The Australian Government has announced a package of measures to mark the 250th Anniversary of James Cook's first voyage to Australia and the Pacific in 1770.

About the program

Captain James Cook was a British explorer, surveyor, navigator and cartographer who mapped large parts of the world including Australia's east coast and New Zealand's North and South Islands.

On 26 August 1768 Cook embarked on his first Pacific voyage, aboard the HMB Endeavour, with instructions to chart the transit of Venus across the sun at the equator. Cook went on to chart New Zealand, before continuing on to first sight the east coast of Australia at Point Hicks on 20 April 1770. As the Endeavour sailed north he charted the coast making first landfall at Botany Bay on 29 April 1770.

Cook also stopped at what has since become known as the Town of Seventeen Seventy before the Endeavour ran aground near Cooktown on 11 June. The ship was damaged and the voyage delayed while repairs were carried out. The ship then rounded Cape York, stopping at Possession Island in the Torres Strait on 22 August.

Cook's exploration of the Pacific Ocean has left a profound legacy of scientific investigation, including the first large-scale hydrographic surveys and a significant contribution to the measurement of longitude. He is also revered for his superior seamanship and disciplined leadership.

To mark the 250th anniversary of the voyage, funding is being provided for a range of activities including:

Outline of activities

A range of events and activities will mark the anniversary across the country. We are providing support for voyaging activities by the ANMM's HMB Endeavour replica and communications associated with the government funded initiatives.

Australian National Maritime Museum

The ANMM’s Encounters 2020 program of events will explore stories of contact, encounter and transformation involving Indigenous, migrant and other communities from Australia and beyond, and will create new opportunities for innovative exploration of Cook's legacy.

The ANMM will host exhibitions in its Darling Harbour premises and is developing 2 interactive games for the anniversary website currrently in development.

The ANMM's HMB Endeavour replica’s circumnavigation of Australia will provide an opportunity for Australians to experience the historic voyage and its legacy for exploration, science and reconciliation. The ANMM will also host a series of events and activities through its shore-based exhibition that will follow the vessel during its circumnavigation. There will also be an opportunity for people to crew the HMB Endeavour replica on different legs of the journey.

Find out more about the voyage on the ANMM's website, including the itinerary, map indicating where the vessel will stop, and how to register your interest in booking a berth on the voyage.

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

AIATSIS is leading a Return of Cultural Heritage Project to intensify the effort to bring Australian First Nations' cultural heritage material held overseas back to its original custodians and owners.

The arrival of Cook in 1770 marks the start of a process of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage being removed overseas. With support from the Australian Government, the Return of Cultural Heritage Project seeks to secure the return of culturally significant heritage materials, including but not limited to artefacts, documentary records and artwork from overseas collecting institutions back to Australian Indigenous communities.

The project will also develop and document an appropriately accessible database of overseas collections, return processes and practice.

The project is a scoping exercise and currently runs until 30 June 2020.

Find out more about the project on the AIATSIS website.

Anniversary website

The Government is developing a website to mark the anniversary and provide information from a range of perspectives. The website will be the national portal for all Australians to access information about the anniversary, including an events calendar, the Endeavour itinerary, other Government-funded initiatives and community events, and educational resources for teachers and students. It will also bring together collection material relevant to the anniversary held by the NLA, ANMM and NMA.

Community organisations will be able to submit details of their anniversary related events for publication on the website. The website is expected to launch in February 2020.

Cooktown 2020 Expo

The Government will provide $5.45 million to support projects for the Cooktown 2020 Expo , including the development of the Reconciliation Rocks Precinct, the Botanic Gardens Development and upgrades to the Gamaay Dreaming Track to commemorate the anniversary and local Indigenous culture. It will also support the Waymburr Milbi project (The Waymburr Story) Development of the Waymburr Cultural Centre to house artefacts used for the annual re-enactment of the story of Australia's first act of reconciliation told by the Gugu Yimithirr people on the banks of the Endeavour River.

Funding for this measure is administered by the Department of Infrastructure Transport, Cities and Regional Development.

Kamay Botany Bay National Park Master Plan

The Australian and NSW Governments have together committed $50 million ($25 million each) to upgrade visitor, transport, educational and commemorative infrastructure at Kurnell, including a new commemorative installation that takes in the original mooring site for the HMB Endeavour and foreshore. This is the area where Captain Cook first came ashore on 29 April 1770.

The project includes the following works:

  • a new visitor building with space for a museum-grade exhibition area, café and education area
  • an upgrade of the main visitor and heritage precinct, including an 850-metre circuit, including wheelchair-accessible pathway within a revegetated bush landscape and new interpretation materials
  • construction of new ferry wharves at La Perouse and Kurnell
  • precinct conservation and restoration works, including to historically important Alpha House, existing monuments (Captain Cook, Solander and Isaac Smith) and landscape
  • the establishment of a collection garden to commemorate the work of the botanists, Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander.

Funding for this measure is administered by the Department of Environment and Energy.

National Library of Australia

The NLA's Cook and the Pacific exhibition was held between 22 September 2018 and 10 February 2019. This allowed visitors to follow in Cook's footsteps and explore the Pacific through the eyes of the British voyagers and the First Nations Peoples they met.

Over the course of 3 Pacific voyages, extraordinary meetings and exchanges occurred. Focusing on place, the exhibition presents a series of meetings anchored on Pacific coastlines. Visitors explored parts of the Pacific where Cook made landfall, including Tahiti, New Zealand, the east coast of Australia and Hawaii. The voices of the First Nations Peoples were presented alongside those of the European voyagers.

The exhibition's content, drawn from the NLA's own collection and from Australian and international cultural institutions, was varied and ranged from manuscripts and rare books, to large oil paintings and delicate watercolours by voyage artists, to objects collected on the voyage, medallions, cartoons, poetry and Indigenous responses to Cook.

This successful exhibition saw around 80,000 visitors to the National Library of Australia in Canberra, including 4,000 school students. More than 135,000 people enjoyed associated activities, including online and onsite public programs.

National Museum of Australia

In April 2020, the NMA will open a free exhibition exploring the stories and legacies of the 1770 HMB Endeavour voyage up the east coast of Australia. The exhibition physically charts the journey of Cook and his crew along Australia’s coastline, delving into the past, present and future of 8 Indigenous communities along the way. Visitors will engage with stories, objects and multimedia that reflect all sides of this complex turning point in Australia’s history.

The NMA is also progressing with its Cultural Connections Initiative, a professional development and employment program that supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural practitioners and community-led cultural work across Australia. By developing the capabilities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural practitioners and co-creating a platform that empowers them to share their cultural knowledge and histories, the initiative aims to create pathways that strengthen engagement and knowledge exchange between cultural institutions and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities. It comprises 2 complementary programs:

  • The Encounters Fellowships program is a unique professional development opportunity for 6 talented cultural practitioners. Through a tailored, 12 week professional development program that includes individual placements at the NMA and partner cultural institutions in Australia and the United Kingdom, the fellows are being supported to develop and design local community projects, as well as learn more about cultural institutions, collections and how they can connect them to their communities, histories and stories.
  • The Cultural Connections program is working with established regional leadership groups, such as land councils, shire councils, Aboriginal Advisory Committees and arts organisations to employ cultural practitioners and invest in community-led projects aimed at strengthening local cultural practices and knowledge exchange. There is a particular emphasis on professional development and employment, which is designed to build a culturally respectful platform that empowers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities to manage, maintain, interpret and share their cultures and histories in ways that are meaningful to them.

Town of Seventeen Seventy Interpretive Centre

The Government will provide $1.0 million to support the Town of Seventeen Seventy Interpretive Centre, delivering on its 2019 Federal election campaign commitment .

Funding for this measure is administered by the Department of Infrastructure Transport, Cities and Regional Development.

Find out more