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Duyfken replica on the Derbarl Yerrigan (Swan River)
Copy made in 1670 of the first map of Australia (part of Cape York), made on the Duyfken

The first Wadjela or European documented, European ship to chart the Australian coast wer meet with Aboriginal people was the Duyfken ("Little Dove") captained by Willem Janszoon, a Dutchman. Sailing from Banten in 1605, in 1606 Janszoon charted the shores of the Cape York Peninsula. The ship making its first landfall at the Pennefather River in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Janszoon and his men met the Wik-Mungkan people, and although they were disappointed by the land which they found swampy and infertile, initially the contact was friendly. The Wik-Mungkan people allowing the Dutch to sink a well and put up huts. But things went wrong when the Dutch forced the men to hunt for them and appropriated some women. Janszoon's men were attacked and killed as they made forays from their base, forcing the Dutch to give up, but nor before shooting many Wik-Mungkan people.[1][2] Janszoon named the place where he turned back Cape Keerweer, which is Dutch for "Cape Turnback". The Wik-Mungkan people had successfully driven off the Dutch from their country.

Aboriginal people also documented the arrival of early European ships in accurate rock art pictures.[3][4]

Between 1606 wer 1770, an estimated 54 European ships from a range of nations made contact. Many of these were merchant ships from the Dutch East Indies Company wer included the ships of Abel Tasman, after whom the state of Tasmania is named. Tasman charted parts of the north, west wer south coasts of Australia which was then known as New Holland.[5]

William Dampier's map of New Holland

William Dampier's map of New Holland from his book "New Voyage Round the World", published 1697

Surprisingly few Dutch East Indies Company ships were wrecked il the coast of WA, despite their preferred way of reaching the Spice Islands (the Molluccas) wer their base at Batavia (now Jakarta) being to sail East from Cape Town in South Africa with the Roaring Forties, then to turn North before hitting the coast wer reefs of WA. Occasionally they overran and were wrecked. Nidja route is called the Brouwer Route. The most notorious shipwreck is that of the ship Batavia in 1629 on the Abrolhos Islands, eighty km West of Geraldton. Some of the surviving or marooned crews would have made their way inland wer met Aboriginal people, for instance amongst the Amangu or Nhanda people there is a blood group specific to the Dutch town of Leiden (or Leyden), which presumably came from Dutch sailors at nidja time.[6] 68 survivors of the Dutch ship Vergulde Draack (Gilt Dragon) are known to have made it ashore in 1656 after being shipwrecked near Guilderton, but nothing more is known of their fate in European records.[7] Another early Dutch incident was giving the European name for Wadjemup (Rottnest Island) in 1696, because they mistook the resident Kwowka - Quokkas as giant rats! (Rot is Dutch for rat).

Australians' first contact with Captain Cook[edit]

Cooman telling Cook and his men to go away at Botany Bay[8]
Cook's landing at Botany Bay
Captain Cook Memorial Obelisk

On 23 April 1770 Captain James Cook, then a lieutenant in command of HMS Endeavour and on his first Pacific voyage, first saw, from a distance, Aboriginal people on Mit Island (Brush Island - Mit Island in the Dhurga language of the Murramamrang people of the Yuin nation). The main purpose of this first Pacific voyage was to observe the 1769 transit of Venus across the Sun from Tahiti which, when combined with observations from other places, would help to determine the distance of the Earth from the Sun, a key result needed to determine the scale of the Solar System and the distance not only of the Earth from the Sun but of all the other planets. In Noongar Venus is called Julagoling. Having successfully observed the transit of Venus, Cook had opened his secret, sealed, second set of orders which were to search the south Pacific for the presumed continent of Terra Australis (Southern Land). He took with him Tupaia, an exceptionally accomplished Tahitian aristocrat, star navigator and priest, who guided him to New Zealand and with Cook shares credit for the navigational achievements of that voyage.[9]

The first sight of mainland Australia was Tolywiarar (Point Hicks) in Victoria's East Gippsland.[10] The Yuin people watched as the Endeavour sailed by their coast, lighting bonfires on headlands to warn others further up the coast. They imagined the ship with its great white sails to be a Boodalang (or Bilamook or Moodala), in English a Pelican and in Yuin a Gurung-gubba. As Mr Foster, a Djiringanj Yuin traditional knowledge holder, said:[10]

On 29 April 1770 Cook made first contact with people of the Gweagal nation at Botany Bay. After an hour and a half observing the people on shore, Cook and some 30 of his crew made for the beach in two ship's boats, only to be threatened by Cooman and another Gweagal warrior. Cook threw some gifts on shore, trying to get over the idea they had come to seek fresh water, but the Gweagal men waved them away. A musket was fired towards the two men, presumably to try and get a better reaction. But they stood their ground and responded by throwing a stone back. The sailors fired a musket again, wounding Cooman in the leg. Unperturbed, the wounded man retrieved his shield from a gunyah before returning. The warriors threw spears before being chased away by a third musket shot. Cooman dropped his shield, which was taken by Cook to Britain (it is now held by the British Museum). The sailors then proceeded to walk onto the beach and up to the Gweagal encampment. Cook tried to make contact with the local people but without success due to the Gweagal avoiding contact after the first encounter. They simply went about their daily affairs, seemingly ignoring the strangers.

The site of the landing is on the Kurnell peninsula, in the Sydney suburb of Kurnell. The northern part of the peninsula is a historic site known as Captain Cooks Landing Place with a number of memorials located here, among them the Captain Cook Memorial Obelisk. There is a plan to spend an excessive amount of money on a $50m redevelopment of the site including a new $3m memorial to Captain Cook to commemorate the site of the British colonisers’ first arrival on the East coast of Australia.[11]

A descendant of Cooman, Mr Rodney Kelly, is trying to get Cooman's shield returned to the Gweagal people. He says that Cook stole the shield and he wants it returned and put on permanent exhibition as a powerful symbol of an event that forever changed the lives of Indigenous Australians. He has the support of the New South Wales Parliament in his quest. Mr Kelly said the first words to the English sailors from the two warriors were "Warra warra wai", meaning go away, which basically negates the later settler claim that Australia was Terra Nullius.[12][13]

Cook and his men were seen as ghosts in a giant canoe on a voyage of the dead.[14] According to this account "warrawarrawa" means "they are all dead" (not "go away"). Which would explain why Aboriginal people persistently declined any of the gifts they were offered by Cook; you would have to be crazy to take gifts from the dead! However later, in settlement times in Sydney, Aboriginal people sometimes would not accept gifts either. They simply would not participate in a transaction if it was not reciprocal - which meant sometimes a seemingly pointless transaction from the Wadjela viewpoint where fish caught in Sydney Harbour were given by the Wadjela one day and then the Aboriginal people gave the same number of freshly caught fish back the next day.[source?] Cook himself thought the Aboriginal peoples were perfectly content and that Aboriginal people themselves recognised they had no need for European gifts:[14]

Captain Cook was an excellent navigator, surveyor and sailor, but he was not good at dealing with people from other cultures. He was eventually killed by indigenous Hawaiians during a botched attempt to kidnap their ruler to try and force the Hawaiians to do what he wanted. His attitude in Hawaii mirrored his attitude in Botany Bay, in both cases provoking resistance.

See next[edit]

Ngiyan waarnk[edit]

  1. Oral history by the Mapoon people, edited by Janine Roberts (1975). "The Mapoon story". International Development Action. Book 3 of "Mapoon: The Cape York Aluminium Companies and the Native Peoples". pp 35-36. Published Fitzroy, Victoria. ISBN 978-0-9598588-4-6
  2. Oral history as documented by Janine Roberts (1981). "Massacres to Mining, the colonisation of Aboriginal Australia". p 15. Published by Dove Communications, Blackburn, Victoria. ISBN 978-0-85924-171-7
  3. Middleton, Amy: "Aboriginal rock art may depict first sea arrivals". 2 August 2013. Pub Australian Geographic. Retrieved 16 August 2016
  4. Trudgen, Richard: "Why Warriors Lie Down and Die". 2000. p 17. Pub: Why Warriors Pty Ltd. ISBN 978-0-9873874-2-4
  5. "European discovery and the colonisation of Australia". Australian Government. Retrieved 15 August 2016
  6. McConnell, R. B. "Associations and linkage in human genetics". The American Journal of Medicine. Vol 34 (5). pp 692–701. DOI:10.1016/0002-9343(63)90108-6.
  7. Natasha Harradine. "Fresh water find adds intrigue to fate of Gilt Dragon shipwreck survivors". ABC Mid West & Wheatbelt. 16 June 2020. Retrieved 16 June 2020
  8. Illustration from "Australia: the first hundred years", by Andrew Garran, 1886
  9. Ros Bluett. "The forgotten story of Tupaia, the star navigator who helped James Cook reach Australia"]. ABC Radio National, The History Listen. 7 April 2020. Retrieved 19 April 2020
  10. 10.0 10.1 Vanessa Milton. "The first sighting of James Cook's Endeavour, as remembered by the Yuin people of south-eastern Australia". ABC South East NSW. 19 April 2020. Retrieved 19 April 2020
  11. Naaman Zhou. "Sydney to get new $3m Captain Cook memorial in 'inclusive project' ". Guardian. 28 April 2018. Retrieved 6 April 2020
  12. Bill Brown. Unfinished business: Getting back the warrior's shield 'stolen by Captain Cook'. ABC South East NSW. 23 September 2016. Retrieved 5 April 2020
  13. Ruth Forsythe. "ANZAC Day and the Frontier Wars: 'The amnesty on ignorance is over'". Independent Australia. 24 April 2017. Retrieved 5 April 2020
  14. 14.0 14.1 Alison Page. "For Indigenous people, Cook's voyage of 'discovery' was a ghostly visitation". ABC News. The Conversation. 29 April 2020. Retrieved 29 April 2020