250th anniversary of Captain Cook's voyage to Australia
About the Endeavour 250 program
In 1768, British explorer, surveyor, navigator and cartographer James Cook embarked on his first Pacific voyage aboard His Majesty's Bark (HMB) Endeavour.
The historic voyage made possible the charting of the east coast of Australia and the North and South Islands of New Zealand, and left a profound legacy of scientific investigation, including the first large-scale hydrographic surveys and a significant contribution to the measurement of longitude.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples had been living on this land for more than 60,000 years by the time the Endeavour crew made first landfall at Botany Bay on 29 April 1770. The encounters between these Europeans and the custodians of the world's oldest continuing living culture marks a significant moment in the history of Australia.
To mark the 250th anniversary of the voyage, the Government has funded a range of exhibitions, activities and events through the Endeavour 250 program. Marking this anniversary allows all Australians to reflect on, discuss and think about the lasting impact that this voyage has had on us all.
It is an opportunity for Australians of all backgrounds to listen to and learn from each other's stories, to understand what took place, and to discuss what it means for our future. It is a chance to reflect on our histories and to connect our cultures.
Although some activities have been cancelled or postponed in response to COVID-19, there are a range of online and physical exhibitions taking place, providing Australians with the opportunity to understand this story from all perspectives.
The Return of Cultural Heritage Project
The arrival of James Cook and the Endeavour in 1770 marked the start of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage materials being removed and taken overseas.
With support from the Australian Government, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) is leading the Return of Cultural Heritage Project, which seeks to secure the return of culturally significant heritage materials. This includes—but is not limited to—returning artefacts, documentary records, and artworks from overseas collecting institutions to Australian Indigenous communities.
Cultural Connections Initiative (National Museum of Australia)
The NMA's Cultural Connections Initiative aims to develop the professional skills and capabilities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural practitioners. By co-creating platforms that empower 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 consists of two programs:
- Encounters Fellowships
The Encounters Fellowships program was a 12-week tailored professional development opportunity for six cultural practitioners 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 Fellows graduated from the program in November 2019.
- Cultural Connections
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.
Kamay Botany Bay National Park Master Plan
The Australian Government and the NSW Government have together committed funding to upgrade visitor, transport, educational and commemorative infrastructure at Kamay Botany Bay—the site where James Cook and the crew of the Endeavour first came ashore on 29 April 1770.
The project includes the following works:
- a new visitor building
- an upgrade of the main visitor and heritage precinct, including an 850-metre circuit with a 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 the historically significant Alpha House, existing monuments (Captain Cook monument, Solander monument and the Isaac Smith memorial) and the landscape
- the establishment of a collection garden to commemorate the work of the Endeavour's botanists, Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander.
The Government also commissioned three commemorative installations designed by Indigenous artists that have been installed at Kamay Botany Bay National Park. The sculptures are based on concepts placed on public exhibition for community feedback in 2019, and were selected by the Kamay 2020 Project Board. The works feature both Aboriginal and European viewpoints on the arrival of the Endeavour in 1770.
For more information about the sculptures, visit the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment website.
Anniversary-related capital works projects are also receiving Australian Government support. In Cooktown, Community Development Grants are being used to develop the Reconciliation Rocks Precinct and Gamaay Dreaming Track Development, along with funding for the Waymburr Cultural Centre.
The Government has also committed to a new interpretive centre in the Town of Seventeen Seventy.
The Australian National Maritime Museum's (ANMM) Encounters 2020 program recognises both the achievements of James Cook's first voyage to the Pacific in the HMB Endeavour and the lasting effect it has had on Australia's First Peoples and the nation as a whole. The program will explore stories of contact, encounters and transformation involving Indigenous, migrant and other communities from Australia and beyond, and will create new opportunities for the exploration of Cook's legacy.
There are a number of film and digital projects as part of Encounters 2020 that explore a variety of views on the Endeavour and Cook's 1770 voyage in the Pacific. For details about the films, videos and games that will be released to mark the anniversary, visit the ANMM's Film and Digital page.
A number of resources are also available for teachers and students that encourage exploration of the Encounters 2020 program's dual perspectives. To access these resources, visit the ANMM's Encounters 2020 Education Resources page.
Visit the ANMM website to find out more about the Encounters 2020 program and exhibitions.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ANMM announced on 27 March 2020 the suspension of the planned commemorative voyage around Australia by the replica HMB Endeavour and the accompanying touring exhibition 'Looking Back, Looking Forward'. In October 2020, the Government decided to not proceed with the commemorative voyage given the ongoing risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Endeavour Voyage Exhibition: The untold stories of Cook and the First Australians (National Museum of Australia)
The National Museum of Australia's (NMA) Endeavour Voyage exhibition invited visitors to explore the stories and legacies of the Endeavour's voyage along the east coast of Australia in 1770.
The exhibition charted the journey of Cook and his crew along Australia's coastline, delving into the past, present and future of eight Indigenous communities along the way. Visitors could engage with stories, objects and multimedia that reflect all sides of this complex turning point in Australia's history.
The exhibition has now closed. To find out more about the exhibition, visit the NMA's website.
Cook and the Pacific Exhibition (National Library of Australia)
The National Library of Australia's (NLA) Cook and the Pacific exhibition was held from 22 September 2018 to 10 February 2019 in Canberra. This exhibition 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.
The exhibition attracted around 80,000 visitors, including 4,000 school students. More than 135,000 people enjoyed associated activities, including online and onsite public programs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Endeavour 250?
- Endeavour 250 is the Australian Government's program of activities marking 250 years since the HMB Endeavour's voyage along the east coast of Australia in 1770.
- After observing the transit of Venus in Tahiti and mapping the North and South Islands of New Zealand, the Endeavour sailed west.
- The crew first sighted the mainland of Australia on 19 April 1770. James Cook and some of his crew landed at Kamay Botany Bay on 29 April 1770.
- They spent the following months charting the continent's eastern coastline, encountering Australian flora and fauna and interacting with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from different nations.
What is significant about His Majesty's Bark (HMB) Endeavour's Pacific voyage in 1770?
- The HMB Endeavour voyage marks a significant moment in Australia's history.
- Led by James Cook, a British explorer, surveyor, navigator and cartographer, the voyage contributed to western knowledge of geography, navigation and natural science, which is still used today.
- It left a profound legacy of scientific investigation, including the first large-scale hydrographic surveys and a significant contribution to the measurement of longitude.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, occupied the Australian continent for more than 60,000 years.
- To understand the significance of the voyage, it is important to reflect on its impact from all perspectives, and to learn about the history, science and values that connect all Australians.
Why is the Australian Government choosing to mark this anniversary?
- We want to encourage respectful reflection on the legacy of the voyage and positive connections between Australians—sharing their diverse views on this legacy.
- The anniversary is an opportunity to understand the Australian story—reflecting on more than 60,000 years of custodianship through to more recent migrant stories. The anniversary marks a point in time from which we embarked on a shared journey.
- The anniversary presents a chance for Australians of all backgrounds to listen to and learn from each other's stories. It is a chance to understand what happened and to discuss what it means for our future.
How have the perspectives of Indigenous Australians been considered in the planning of commemorative events and activities?
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities are critical partners in the development of the Endeavour 250 program throughout Australia.
- The Australian Government has supported a number of significant initiatives with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities such as:
- The Return of Cultural Heritage Project, led by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, which is working on the return of Indigenous cultural items and artefacts held overseas to Australian Indigenous communities.
- The Encounters Fellowships, led by the National Museum of Australia, which is an opportunity for 6 Indigenous cultural practitioners to participate in a tailored professional development program.
- The Cultural Connections Program, led by the National Museum of Australia, is partnering with local organisations to support community-led projects that strengthen local cultural practices and knowledge transmission.
- Development of a new interpretive centre in the Town of Seventeen Seventy.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives are paramount in all events, activities and exhibitions of the project ensuring that we are reflecting on shared histories.
- All Australians are encouraged to engage in a range of activities and to share their diverse views and perspectives on the anniversary. This is an important step in having a safe and respectful national conversation on our history and on our shared future.
Will Endeavour 250 events and activities be changed or cancelled in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic?
- Some of the activities originally planned to mark the anniversary have been cancelled or postponed in response to official medical advice on coronavirus (COVID-19).
- In marking this anniversary we want to protect public safety. All decisions about activities will be informed by official medical advice, which is being updated regularly.
- For more information on the current status of COVID-19, visit the Department of Health's website.
Will the replica HMB Endeavour still voyage around the coastline of Australia as part of the Australian National Maritime Museum's (ANMM) Encounters Around Australia program?
- The replica HMB Endeavour was planned to voyage around Australia in 2020 and 2021 as part of the Australian National Maritime Museum's Encounters Around Australia program.
- In March 2020, the Museum made the decision to suspend the program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- In October 2020, the Government decided to not proceed with the commemorative voyage given the ongoing risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Museum will continue to mark the anniversary through its Encounters 2020 program, which consists of a number of film and digital projects, and a range of educational resources for teachers and students.
For media requests about the anniversary, please visit our Media Centre.
Find out more
- Media release: Encounters 2020 sets sail to mark James Cook's voyage(21 August 2019)
- Media release: Honouring Captain James Cook's Voyage (22 January 2019)
- Media release: Cook's landing site to be recognised for 250th anniversary (28 April 2018)
- Media release: Sculptures to commemorate the meeting of two cultures at Kamay Botany Bay (14 February 2020)
- Read the Kamay Botany Bay Master Plan