadership and guidance.

Most importantly, this year saw the commitment to making the Harbour Trust an ongoing entity, preserving and protecting iconic Harbour Trust sites in perpetuity.

Mary Darwell signature Signature of the Executive Director of the Harbour Trust Mary Darwell.

Mary Darwell

Executive Director