Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

HMAS Sydney II and HSK Kormoran shipwrecks on heritage lists


14 March 2011

Heritage Minister, Tony Burke today announced that the HMAS Sydney II and the HSK Kormoran shipwreck sites have been added to Australia's Commonwealth and National Heritage Lists.

Tony Burke, said the tragic loss of the HMAS Sydney II, along with its entire crew of 645, on 19 November 1941 remains Australia's worst naval disaster.

"The HSK Kormoran also sank after the battle and more than 80 German sailors died," Mr Burke said.

"Together, these sites have outstanding heritage value to the nation. This battle brought the Second World War to Australia's doorstep and highlighted its vulnerability to attack.

"The shipwreck sites have a special association with the Australian community. This association is especially strong for the family and friends of the naval, airforce and civilian personnel who died as a result of the battle.

"The discovery of HMAS Sydney II and HSK Kormoran has highlighted the ongoing importance of these shipwrecks and their stories to Australians. The location, interpretation of events and dedicated memorial at Geraldton provides some closure for the grieving families.

"For more than 66 years the fate of the vessels was the subject of much public speculation and heartache, and it is only right that we honour and protect their final resting place.

"Their inclusion in the Commonwealth and National Heritage Lists is a fitting tribute to their memory."

The loss of HMAS Sydney II and several other Australian warships around this time contributed to a shift towards the idea of homeland defence rather than defence of the British Empire and resulted in the development of a defence alliance with the United States.

The shipwrecks of HMAS Sydney II and HSK Kormoran and associated debris fields are located 22 kilometres apart, 290 kilometres off the coast of Western Australia in 2500 metres of water. The wrecks were discovered in 2008.

More information about the National Heritage List and the Australian Heritage Council is available at www.heritage.gov.au.