Reflecting on Australia’s history

In 1768 British explorer, surveyor, navigator and cartographer James Cook embarked on his first Pacific voyage aboard His Majesty’s Bark (HMB) Endeavour

The voyage made possible the charting of the east coast of Australia and the North and South Islands of New Zealand. It left a profound legacy of scientific investigation and contributed to knowledge of geography, navigation and natural history.

By the time the Endeavour crew first landed at Kamay (local Aboriginal name for Botany Bay) on 29 April 1770, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had been living on the Australian continent for more than 60,000 years, or from an Indigenous perspective, since time began. 

The encounters between these Europeans and the custodians of the land, belonging to the world’s oldest continuing living culture, marks a significant moment in the history of Australia – a point in time from which we embarked on a shared journey.

Endeavour 250

In 2020, to mark the 250th anniversary of the voyage, the Australian Government has funded a range of activities through the Endeavour 250 program. 

This anniversary presents an opportunity to explore the legacy of the voyage, the changes European arrival had on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and to learn about the history, science and values that connect us.

Reflecting on the anniversary is a chance to understand the story from all perspectives. It is an opportunity to understand what took place and discuss what it means for our future. It is a chance to listen and learn from each other’s stories; to explore truths, both painful and celebrated, and to use those stories to heal and connect. 

For more information about the voyage, visit Voyage one - Endeavour, 1768-1771.

Events

Some of the Endeavour 250 events and activities originally planned to mark the anniversary have been cancelled or postponed in response to official medical advice on coronavirus (COVID-19). 

Where possible, online material is being offered in place of activities – to provide an opportunity for all Australians to reflect on our past, get a greater insight into the experiences of Indigenous Australians, James Cook and the Endeavour and all of the factors that have shaped our modern, diverse and vibrant nation.

For information about activities available to mark the 250th anniversary, visit the What's on page.

Program activities

The Australian Government has supported a package of measures to mark the 250th anniversary of the Endeavour’s voyage to Australia and the Pacific in 1770, including:

• The National Museum of Australia’s Endeavour Voyage: The Untold Stories of Cook and the First Australians exhibition, as well as the Museum’s Encounters Fellowships and Cultural Connections Program;

• The Australian National Maritime Museum’s Encounters 2020 program, including a range of exhibitions, education resources, and film and digital projects;

• The National Library of Australia’s Cook and the Pacific exhibition;

• The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies’ Return of Cultural Heritage Project, which seeks to secure the return of culturally significant heritage materials held by overseas institutions to Australian Indigenous communities;

• various capital works and projects in Cooktown and a new Interpretive Centre in the Town of Seventeen Seventy, funded through the Community Development Grants program;

• delivery of the Kamay Botany Bay National Park Master Plan in partnership with the New South Wales Government, including three commemorative installations designed by Indigenous artists; and

• The release of a new collection of commemorative stamps by Australia Post to mark the 250th anniversary through the themes of ‘navigation, travel, arrival, science and the journey onwards’.

More information about the range of activities supported by the Australian Government is available on the arts.gov.au website.
 

 

Endeavour 250 logo

Image of the Endeavour 250 logo

 

The Endeavour 250 logo and related design symbols have been created by ingeous studios, an Indigenous design agency and digital creative studio based in Cairns.

The logo acknowledges the original journey of the HMB Endeavour along Australia’s rough east coast, including simple and stylised Indigenous elements that represent healing waters.

The logo also encapsulates simple, stylised elements that have dual meaning, representing James Cook’s 14 coastal landings while also acknowledging campfires set up by Australia's first peoples, which existed prior to the arrival of the HMB Endeavour. Importantly, the logo and its design elements also reflect the first act of reconciliation between Australia's first peoples and Cook’s fleet at Reconciliation Rocks in Cooktown. The appearance and overall textural complexity of the design is symbolic of the coastal shapes of Australia, and the rough ocean that the HMB Endeavour had to sail throughout its journey in 1770.

Combined, these elements pay respect to the fact that Australia was inhabited prior to Cook’s journey, by the oldest living culture in the world. It recognises the journey of the HMB Endeavour, while inviting people to look at history through a new perspective. It also introduces a viewpoint that all Australians need to be part of, in recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as first inhabitants of this country and that the history of Australia is a shared history – a journey we take together.

Exploring history through national collections

Drawing on the collections of the Australian National Maritime Museum, the National Library of Australia and the National Museum, Shared histories offers different perspectives about the events of 1770 — both then and now — including the encounters between Cook and Australia’s Indigenous people. 

Recognising and respecting Indigenous cultural rights

As custodians of significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural material displayed in Shared histories, the contributing institutions recognise the rights of Indigenous peoples with respect to this material, in accordance with Articles 12 and 31 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to which Australia is a signatory.

We also recognise that the right to control cultural heritage incorporates both the tangible and intangible — objects, artworks and cultural knowledge. These rights are perpetual and form a living heritage, reinterpreted by each new generation. These rights are collectively owned by Indigenous peoples, families, communities and nations of the past, present and future.

In recognising these rights, the contributing institutions have sought to involve Indigenous stakeholders in the interpretation of cultural material through involvement, respectful consultation and informed consent.

Discover the national collections online

Australian National Maritime Museum
Australia’s centre for maritime collections, exhibitions, research and archaeology.

National Library of Australia
Connecting Australians with national collections, enriching conversations about who we are and our place in the world.

National Museum of Australia
Bringing to life the rich and diverse stories of Australia through compelling objects, ideas and events.