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Family walking near Cockatoo Island's dockyard with heritage cranes in the background.

Learn about Cockatoo Island

Discover resources and education programs that bring the layered history of Cockatoo Island / Wareamah to life.  

To learn more about the largest island on Sydney Harbour, view our collection of online videos, exhibitions, articles, and kids activities or book a free talk for your community group.

Plus: Our stage-specific primary and high school programs at Cockatoo Island are an opportunity for students to have an engaging, outcomes-based learning experience. 

Schools & groups

Cockatoo Island is a great place for school students, scouts and youth groups to extend their understanding Australian history. As they encounter key landmarks with a specialist guide, they will learn about the island’s former residents, workers and prisoners and develop their historical learning skills. Critically, our stage-specific programs meet NSW Syllabus and Australian Curriculum Outcomes.

Island history

This is your one-stop shop for articles exploring the history of Cockatoo Island. You’ll gain insights into the island’s enduring significance for Sydney’s First Nations peoples, who know it as Wareamah. You’ll also learn about the island’s former convict gaol, shipyard and educational institutions and become acquainted with historical and contemporary figures synonymous with our beloved destination.

Video library

Learn about Cockatoo Island from subject matter experts and the people who lived or worked here. Our videos vividly bring to life the history of Cockatoo Island and include archival footage. Highlights include ‘Shipyard Stories’ featuring John Jeremy AM, the final CEO of Cockatoo Dockyard Pty Ltd.

Online exhibition

Cockatoo Island played a major role in Australia's maritime affairs from 1857 to 1991. Today, 17 steam-powered and electrical cranes survive from this era. Get up close and personal with some of the island's ‘Iron Giants’ with our free online exhibition, hosted on the Google Arts & Culture platform.

Kids activities

Looking to stave off boredom in your household or backyard and tap into your creativity? Check out the Harbour Trust’s collection of fun activity sheets and DIY project ideas for kids and kids at heart. You’ll discover what makes Cockatoo Island and the other destinations protected by the Harbour Trust so special.

Community talks

The Harbour Trust offers free talks for community groups including Probus Clubs. Presented by knowledgeable volunteers, there are five talks to choose from, including “Cockatoo Island: Heart of the Harbour”. This talk is a crash course in the island’s history, including the turbulent convict era, celebrated shipyard years and more.

Helpful links

Looking to visit, stay at or tour Cockatoo Island? Here are some useful links.