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 (Cook 250).

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 1770 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 (Cook 250), funding is being provided for a range of activities:

Outline of activities

Over the next year a range of events and activities will mark Cook 250 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 marking Cook 250.

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 two interactive games for the Cook Digital Platform website being developed by the NLA.

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. AIATSIS believes as we approach this anniversary every effort needs to be made to secure return of items of Indigenous cultural heritage to Australia.

The Return of Cultural Heritage Project will initially target materials from the period 1770 to 1788 with limited provenance that are held overseas, but research will also scope other materials held overseas that were removed in the following 250 years. The project will focus on securing the return of objects to Australian Indigenous communities and/or Australian cultural institutions, as well as developing and documenting protocols, processes and practice.

Returning material to Country for purposes of cultural revitalisation is a key aspiration of Indigenous communities and will strengthen the signal both to the nation and globally that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture is respected, celebrated and valued.

Cook Digital Platform

The Digital Platform will provide information relevant to Cook 250, including details about Commonwealth‑funded activities and other community events; Cook’s voyage; collection material relevant to the anniversary held by the ANMM, NLA and NMA; educational information (for teachers and students), and interactive games and videos.

Community organisations will be able to request that information about their anniversary related events is made available on the Digital Platform. Development of the platform is led by NLA with NMA and ANMM providing input.

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 aquatic monument 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, and
  • 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 three 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.
In collaboration with the ANMM and the NMA, the NLA is also developing a digital platform which will bring together stories of exploration, contact and encounter, and provide Australians with a rich and dynamic experience through an interactive website.

National Museum of Australia

The NMA will display an exhibition that will represent the perspectives of both non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians about Cook's voyage and its continuing and contested legacies today. It will do this by counterpointing the 'view from the ship' with the 'view from the shore'.

The NMA’s Cultural Connections Initiative supports capacity-strengthening projects for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural practitioners and their communities across Australia. It aims to provide professional development and employment opportunities on cultural projects that Indigenous communities have determined as important, with the support of staff from the NMA, NLA and ANMM. It comprises two complementary programs: .

  • Encounters Fellowships program - this is a unique professional development opportunity providing an intensive program of development for six talented cultural practitioners, chosen from a highly competitive pool of applicants from around Australia.
  • Cultural Connections program - this program is working in East Coast locations with established regional leadership groups, such as land councils, shires (in partnership with local Indigenous advisory committees) and arts organisations to invest in Indigenous-led community projects aimed at strengthening local cultural practices and knowledge. There is a particular emphasis on professional development and employment, which is designed to assist individuals, groups and communities gain the skills and confidence to achieve their cultural aspiration

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