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Primary school programs

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  • $14 per student (min. ten students per group)
  • $65 per class for 360-degree tour
  • Free admission for teachers/supervisors
  • Pricing excludes cost of ferry travel
  • Programs run for 1½ hours with lunch break
  • Available Monday to Friday by appointment
  • Ferry
  • Water taxi
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Meeting point

Visitor centre, Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour NSW

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Looking for inspired school excursion ideas? Escape your classroom and head to Cockatoo Island for a memorable learning experience...

Our engaging primary school programs – Making History, Convict Times and Then, Now and Tomorrow - support key syllabus areas of the NSW Curriculum across multiple stages and foster enquiry-based learning. Importantly, your students will have fun as they interact with historical artefacts from different eras and explore one of the most extraordinary places on Sydney Harbour with our experienced education staff. 

Our primary school education programs are part of a lesson sequence, which includes teacher-led pre-visit and post-visit lessons. Lessons include direct teaching, activities and resources and are emailed to your school at the time of booking. The pre-visit lesson prepares students for the excursion, while the post-visit lesson aims to consolidate student learning. All lessons and resources meet the needs of a variety of learners and are linked to NSW Syllabus and Australian Curriculum Outcomes.

Making History

What is history and how is it made? Making History develops Stage 1 student knowledge and understanding of historical concepts as they consider how history impacts their lives...

During this excursion, students will investigate and examine various ‘making’ practices from Cockatoo Island’s history - from Convict-made buildings to the dockyard and industrial precinct. They will learn that acts of making in the Past contribute to the community in the Present. Content assists students to connect the abstract idea of history with the practice of Historical Inquiry. 

Students will consider:

  • What have people from the past made that I can see today?
  • How did people from the past make things and how has that changed?
  • How can I see how people lived in the past?
Primary School Tour Guardhouse Exterior Convict Era Cockatoo Island Sydney Harbour 710X480

Convict tours

Why were convicts sent to Sydney, how did they live, and how do we know? 'Convict Times' guides Stage 2 students to understand how past decisions and beliefs are still evident today...

Convict Times On-Site Excursion

Students will learn how global events led to the colonisation of Australia. They will examine the convict-made buildings, identify primary and secondary sources and consider why some events become well-known stories or folklore. Students will reflect on the early justice system and consider ideas of crime and punishment. 

This Stage two excursion provides opportunities for students to learn why convicts were sent to Cockatoo Island and what their living conditions were like. 

Students will consider:

  • What were the significant events that led to the colonisation of Australia?
  • How were the convicts effected by the beliefs of the governing authorities?
  • What do different sources tell us about how people lived?
  • How the Past has contributed to the Sydney they experience Today.


Convicts, Crimes & Cockatoo Island – 360° virtual tour tour

Cost: $65 per class | Available: On demand | Audience: Stage 2 (Years 3 & 4)

Unable to visit Cockatoo Island with your class? Not to worry. Crimes & Cockatoo Island enables Stage 2 students to virtually explore our former convict prison (1839-69) using interactive 360° images and features. Your class will learn about the world events that led to the British colonisation of Australia and what life was like for Cockatoo Island's convicts.

Critically, students will develop historical enquiry skills as they examine buildings, listen to diary entries, and engage with other historical sources. The tour follows a linear format so it is easy to navigate and students are prompted to complete a worksheet as they progress.

Then, Now and Tomorrow

How has Australian society changed over time and what remains from the past today? 'Then, Now and Tomorrow' examines society through the lens of Cockatoo Island’s layered history...

Students investigate the role of convict labour as a government resource and examine Past ideas of justice and reform. 

Students then consider the significance of Cockatoo Island’s shipbuilding workforce to Australia’s World War II contribution. They will gain an understanding of past industrial practices and how underlying attitudes to class have changed work and safety standards over time.

Throughout the excursion, students will examine buildings, ruins, murals, and consider how primary and secondary sources work together to inform peoples understanding of the Past. Students will also learn about community action and its role in protecting vulnerable heritage spaces. 

Students consider:

  • How do decisions made by governing authorities impact the lives of individuals?
  • How do members of a community effect change in authority?
  • Should empathy and reflective thinking be part of the decision-making process?
Primary School Tour Cockatoo Island Sydney Harbour 650x550.jpg

Plan ahead

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Ferries: The easiest way to get to Cockatoo Island is by public ferry. The F3 and F8 services operate to Cockatoo Island daily, departing from Circular Quay and Barangaroo as well as from wharves along Parramatta River. For further information, including timetables, visit the Transport NSW website.

Opal cards: If your group is travelling to Cockatoo Island by ferry, each person will need to be in possession of an Opal Card with sufficient funds. Alternatively, you can pre-purchase Opal One Day Travel Passes for their entire group. To arrange Opal One Day Travel Passes for your group, visit opaldaypass.transport.nsw.gov.au

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On-street parking is available for cars near the ferry wharves at Woolwich, Greenwich, Chiswick, Huntleys Point, Drummoyne, Birchgrove and Balmain. The Clarkes Point Reserve Carpark (access via Clarke Road, Woolwich) offers parking for coaches and is a short walk from the Woolwich ferry wharf.

First Nations disclaimer arrow

Our primary school programs contain stories (and may contain images and/or visuals) of deceased people.

Island conditions arrow

Most areas of the island are wheelchair accessible; however, there is a steep incline from the lower island to the upper plateau, and – owing to the island’s industrial heritage – there are uneven surfaces as well as some buildings not accessible by wheelchair

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Suitable walking shoes, sun protection, wet weather gear (if needed) and packed lunches.

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If you decide to cancel a booking, please provide 48 hours’ notice to avoid being charged a fee to cover casual staff costs.


Bookings for our primary school programs will proceed regardless of weather conditions except in the event that ferry services advise against travelling to Cockatoo Island due to extreme weather conditions.

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School groups booked into an excursion at Cockatoo Island must ensure teachers and students:

  • maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres from others;
  • have not travelled overseas in the last 14 days;
  • have not been in contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 within the last 14 days; and
  • are not unwell and have not demonstrated any COVID-19 symptoms in the last 14 days.
Request a booking
To request a primary school program for your class, complete our school programs enquiry form...
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