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New online exhibition revisits Cook’s eight days in Kamay

Wednesday 20 May 2020

"We discovered them before they even set foot on land!" – senior Gweagal knowledge holder, Shayne Williams, 2020.

The State Library of NSW's latest online exhibition Eight Days in Kamay invites visitors to revisit James Cook's legacy and European accounts of the Endeavour's short stay in Kamay (Botany Bay) 250 years ago.

According to Damien Webb, head of the State Library's Indigenous Engagement team: “Cook’s time in Kamay is one of the most misunderstood events in Australia's colonial history.”

“250 years later these events are still being debated, contested, felt,” says Mr Webb. “And what is missing from almost every non-Aboriginal re-telling of Cook’s voyage is any sense of Aboriginal agency or humanity.”

On 29 April 2020 the State Library published a statement that the Gweagal people of Kamay discovered Cook on this day in 1770 – a view rarely spoken or written about in history – and it caused a stir on social media.

NSW State Librarian John Vallance says, “This Library is committed to ensuring that Aboriginal voices are properly heard alongside all the others that make up our shared history. We are always encouraging individuals and communities to add their traditions and perspectives to the record.” 

The online exhibition explores first contact and what those fateful eight days looked like from the perspective of the Gweagal people, with knowledge gained through community consultations in La Perouse and by senior Gweagal knowledge holder Shayne Williams.

Download full media release (2.2MB)