Who discovered who?

Student activity

Students connect with their own prior knowledge before exploring different ways of thinking about and representing historical events. Students come to an understanding of the diverse ways that people view and experience the world through investigating oral and written recounts of Cook’s arrival in Kamay (Botany Bay). 

Task No. 1

Connecting to prior knowledge

Before accessing the online exhibition, Eight Days in Kamay, write down what you know about Captain Cook and the voyage of the Endeavour.

Use the following as prompts or sentence starters:

  • What I know about Cook, the Endeavour and first contact between Europeans and the Indigenous people of the East Coast of Australia
  • What I think about Cook, the Endeavour and first contact between Europeans and the Indigenous people of the East Coast of Australia
  • What I wonder about Cook, the Endeavour and first contact between Europeans and the Indigenous people of the East Coast of Australia

You will answer the same three questions after you have explored the online exhibition.

Task No. 2

An introduction

View the introduction to the online exhibition here.

Annotate the below text from the introduction, noting key ideas and language devices used to engage the responder.

On 29 April 1770, the Gweagal people of Kamay (Botany Bay) discovered James Cook and his crew as they sailed into the bay and came ashore. The eight days that followed changed the course of Australia’s history. 250 years later the events of those eight days and their continuing impact are still being debated, contested, felt.

What are the facts and what are the fictions? Why do they matter for Australians today?

The following chapters invite you to explore different ways of thinking about the story and its legacy.

‘Who was James Cook, and are we, 250 years after his landing, better served if we examine this legacy truthfully or if we maintain the myths?’

— Arrernte writer and social commentator Celeste Liddle, 2020

Discuss: What surprises you about this introduction? How does the exhibition challenge your expectations from the very start?

Task No. 3

Diversity in storytelling

Teacher instructions: Ask students to wait outside the classroom at the start of the lesson. When they have arrived and have lined up, invite approximately half the group to enter the room (you may choose this group based on any factor — hair colour, gender, eye colour, the letter their surname begins with). Give each student in this group a treat (a sticker, merit card, chocolate or lollypop) on their way through the door and dish out praise to them as they arrive. Then for the next group, order them gruffly to enter the room, don’t give praise or treats. Once everyone is seated, ask them how they are feeling today; only listen to those in the first group, ignoring any hands that are raised from the second group. Then hear some responses from the second group.


Student intructions: Form two new groups with people from both earlier groups mixed in each.

Step 1:

Group 1: Record an audio or a video of yourself explaining what happened at the start of the lesson today.

Group 2: Record your experience in written form writing a recount of what happened at the start of the lesson today.

Step 2:

Group 1 – Read Group 2’s writing

Group 2 – Listen to Group 1’s recording.

Discuss the following:

  • how do the oral and written versions differ as they are on the same topic?
  • which did you connect with more — emotionally?
  • which would you remember?
  • which provided more factual information?
  • what are the advantages and disadvantages of oral versus written?
  • what is the significance of oral history today, when looking at past human experiences?

View Chapter 1 ‘We Saw Them Coming’, here, scrolling through the entire chapter.

Draw a Venn Diagram. Listen to the audio recording of Shayne Williams, here. In the left section of the Venn diagram, record information, perspectives and ideas only given from Shayne’s oral storytelling. In the right side of the Venn diagram, record only information, perspectives and ideas written in the journals. View the journals, here. In the overlapping section of the Venn diagram, record common ideas that were mentioned in both the oral storytelling and the written journal articles.

Discuss the clash between the two storytelling traditions. Evaluate how effective it is to use both in this exhibition to gain a more complete understanding of the events of 1770. Consider why the audio recording has been placed first, before the journals. What does this exhibition demonstrate to us about the diverse nature of the human experience?