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34°00’16” South 151°13’04” East

It was at Kamay (Botany Bay) that James Cook first set foot on the Australian continent. His landing was challenged by two men, from the Gweagal clan of the Dharawal nation, standing on the beach.

For many Australians, this is one of Australia’s foundational moments in history. The famous landing story has echoed through our schoolrooms and history books.

Until now, the perspectives of First Australians, and the Gamayngal people of this area, have been largely missing. The Museum has worked closely with the Gujaga Foundation and the La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council in telling this story here.

This is Our Country 03:21

Kamay (Botany Bay) provided Gamayngal (Aboriginal people belonging to Botany Bay) the resources needed to thrive for many generations. Produced by the ABC in partnership with the National Museum of Australia. View transcript

Landing opposed

Illustration featuring two men in defensive stances and watching from a cliff edge overlooking a bay. A large ship is in the distance with rowboats heading in the direction of the two men. One of the men on the cliff edge is holding up his spear in attack mode. - click to view larger image
'Natives Opposing Captain Cook's Landing'

A landing party led by James Cook headed for the shore in longboats. They were met by two men on the beach. The visitors signalled their intention to land, waving and throwing trinkets.

James Cook, 29 April 1770:

I thout that they beckon’d to us to come a shore but in this we were mistaken for as soon as we put the boat in they again came to oppose us.

Shayne Williams, Dharawal:

The two warriors threw stones and spears at them. Obviously the spears didn’t hit them because they were only meant to scare them away.

Cook then loaded a musket with small shot and fired between the men. Cook fired twice more, wounding one of the men, before they left and he was at last able to land.

Reflecting on the past

Senior Dharawal people share stories that have been handed down through their families, about the arrival of the Endeavour, what it might have meant to their people, and the moment of Cook’s landing.

The arrival of Cook and the Endeavour 04:25

Story told by Shayne Williams and Rodney Mason.

Eight days and nights

On 29 April 1770, the HMB Endeavour anchored in Kamay (Botany Bay). The crew spent the next eight days and nights replenishing their supplies, collecting plants and attempting to interact with the local people.

The voyagers recorded these events in their journals. Aboriginal people from Kamay offer their perspectives on these events.

Eight Days and Nights at Kamay 04:12

Eight Days and Nights at Kamay was created in collaboration with the La Perouse Aboriginal community and animation specialists, The Sequence Group. This animation has no sound. View transcript

Ignoring the uninvited

For the most part, the local people ignored or avoided Cook and his men over the eight days and nights in Kamay. Despite the many attempts to establish a connection or to invite trade, the gifts that the crew left behind were declined.

Alan Daly, Dharawal:

In Dharawal culture, contact with strangers or spirits from the afterlife caused spiritual consequences and was mostly avoided by the general community.

Artwork featuring people in canoes. One person is spearing a fish which is swimming below the water’s surface. There is faint handwriting at the top of the artwork and a red stamp in the bottom left corner.
'Aboriginal people fishing in bark canoes' by Tupaia
A map of Botany Bay in New South Wales which features illustrations of landmass with trees and coastal edges surrounding a bay. There is a sketch of a ship in the bay and numbers surrounding it. At the mouth of the bay is the text ‘POINT SUTHERLAND, POINT SOLANDER AND CAPE BANKS’. - click to view larger image
Chart of Botany Bay by James Cook

The crew of the Endeavour were baffled as to why they were not acknowledged.

Joseph Banks, 28 April 1770:

These people seemd to be totaly engag’d in what they were about: the ship passd within a quarter of a mile of them and yet they scarce lifted their eyes from their employment; I was almost inclind to think that attentive to their business and deafned by the noise of the surf they neither saw nor heard her go past them.

Learn more about Kamay – Botany Bay

Settling on a name Learn about the names Cook gave to the bay where the Endeavour anchored on 29 April 1770.
Extraordinary plants Explore Indigenous and European knowledge of plants and learn about the Dreaming story of the gymea lily.
After 1770 Hear about the ancestors of today’s La Perouse Aboriginal community.

Education resources

These resources cater for students in Years 3 to 6 and all activities align with the Australian Curriculum. Years 3 and 4 align with the history content and Years 3 to 6 align with the cross-curriculum priority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures.

Main banner image: Spears made by Rod Mason, Dharawal. National Museum of Australia

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