Did Captain Cook Discover Australia?

This is a contentious issue as indigenous Australians want the date of Australia Day changed. They claim it represents genocide of their people as Cook sailed into Botany Bay on 26th January, which is now used to celebrate the event. The question is, however, was his arrival a discovery or invasion? The diaries state that it was a peaceful landing and that initially the ‘natives’ were friendly and helpful.

The local councils in some regions are refusing to hold traditional events on the day and many are now calling for it to be changed. Statues of Cook, Queen Victoria, and others in Sydney have been graffiti impacted with ‘change the date’ and other statements. Now politicians and the Lord Mayor are considering altering the wording to correct the wrong.

What has confused me about this debate is that many of the protagonists who claim to be of indigenous descent but have features and colour that match Europeans. If they have any native blood in them, it must be so small an amount as to make their appeals insignificant.

Whatever the outcome the facts are that Cook never discovered Australia. Dutch merchant ships had plied the West Coast for many years while trading with Indonesia. The correct assessment now appears to be that he was the first British explorer to set foot on the East Coast of Australia. There is no guarantee that other Europeans were not here earlier.

In Queensland there is cave art that shows a ship that was etched in the rock before white settlement was presumed to have occurred. There is also an image of a horse, not known to exist here, and other features leading to a conclusion that white-men had come earlier.

In Western Australia a Dutch owned ship wreck has been studied. It allows for the possibility that survivors lived for some time with the aboriginal people who it is expected helped and protected them. Generations later there are some descendants with blond hair and blue eyes among the indigenous group.

The mix-up about who discovered Australia will go on for some time until someone calls a halt to it. The bottom line is that the Australian aborigines were the first to ‘discover’ this great continent and they have lived here for some 65,000 plus years. The arrival of Cook was not an invasion but a discovery for England that has led to it becoming what it is today.

What everyone needs to remember is that if Cook was not the pathway to the progress of this nation and aborigines remained the sole occupants it would have been another nation who would have found it. There are many more brutal stories of invasion than this one.

The South American nations of Peru, along with Mexico can attest to the violence that Cortez dished out. People here need to understand that much worse could have happened, as with the genocide of the Aztecs and Inca. No one is likely to be happy with the outcome of the current debate but at least it is happening, and that must be healthy.

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