Steven Oliver on location at Kurnell, NSW, in the film.
A new film canvasses Indigenous Australian accounts of, and responses to, Captain Cook’s arrival.
Artist: John Pickles
Captain Cook’s sailors traded nails for sex, but the history of intimate encounters and their impact on women throughout the Pacific is still largely ignored.
Indigenous story-telling of Cook’s landing has transformed the way we understand his legacy in Australia. And the way he came ashore set some of the terms for future colonial-Indigenous relations.
250 years since Captain Cook landed in Australia, it’s time to acknowledge the violence of first encounters.
The Conversation, CC BY 63 MB (download)
The way Australia has commemorated Cook's arrival has changed over time – from military displays in 1870 to waning interest in Cook in the 1950s, followed by the fever pitch celebrations of 1970.
New Zealand’s commemorations of James Cook’s arrival 250 years ago were least about the British explorer himself, but instead focused on Polynesian voyaging heritage and encounters with Māori.
‘The Founding of Australia 1788’, an oil painting by Algernon Talmage.
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
Britain had an urgent problem after it lost its American colonies: where to send its convicts. It settled on NSW after rejecting other options, but the new spot didn’t exactly live up to its billing.
Vincent Namatjira, Western Arrernte people, Northern Territory, born 1983, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Close Contact, 2018, Indulkana, South Australia, synthetic polymer paint on plywood; Gift of the James & Diana Ramsay Foundation for the Ramsay Art Prize 2019.
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, photo: Grant Hancock
For too long, Cook was a promise recollected in pigment, bronze and stone. Contemporary First Nations artists are challenging this imagery.
Many teachers want to teach Indigenous perspectives but often lack confidence or know-how. Teachers must be willing to confront the ongoing effects of colonialism in and outside the classroom.
Feature artwork: Great Spirit and Rainbow Serpent – Jeffrey Samuels (used with permission, no re-use)
Explore Cook’s journey through the Pacific, the orders that brought him in search of the ‘Great Southern Land’ and the impact of his arrival in our new interactive.
Uncle Fred Deeral as little old man in the film The Message, by Zakpage, to be shown at the National Museum of Australia in April. Nik Lachajczak of Zakpage
An honest reckoning with Captain Cook’s legacy won’t heal things overnight. But it’s a start.
The Conversation 41.4 MB (download)
The impact of 1770 has never eased for Aboriginal people. It was a collision of catastrophic proportions.
A scene from the author’s film The Message, commissioned by the National Museum of Australia. At the first encounter in Botany Bay, two Gweagal warriors threw stones and spears at Cook, saying ‘warrawarrawa’, meaning ‘they are all dead’.
Nik Lachajczak of Zakpage
Incidents from Cook’s first voyage highlight themes relevant in Indigenous-settler relations today: environmental care, reconciliation and governance. This collision of beliefs, it seems, wasn’t lost on Cook.
Portrait of Mai, also known as Omai or Omai of the Friendly Isles.
Both islanders played a central role in Cook’s three voyages across the Pacific, but their contributions have largely been overshadowed in what is generally thought of as era of European exploration.
A picture titled ‘Captain Cook taking possession of the Australian continent on behalf of the British crown, AD 1770’. Drawn and engraved by Samuel Calvert from an historical painting by Gilfillan in the possession of the Royal Society of Victoria.
Trove/National Library of Australia
To find out how the teaching of Captain Cook in Australian schools has changed, I examined textbooks used in the 1950s until today.
Botanist Joseph Banks recommended Botany Bay as the site for a penal colony.
Charles Gore (1788) / State Library of NSW
Botany was an integral feature of Britain’s colonial and imperial ambitions.
Kath Walker (Oodgeroo Noonuccal) with Doug Nicholls on Frenchman’s Beach, La Perouse, on April 29 1970. During the Cook bicentenary protest, activists declared a day of mourning for Aboriginal nations.
Image from the Tribune collection from the 1970 Cook Bi-centenary protest, to be featured in the State Library of NSW's upcoming exhibition 'Eight Days in Gamay.'
Re-enactments of James Cook’s arrival in Australia have served only to gloss over the violence of his interactions with Indigenous people and elevate Australia’s imperial and British connections.
‘Death of Captain Cook’ by George Carter. 1781. Oil on canvas. The painting depicts the killing of Cook during a skirmish with Hawaiians on his third Pacific voyage in 1779.
National Library of Australia collection
Over the course of his three voyages, Cook was frustrated by the refusal of Indigenous people to embrace Western ways. He grew increasingly punitive, embodying the ‘savagery’ he ostensibly despised.
A scene from the Zakpage film The Message, commissioned by the National Museum of Australia. Nik Lachajczak of Zakpage,
Every European ship that voyaged the Pacific was, in the first instance, a floating fortress, an independent command that could send out small shore parties or to concentrate firepower as needed.
Joseph Banks portrait by Joshua Reynolds (circa 1771-1773).
National Portrait Gallery
For celebrated botanist Joseph Banks, his voyage with James Cook was more about extending imperial power than simply discovery.
Two Dharawal men opposing Cook’s arrival at Kurnell.
Unpicking the threads of the stories told about Captain Cook’s arrival is vital to find agreement on the provenance of materials that changed hands during colonisation.
When Indigenous elder Binno (played by William McPherson) teaches dances to three young men, a bigger plan emerges.
The world premiere of Nardi Simpson’s Black Drop Effect takes in the complex histories of Aboriginal responses to commemoration, and makes space for protest, cultural reclamation and negotiation.