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Primary school students experiencing Cockatoo Island's education program inside the Convict Precinct.

Primary school programs

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  • $14 per student (min. 10 students per group)
  • Free admission for teachers/supervisors
  • Pricing excludes cost of ferry travel
  • Programs run for 1½ hours
  • Available Monday to Thursday by appointment
  • Ferry
Meeting point

Visitor centre, Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour NSW


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  • Risk Assessment available upon request.
Looking for an inspired school excursion idea? Escape your classroom and head to Cockatoo Island for a memorable outdoor learning experience.

Our primary school programs – Making History (Stage 1), Convict Times (Stage 2), and Then, Now and Tomorrow (Stage 3) – are an opportunity for your students to engage in enquiry-based learning, interact with historical artefacts and explore a former convict gaol and dockyard with a specialist education guide. Critically, or programs meet NSW Syllabus and Australian Curriculum Outcomes.

Each program is bookended by teacher-led pre- and post-visit lesson plans, forming an entire lesson sequence. Further, lessons include direct teaching and activities and meet the needs of different learners. These resources are emailed to your school at the time of booking. 

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?

Convict Times

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 2 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.

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?

How to get here

Planning to visit? Refer to the information below ahead of your trip.

Public transport arrow

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

Parking facilities arrow

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

What to bring arrow

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

Cancellations arrow


If you decide to cancel a booking, please provide 5 days 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.

Request a booking
To request a primary school program for your class, complete our school programs enquiry form.
Request a program

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