The Return of Cultural Heritage Project


The HMB Endeavour’s voyage along the east coast of Australia marked the start of a shared history and the beginning of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage materials being removed and taken overseas.

In 2020, the Australian Government acknowledges repatriation of these materials is an important step in the nation’s reconciliation journey. The return of cultural heritage items is a fundamental part of truth telling, healing and reconciliation. It provides all Australians with the opportunity to develop a greater understanding of our shared history.

Cultural Connections Initiative


The National Museum of Australia’s Cultural Connections Initiative received funding from the Australian Government as part of a package of initiatives to mark the 250th anniversary of James Cook’s historic voyage charting the east coast of Australia.

Conquering scurvy


In the mid-19th century, life at sea was not for the faint-hearted. Many ships fell victim to storms, were sunk in combat or were marooned on rocks and reefs.

However, one of the biggest problems for sailors at the time HMB Endeavour set sail was scurvy—the plague of the sea.

This disease was so lethal that it is estimated to have killed more than two million sailors until the mid-19th century. More sailors in the English Navy died from scurvy than battle, storms and shipwrecks combined.

Endeavour's one-handed cook


John Thompson (unknown-1771)

Not much is known about the life of John Thompson, the ship’s cook on the Endeavour, but what is known is that it was a challenging job, especially with only one hand.

Thompson rose to the challenge and maintained the health of the 94 people on-board for most of the voyage.

Indigenous canoe making


The HMB Endeavour was not the first boat the First Peoples of Australia had seen.  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander watercraft are Australia’s original boats and one of the earliest surviving examples of watercraft in the world.

King Bungaree’s voyages


Captain James Cook and the HMB Endeavour did not circumnavigate Australia in 1770. However, 33 years later, a man from Sydney became the first Indigenous Australian to voyage around the continent.

Bungaree, also known as Boongaree, was an Indigenous Australian explorer and community leader. He was eventually nicknamed ‘King of Port Jackson’, which is why he continues to be remembered by many as King Bungaree.

Cooktown’s shared history


In June 1770, from the shores of Gungardie, the Guugu Yimithirr people watched a strange sailing ship enter the mouth of their river, Waalumbaal Birri. The strangers on board the ship navigated it to the calm waters near the mouth of the river and beached it on the sands.

Our Language – Words and Place Names


For tens of thousands of years before Cook’s voyage to Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people inhabited this land, speaking hundreds of different languages.

To Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, language is about more than communicating. It is critical to identity, place, people and culture.