The Australian Government has announced a package of measures to commemorate Captain James Cook’s first Pacific voyage between 2018 and 2020.  It will spend $48.7 million over four years to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Cook’s first Pacific voyage, including $21.7 million for measures in the Communications and the Arts portfolio.  This will support a range of exhibitions, activities and events which will allow Australians to mark this significant anniversary in a spirit of reflection that acknowledges the meeting of two cultures. 

Funding is being provided to:

Captain James Cook was a British explorer, surveyor, navigator and cartographer who mapped large parts of the world including Australia’s east coast and New Zealand’s North and South Islands.

On 26 August 1768 Cook embarked on his first Pacific voyage, aboard the HMB Endeavour, with instructions to chart the transit of Venus across the sun at the equator. Cook went on to chart New Zealand, before continuing on to first sight the east coast of Australia at Point Hicks on 20 April 1770. As the Endeavour sailed north he charted the coast making first landfall at Botany Bay on 29 April 1770.

A further stop was made before the Endeavour ran aground near Cooktown on 11 June. The ship was damaged and the voyage delayed while repairs were carried out. The ship then rounded Cape York, landing at Possession Island in the Torres Strait on 22 August.

Cook’s exploration of the Pacific Ocean has left a profound legacy of scientific investigation, including the first large-scale hydrographic surveys and a significant contribution to the measurement of longitude. He is also revered for his superior seamanship and disciplined leadership.


Outline of activities

Over the next two years a range of events and activities to commemorate the anniversary will take place.

Department of Communications and the Arts

We will provide support for voyaging activities by the ANMM’s HMB Endeavour replica and outreach and consultation activities for the anniversary.

National Library of Australia

The NLA has opened their exhibition Cook and the Pacific, allowing visitors to follow in Cook’s footsteps and explore the Pacific through the eyes of the British voyagers and the First Nations Peoples they met.

Over the course of three Pacific voyages, extraordinary meetings and exchanges occurred. Focusing on place, the exhibition presents a series of meetings anchored on Pacific coastlines. Visitors can explore parts of the Pacific where Cook made landfall, including Tahiti, New Zealand, the east coast of Australia and Hawaii. The voices of the First Nations Peoples are presented alongside those of the European voyagers.

The exhibition’s content, drawn from the NLA’s own collection and from Australian and international cultural institutions, is varied and ranges from manuscripts and rare books, to large oil paintings and delicate watercolours by voyage artists, to objects collected on the voyage, medallions, cartoons, poetry and Indigenous responses to Cook.

The exhibition opened to the public on 22 September 2018.

In collaboration with the ANMM and the NMA, the NLA will also develop a digital platform which will bring together stories of exploration, contact and encounter, and provide Australians with a rich and dynamic experience through an interactive website. 

National Museum of Australia

The NMA will display an exhibition that will represent the perspectives of both non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians about Cook’s voyage and its continuing and contested legacies today. It will do this by counterpointing the ‘view from the ship’ with the ‘view from the shore’.

The NMA will also develop a Cultural Connections program which will offer a range of professional capacity building opportunities, including fellowships, for Indigenous people from regional communities who work in the cultural heritage sector, through working on projects relevant to their communities and areas of cultural expertise, with the support of staff from the NMA, NLA and ANMM. 

Australian National Maritime Museum

The ANMM is developing a broad program of events, titled Encounters 2020. The events will explore stories of contact, encounter and transformation involving Indigenous, migrant and other communities from Australia and beyond, and will create new opportunities for innovative exploration of Cook’s legacy.

Find out more