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Men with ship propeller, Turbine shop, Cockatoo Island c. 1940s

Community talks

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Discover some of the most extraordinary places on Sydney Harbour with our exciting program of free talks for Probus Clubs, U3A, historical societies and other community groups.

There are 5 talks to choose from (details below) Each is presented by a knowledgeable volunteer speaker will  marry archival and current images with historical facts and anecdotes to reveal a different side to Sydney. 

We accept community talk bookings for groups of at least 20 members. Bookings are limited to groups with a venue in the Sydney Metropolitan Area as our speakers deliver their talks directly to community groups. Each talk runs for 45 minutes, with time at the end for questions and answers.

Talk #1: Extraordinary Places on Sydney Harbour

Our speaker will paint a vivid picture of our visitor destinations, including North Head Sanctuary (Manly), Headland Park (Mosman), Cockatoo Island (Sydney Harbour), Sub Base Platypus (North Sydney), Woolwich and Macquarie Lightstation (Vaucluse). Plus, you’ll gain fascinating insights into convict life on Cockatoo Island, the role of North Fort’s military fortifications during World War II, and more!

Talk #2: Cockatoo Island – Heart of the Harbour

Our speaker will delve into the history of this one-time convict penal establishment, reformatory school and shipbuilding yard. Hear how the island’s convicts were shaped by harsh living and working conditions, how vulnerable boys were gathered from the streets of Sydney and taught trades, and how shipbuilders made Cockatoo Island the major shipbuilding and dockyard facility for the South West Pacific in WWII.

Talk #3: Tales from North Head Sanctuary

Our speaker will offer an in-depth look at North Head Sanctuary in Manly, delving into the military and quarantine history of this stunning coastal site as well as its unique flora and fauna. Hear tales of the soldiers who defended Sydney during World War II as well as the people who succumbed to the ravages of small pox, the plague and other epidemics and were interred at Third Quarantine Cemetery.

Talk #4: Australia's Memorial Walk

Australia’s Memorial Walk is located at North Head Sanctuary and is a dedicated war memorial. Pavers are laid in the walk to commemorate loved ones who have defended Australia from colonial to modern times. This presentation will cover the history of Australia’s Memorial Walk and then delve into some of the fascinating stories of unusual military units, families and individuals commemorated with pavers laid in the Memorial Walk, including Victoria Cross recipients, military nurses and those who are remembered for incredible acts of bravery.

Talk #5: The History of Third Quarantine Cemetery

The Third Quarantine Cemetery at North Head Sanctuary, together with the nearby Quarantine Station, is included on Australia’s National Heritage List as a significant example of the nation’s evolving quarantine practices. The cemetery is probably Australia’s largest, most well-preserved quarantine cemetery. More than 240 people were buried here between 1881 and 1925. Hear the stories of those interred here including brave nurses, soldiers & locals who succumbed to the ravages of influenza, the bubonic plague, smallpox and scarlet fever.

Group of people on a tour of North Head Sanctuary's Third Quarantine Cemetery with a Harbour Trust Volunteer Guide.
Request a talk
To arrange one of our free community talks for your group, fill in our online request form.
Request form
Customer testimonial

“The Marsfield Probus wish to thank you for the morning we spent with your speaker and representative Marie. She delivered a very informative presentation with very good corresponding photos. Everybody was very impressed and we are considering a day trip to one of the places we were shown.” – Jacqueline, Marsfield Probus Club

Helpful links

Learn more about our extraordinary places on Sydney Harbour and plan a trip.