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Great Southern Land marks 250 years since Cook's historic arrival

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Tasked to find the fabled Great Southern Land that others before him had glimpsed, Captain James Cook’s arrival on the east coast of Australia on April 29, 1770 changed the course of history.

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Two-and-a-half centuries later, Australians will take the opportunity to reflect on a journey that marked the origins of modern Australia.

But even one of the most significant anniversaries in Australia’s modern history has become a victim of coronavirus.

Celebrations and festivities planned to mark the 250 years since Cook sailed into Botany Bay have been suspended or delayed by COVID-19, including the Meeting of Two Cultures event.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the anniversary provides an opportunity for Australians to celebrate the world’s oldest continuing living culture while learning about the origins of modern Australia.

“The day Cook and the local Indigenous community at Kamay first made contact 250 years ago changed the course of our land forever,” the Prime Minister said in a statement on Wednesday.

“It’s a point in time from which we embarked on a shared journey which is realised in the way we live today.”

While Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese explorers had seen and even landed on the continent a century earlier, Britain seized the opportunity to expand its empire and chose Cook to lead the ambitious project south, leaving Plymouth in August 1768.

He was sceptical about the existence of the great southern continent but on April 19, 1770 sighted what is now southeastern Victoria.

The Endeavour followed the coastline north, reaching a large shallow inlet before Cook stepped ashore at Botany Bay to discover an abundance of unique plants and animals and the Aboriginal people.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt says the Endeavour’s arrival in Australia represents an opportunity to reflect on the changes felt by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

“The Endeavour’s arrival marked the first true understanding from the Western world on the world’s longest-living Indigenous culture,” he said.

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