School excursion

Convict kids on Goat Island

Stage 2 (Years 3-4), History, Sydney Harbour National Park

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'Guilty of petty theft – your punishment is penal transportation to Australia for the term of your natural life.' Discover what life was like for the first convicts of Australia in this unique Stage 2 (Years 3-4) History excursion on historic Goat Island.

Read more about Convict kids on Goat Island

Around 164,000 convicts arrived in Australia between 1788 and 1868. Life was tough in the new colony. The weather was unfamiliar and harsh, the bush intimidating and full of deadly wildlife. If convicts misbehaved, they could expect floggings, solitary confinement, and bread and water rations.

In this one-of-a-kind, interactive excursion, students role-play the life of a convict at trial. From sentencing at the Old Bailey, deportation to the colony and their timely pardon, students become convicts for the day. 

Live theatre, song and colourful stories of times past make this excursion unforgettable. Students come away with an invaluable insight into Aboriginal knowledge of Country. They'll have a rich appreciation of the challenging, early days of British settlement in Australia.

For program outline, safety and practical information about this excursion, see info for teachers

Stage Stage 2 (Years 3-4)
Learning area History
Student outcomes

HT2-2. Describes and explains how significant individuals, groups and events contributed to changes in the local community over time

HT2-3. Describes people, events and actions related to world exploration and its effects

HT2-4. Describes and explains effects of British colonisation in Australia


Students will:

  • Board a ferry and travel to Goat Island, referred to as Me-mel by the local Cadigal People. 
  • Dress as convicts and be tried for a criminal activity
  • Learn about bush survival using Australian plants and animals
  • Learn about first contact and the historical relationships between Aboriginal people, colonists, soldiers and convicts.
  • Listen to rich stories of the past from Australia's convict era. 

Excursion details


Weekdays during the school term, 10am to 1pm, meal breaks not included.

Medium. Requires travel via ferry to Goat Island.

$30 per student and $16 per teacher. Minimum of 70 students. Groups less than 70 will incur additional charges, please enquire. GST included.

Meeting point
Wharf 6 Circular Quay, near the Captain Cook ticket booth. Meet at 10am.
If you would like to organise a NPWS school excursion please get in touch with local staff or use the 'Enquire' link for the online form.
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Park info

  • in Sydney Harbour National Park in the Sydney and surrounds region
  • Sydney Harbour National Park is open sunrise to sunset but may have to close at times due to poor weather or fire danger.

  • Park entry fees:

    Bradleys Head: $8 per vehicle per day. North Head: $5 per vehicle per day. Tap and pay card or phone payments accepted at pay machines. Coin payment available at Fairfax carpark machines only. Chowder Bay: Monday-Friday: $3 per hour, to a maximum of $16 per day. Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays: $4 per hour, to a maximum of $20 per day. If you hold an NPWS All Parks or Multi Parks Pass, you can park free for up to four hours per day - additional time can be purchased. Car parks operated by Sydney Harbour Federation Trust or Mosman Council are not covered by your pass. Please check signs carefully. Park’nPay: You can also pay for your visit to any area via the Park’nPay app.

    Other fees:

    Landing fees or tour fees apply to visit Sydney Harbour islands. All public visitors to Shark, Clark or Rodd Island, need to pay a $7 per person landing fee. To arrange, please contact 1300 072 757 (13000 PARKS). Annual NSW Parks Passes do not cover landing fees.

    Buy annual pass (//
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Info for teachers

All the practical information you need to know about Convict kids on Goat Island.

Program outline

Standard excursion:

  • Meet NPWS guide at Wharf 6 Circular Quay
  • Depart on a chartered ferry to Goat Island. On board welcome, acknowledgement of Country and safety talk.
  • Arrive at Goat Island wharf and disembark 
  • Undergo trial and sentencing. Experience life as a convict settler. 
  • Listen to stories of hardship and survival in the bush 
  • Share in the wisdom of Aboriginal bush survival strategies 
  • Pending good behaviour, receive a formal pardon from the Governor, allowing a ticket of leave. 
  • Board the ferry, depart Goat Island and return to Wharf 6 Circular Quay 

Extended excursion:

  • Same as the standard excursion, plus enjoy a self-catered picnic lunch on the lawns overlooking the city, Harbour Bridge and Darling Harbour.
  • Return to Wharf 6 Circular Quay on a later ferry

Getting there and parking

Goat Island is located off Balmain and is accessible by ferry from Circular Quay.


Private vessels are not permitted to moor at Goat Island.

What to bring

Please wear fully enclosed shoes and bring a hat, sunscreen, wet weather gear, and lunch which should be low waste with a refillable water bottle. Students should bring gear in a backpack or similar (not plastic bags).

Maps and downloads

Safety messages

Pre activity briefing: participants will be briefed at the start of the activity/day.

Safety equipment: NPWS staff carry radios and first aid kits, hold current first aid certificates and are aware of emergency procedures.

Staff accreditation: NPWS staff have current Senior First Aid accreditation. They are experienced in working with groups of students in the natural environment and have excellent knowledge of the specific areas they are visiting including potential hazards. NPWS is committed to a Child Safe and Friendly Environment. Our staff have been screened for child-related employment and have completed a Working with Children Check.

Emergencies: NPWS staff are trained to deal with emergencies and emergency procedures are in place. Ongoing supervision of a student following first aid treatment will be the responsibility of the visiting school.

Risk assessment and risk benefits

Our rangers and guides have the technical skill and experience to assess the risks and the benefits of a variety of activities delivered as part of our learning programs.

We believe in including opportunities that allow students to learn and experience for themselves through exploration in the natural environment.

Please make your own risk assessment based on the information provided. Detailed potential risks and controls are provided for the site to assist teachers in risk management planning. Teachers and carers should be aware of, and consider the needs, abilities and medical conditions of students when visiting this site. The supervision of students remains the responsibility of the teacher. The school must ensure an adequate number of adult supervisors are present.


Disability access level - hard

Some areas are wheelchair accessible. Please let us know in advance if you are bringing someone with accessibility requirements so that we can plan accordingly. There are wheelchair-accessible public toilets adjacent to Wharf 6, Circular Quay, and on Goat Island.