"They are still squatting on our lands" - Aboriginal reaction to Cook

By Te Ao with MOANA
Bundjalung woman Rhoda Roberts says Captain Cook's people are squatting on aboriginal land. Photo/File.

Indigenous Australians, unsurprisingly, are not welcoming a AUD$50mil federal government-funded memorial to Captain Cook or the AUD$7mil circumnavigation of their country by a replica of the Endeavour.

“If you’re a leader of a people with virtually no history on the land that you’ve invaded and you want to tell lies about the land that you’ve invaded it makes sense to make heroes of these figures,” says indigenous writer, Nayuka Gorrie.

Gorrie is outraged the Australian government is paying for a AUD$6mil festival to remember Cook and promote reconciliation.

“Things like that are really good for colonisers because they justify colonisation and if you justify colonisation you don’t have to do anything with the people that you’ve colonised.  There’s no guilt there, there’s no responsibility and also you don’t have to give anything back. You don’t have to give land back so to me it’s a part of a colonial state maintaining itself,” she says.

Rhoda Roberts is a Bundjalung woman who has devoted her life to telling indigenous stories.  She is less than charmed about the occupation of aboriginal lands by those that followed Cook's arrival.

"When that landed gentry arrived in Australia they squatted on our lands and they are still squatting on our lands," says Roberts. 

Sydney lawyer Michael Bradley, who is non-aboriginal, says the circumnavigation of the country by the replica Endeavour is pointless.

“It’s bizarre and wasteful and it certainly won’t achieve anything good.  This is talking about the discovery of a country that didn’t need to be discovered by a guy who didn’t actually discover it in a way that didn’t happen.”

Bradley has written a book, titled Coniston, about the last large-scale massacres of indigenous people in the northern territories in the 1920s.

“I do feel that as a nation we do still have a really immature approach to our own self-identity, a real insecurity about it," he says.

Māori taonga puoro musician Jerome Kavanagh, who was in Sydney with a group of international first nations artists who are creating an indigenous artistic response to Cook, says it is heartbreaking to see how indigenous Australians are treated. 

“I always get shocked by the severity here in this country of the treatment of the first nations people.  It’s almost like you really want to cry, I get quite emotional,” he says.