Quarantine Station Site Study
Stages 4 & 5, Years 7-10

A beautiful site with a fascinating history, the Quarantine Station is ideal for examining the changes & evolution of a site over time. The history of the Quarantine Station parallels and reflects Australian & world history.

The land now known has North Head was a sacred & special site for the aboriginal community. In 1788, the first contact occurred between the First Fleet, led by Captain Arthur Phillip & the local aboriginal population in one of the neighbouring coves. The beach at Spring Cove was used in 1828 to isolate passengers infected with smallpox on convict transport ship the Bussorah Merchant. The site functioned from then on for over 150 years, primarily as a maritime quarantine station; a place to isolate disease for migrant ships arriving from overseas.

The earliest buildings remaining on-site date from the 1850s Early accommodation for internees was organised by gender, marital status, and race. By the 1870s, class distinctions became common on ships & accommodation at the quarantine station replicated these distinctions. A large building effort took place after Federation when modern, state of the art, disinfection technologies were introduced. This was followed in 1918 by the busiest time at the Station when thousands of soldiers returning from WW1 were quarantined for the highly virulent Spanish Influenza (H1N1) virus.

From 1920, the site quieted down but was then used as refugee detention centre, disaster relief accommodation for victims of Cyclone Tracy & welcomed Vietnamese orphans brought to Australia through Operation Babylift in 1975 after the fall of Saigon. 

The site closed in 1984 and became a part of the National Park System of NSW. In 2006 it was leased by Mawland Group & developed as Q Station, a hotel, conference and event centre which is now heralded as a unique public-private model for integrated heritage management.

Covering 30 hectares, with 65 intact original buildings, more than 150 years of history and countless legends, the site is exceptional for observing changes over time & reflecting on the lives of those who were here in the past & the conditions in which they lived.

The Quarantine Station Site Study is designed to encourage exploration & consideration of the built environment & the investigation of primary & secondary sources. It allows students to flex their skills in historical inquiry, encourages them to use historical language, as well as to locate, select & organise information in the context of this evocative place.
The comprehensive Teacher’s Resource Kit includes a historical overview, a student workbook to be used on-site at the teacher’s discretion & suggests pre/ post-visit activities designed to encourage students to think historically & engage with information/communication technologies.


• Suitable for Stages 4 & 5
• Subject area History
• Duration 2.5 hours
• Minimum students 15
• Maximum students 175 ( but please talk to us if you need to bring bigger groups, we do love a challenge!)
• Price per student $17.50


To the Australian National Curriculum & NSW History Syllabus for the Australian Curriculum

Stages 4 & 5 History

The Quarantine Station Site Study covers the requirement of a ‘Site Study’ which is to be undertaken as a compulsory part of the Stage 4 and 5 History Mandatory Course in the NSW History Syllabus. Site Studies are suggested in the Australian Curriculum. The Site Study relates to the following content objectives:

Stage 4


Topic 6d: Aboriginal and Indigenous Peoples, Colonisation and Contact History

The nature of British colonisation of Australia

• The nature of early British contact with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia.
• Differing experiences of contact between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Aboriginal peoples.

Stage 5


The Industrial Revolution (1750–1914)

• The technological innovations that led to the Industrial Revolution, and other conditions that influenced the industrialisation of Britain (the agricultural revolution, access to raw materials, wealthy middle class, cheap labour, transport system) and of Australia. (ACDSEH017)
• The population movements and changing settlement patterns during this period (SCDSEH080)
The experiences of men, women and children during the industrial Revolution and their changing way of life (ACDSEH081)
• The short and long-term impacts of the Industrial Revolution, including global changes in landscapes, transport and communication (ACDSEH082)

Movement of Peoples (1750–1918)

• The experiences of slaves, convicts and free settlers upon departure, their journey abroad, and their reactions on arrival, including the Australian experience (ACDSEH083)
• Changes in the way of life of a group(s) of people who moved to Australia in this period, such as convicts, emancipists and free settlers in Australia. (ACDSEH018)
• The short and long-term impacts of the movement of peoples during this periods; the impact on the indigenous peoples and immigrant populations. (ACDSEH085)


• The extension of settlement, including the effects of contact (intended and unintended) between European settlers in Australia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (ACDSEH020)
• The experiences of nonEuropeans in Australia prior to the 1900s (such as the Japanese, Chinese, South Sea Islanders, Afghans) (ACDSEH089)
• Living and working conditions in Australia around the turn of the twentieth century (that is 1900) (ACDSEH090)
• Key events and ideas in the development of Australian Self-government and democracy, including women's voting rights (ACDSEH091)
• Legislation 1901-1914, including the Harvester Judgment, pensions, and the Immigration Restriction Act (ACDSEH092)


Migration Experiences (1945 – present)

[Quarantine Station Case Studies: Operation Babylift Orphans in 1974 and Internment of Refugees, 1960-1970’s]

• The waves of post-World War II migration to Australia, including the influence of significant world events (ACDSEH144)
• The impact of changing government policies on Australia’s migration patterns, including abolition of the White Australia Policy replaced with ‘Populate or Perish’ (ACDSEH145)
• The impact world event or development and its significance for Australia, such as the Vietnam War and Indochinese refugees (ACDSEH146)
• The contribution of migration to Australia’s changing identity as a nation and its international relationships (ACDSEH147)

pdf small Download the Site_Study_Teachers_Kit