Encounters 2020 Speech

Release Date: 
21 August 2019

Kaya Wangju. Hello and welcome in my Noongar language.

And I, thank you for your welcome to country. I've had five years of leaving my footprints in the sands of New South Wales when I worked closely with you and I thank you for your welcome, for your wisdom, but I also acknowledge all of the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation as the traditional owners of the land on which we stand. I acknowledge their elders past and present and those emerging.

It's great to be here today with my colleague Minister Paul Fletcher to launch the Australian National Maritime Museum Encounters 2020. It's a program of activities to mark 250 years since James Cook's first voyage to Australia and to the Pacific in 1770.

I acknowledge the museum's CEO Kevin Sumption, board members and staff including corporate and community members and all distinguished individuals.

As we embark on this journey, Cook's visit in 1770 is not viewed by all Australians in the same way.

For some it represents a unique and important scientific journey of discovery and for some the legacy of a voyage similar symbolizes loss of country, language and culture. It's important that messages reflect both perspectives. "The view from the ship" but "the view from the shore" and both are not a contested history.

It is a shared history of our nation’s point in time for which we emerge on a journey that is realised in the way in which we live today. Truth-telling to me is not a contest, it’s an acceptance that they can be shared stories in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. It is about acknowledging that there are events in which our shared history, that result in different experiences that have built the capacities and the changes that evolved from that period.

Healing that results from acts of truth-telling cannot be quantified. While this takes time truth-telling today can lead to significant moments of reconciliation into the future. Marking 250 years since Captain James Cook's first Pacific voyage will allow all Australians to reflect on, discuss and re-evaluate the lasting impact that this has had on us all.

And what's important, are the points that Alison raised in respect to - it's a great opportunity to share a future. It's a great opportunity to look at what was achieved in all of the encounters that occurred within the voyage of Cook's ship up along the coast. And there are many of our people who celebrate the engagement with the expedition and with the sharing of knowledge.

Whilst language would have been a barrier, the richness of those exchanges and seeing things that were very different to what had been experienced in other continents was a significant lasting indelible moment that placed Australia in a unique position as the Great South Land. But a land in which Cook reflected on the way in which he saw Indigenous Australians after he left these shores - it's a very poignant moment in which a man whose own background and a whose own experiences having engaged with the oldest living culture went away with a perspective that respected the uniqueness of the oneness with land, with the environment, but more importantly the way in which engagements occurred. There is a long shared history of Australia and sometimes we don't talk about all parts of our history.

Much of our history has not been recorded or taught through Indigenous perspectives or experiences. The Encounters 2020 program provides an opportunity for all of us to be better informed about our nation's history from multiple perspectives and to understand the impact the arrival of Captain Cook had on Indigenous Australians.

We need to talk about the issues and work together on ideas and actions to create a positive and lasting change. It's an opportunity to share our history in a way that we've not done before. I think that the journey that we take, as the Endeavour circumnavigates Australia, will allow conversations to occur in a way that they've not.

The whole focus of NAIDOC week was on truth-telling - along with two other elements. But truth-telling is critical if we are to have a shared future that takes us in a direction that is of a healing nature but reconciles two significant nations of people Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, because it is through that, that we will continue to build relationships that builds a country that is self-sustaining in its truth, but also in its endeavors to build a future that we now believe is the way that we need step forward.

Reconciliation is about building better relationships between all of us. It is about one step at a time and it's a journey we must take together. Collected culture and history of a country helps shape its identity and we have some pieces that are missing from that.

The Return of Cultural Heritage Project being led by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies to facilitate the return of culturally significant objects from overseas.

This is an example of our commitment to ensuring that our people and Australians value and consider the history of the past. That the cultures that we have that enriches the lives of every one of us on a daily basis. Taking these initiatives forward opens a dialogue that will make an incredible difference in the way that we understand our heritage, our history, our place and our journey that we are still yet to take.

So I congratulate all of those who are involved. To the Maritime Museum - your role in the development of both the concept but the way in which we will engage Australians around our nation is something that you should be applauded for.

And to reflect on the diaries of Captain Cook when he had that first encounter, through to when he departed, is about all of us. It is not a separation. It is our true collective history. Congratulations to all involved.