Key Themes

Each weekend of the 2020 Regional Expo will be dedicated to exploring key elements of the Cooktown 2020 story.

Come and join us to discover more about James Cook and his crew, their skills, the rich culture of the Guugu Yimithirr people and what happened when the two groups came together…

Community Reflections

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Cooktown is blessed to have a host of passionate advocates for the 2020 festival and both locals and national stakeholders alike love recounting the stories of Cook’s visit.

View our full range of video interviews to discover which of the stories behind the stories captivates each of them.

Topics include: Vision and legacy, Culture, Journals, history, Cook's legacy, botany, science, tourism and legacy.

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Our History

The story of Cooktown began a long time before Cook’s arrival, when the land was known as Gungardie and the Guugu Yimithirr people (Bama) watched the flow of the Waalumbaal Birri river.

Cook’s arrival following the grounding of the Endeavour on the reef changed the course of history for the Bama as the rich botanic discoveries recorded on land – thus laying the foundations of modern Australian history.

Cooktown has a unique place in Australia’s story and our three unique  claims for the basis for the 2020 Celebrations. Cooktown was the only place in Australia to record:

  • 48 days of mutual respect
  • First act of reconciliation
  • Unparalleled scientific discoveries.


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Two Cultures

The Endeavour men and Bama met on seven separate occasions, initiated by both parties, and exchanged language, customs and gifts. During one exchange, the Bama, who had never seen white skinned, clothed men before, asked the sailors to remove their uniforms so that they could see what the men were made of underneath their clothes.

On another occasion, a group of Bama were invited on board the Endeavour.  This visit unfortunately led to a physical confrontation over a Cook’s refusal to share his large catch of turtles.

Thanks to the wisdom of an Aboriginal elder, the issue was quickly and peacefully resolved – marking the first ever act of reconciliation in Australia.

Today’s Cooktown community continues to live in the spirit of reconciliation as two cultures, one people and we invite you to join us to experience our unique shared history.

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Cooktown is built on a rich history that promises us a bright future.

We are a forward-looking community that is committed to telling the story of our region, knowing that we have a unique place in Australia’s history.

Our combined historical significance and contemporary demonstration of cultural reconciliation in action should be understood and celebrated and the 250th anniversary of Cook’s arrival presents the perfect opportunity for this.

The events that occurred while Cook was in Cooktown underpin the very foundation of our nation and therefore deserve to be the central focus of all national sestercentennial celebrations.

As the biggest thing to happen to Cooktown since Cook’s arrival, Cooktown 2020 will create a long lasting community legacy in terms of economic development, tourism, Indigenous business, employment and training.

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