The idea for a special day in honour of Captain James Cook was the product of what I see as the contemporary neglect of our magnificent Anglo-Australian heritage and culture. Old Cook featured on the first one pound note but today most people from New South Wales would not know it was Britain's most famous explorer who gave their state its name.
Why not ask the question "Why should Australia have a special day in honour of Captain James Cook?" The answer is easy:
Captain Cook Day is a celebration of a humble, hard worker who achieved hero status through total dedication to a great cause. In Australia, as in Hawaii, he should be treated as a "God-like" inspiration for our young people to model themselves upon.
During his first voyage of discovery Captain Cook sailed up the east coast of Australia, landing at Botany Bay. Reaching the tip of Queensland, he named and landed on Possession Island, just before sunset on Wednesday 22 August 1770, and declared the coast a British possession:
"Notwithstand[ing] I had in the Name of His Majesty taken possession of several places upon this coast, I now once more hoisted English Coulers and in the Name of His Majesty King George the Third took possession of the whole Eastern Coast . . . by the name New South Wales, together with all the Bays, Harbours Rivers and Islands situate upon the said coast, after which we fired three Volleys of small Arms which were Answered by the like number from the Ship."
This act laid the legal foundation stone for the modern nation state of Australia. For better for worse or indifferent, in less than 200 years there was a modern Western nation established as a result of Captain Cook surveying the east coast of Australia.
Captain Cook was indeed a man ahead of his time, seeing beyond his own culture and able to make special judgements. On the Aborigines in Australia, he wrote: "In reality they are far more happier than we Europeans; they are wholly unacquainted with the superfluous conveniences so much sought after in Europe...the Earth and sea of their own accord furnishes them will all things necessary for life".
Australia had other European contacts before Cook. But it was he who initiated a grand process to which we all owe a debt.
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