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We continue to revisit and rethink James Cook’s 1770 encounter with Australia. As time passes, our stories change.

We asked what does the Endeavour’s voyage represent in 2020 — for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. See recent artworks created by Indigenous communities and school children and Cook memorabilia and souvenirs created over many years.

Retaking possession

In this print, Torres Strait artist Brian Robinson creates a rich vista inspired by Cook's landing at Possession Island.

Drawing on traditional motifs of the Kaurareg people and traditional symbols of discovery, Robinson challenges the viewer. Was Cook an explorer or a space invader? Were his efforts to chart the coast an act of cartography or of piracy? Is the Endeavour a ship or an alien spacecraft?

A black and white linoprint, featuring various motifs some of which include, fish, a map, a kangaroo, birds, and a figure holding a spear with a tortoise shell as the head.

Bedhan Lag: Land of the Kaiwalagal, 2019, by Brian Robinson

On the beach

It is on the beach where stories about Cook come alive. These organic works by artists from the Bana Yirriji Art Centre, south of Cooktown, offer new perspectives.

Explore the works

Steaking a claim

At Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island, a nondescript brick monument with a bronze plaque marks Cook’s naming of this feature.

On 26 January 2019, David Yowda Stevens, a traditional owner from the island, made a political protest, removing the plaque and using it as a barbecue plate to cook a steak. After sharing photographs on Facebook, he was charged with wilful damage and theft.

Colour photograph of a plaque attributed to Captain James Cook with a steak with text seared into the surface sitting on top.

Steaking a Claim, 2019, by David Yowda Stevens

See more children's artworks from students at Cooktown State School

BabaKiueria

The 1986 film BabaKiueria is a mockumentary in which roles are reversed: Indigenous people are the colonisers and white Europeans are the colonised. It was awarded the United Nations Media Peace Prize in 1987.

More than 30 years after it was created, the film still offers a different way of thinking about the politics of first contact. Directed by Don Featherstone, it starred Michelle Torres, Bob Maza and Kevin Smith.

Watch an excerpt from BabaKiueria on the National Film and Sound Archives website.

The power of naming

Across the length and breadth of the country, the words ‘Cook’, ‘Banks’ and ‘Endeavour’ are commonplace. They are all around us, in the fabric of our natural and built environment.

These names remember the events of 1770, but only from one perspective. They ignore the Indigenous knowledge of this continent.

In recognition of these older connections to country, a growing number of places are being renamed with their earlier Indigenous names.

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