Time to Eat the Dogs

On Science, History, and Exploration

Episode 46: Australians’ First Encounter with Captain Cook

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Postcard featuring James Cook superimposed over a map of Australia. Cook’s encounter with Aboriginal Australians at Botany Bay is illustrated in the top right corner (1907). Credit: National Museum of Australia

Maria Nugent talks about Aboriginal Australians first encounter with Captain Cook at Botany Bay, a violent meeting has come to represent the origin story of Australia’s colonization by Europeans. The encounter itself has been symbolized by a bark shield – said to have been used by indigenous Australians defending themselves against gunfire from Cook’s crew.

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Gweagal activist Rodney Kelly pointing to the bark shield in the British Museum in 2016. Kelly seeks to return the shield to Australia. Credit: Rodney Kelly

Now on permanent display at the British Museum, the shield has come to mean different things for settler Australians and Indigenous Australians, even as historians and archaeologists debate whether it was it was really there at Botany Bay for this historic encounter. Maria Nugent is a Fellow in the Australian Centre for Indigenous History in the School of History at the Australian National University.

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Maria Nugent

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