The 7 June 2020, will mark 250 years since Captain Cook first sailed past Townsville. The tale of Cook’s compass going haywire and his mislaying the blame on the crop of rocks and hoop pines he consequently dubbed Magnetic Island is legend.
But what of the people who witnessed this all from Townsville’s coastline?
Next year’s Corroboree 2020 hopes to answer that question. Roslyn Sailor said the event would uncover and celebrate a side of this story that has seemingly fallen from living memory: Cook’s arrival through the eyes of Australia’s traditional owners.
“[Cook wrote about] seeing the campfires along the east coast as they were coming up and I thought ‘that’s how our people would have seen the Endeavour going past’,” said Roslyn. “Corroboree 2020 will be a story through our eyes, from the coastline of what did our people see.”
While the planning remains a work in progress, Roslyn and her team intend to involve people from as many local groups as possible, sharing their stories through song, dance, theatre, art and yarning.
“Our traditional owners here, the Wulgurukaba people, and the neighbouring groups – the Bindal, the Gugu Badan, and Nawaigi people – have something to share. There’s history and stories within their groups, so that’s basically what the whole concept is about.”
Roslyn said the idea for this event first started to take seed when she watched The History Channel’s documentary The Pacific in the Wake of Captain Cook, with Sam Neill.
“[Sam Neill] first met up with the local group in Botany Bay and they shared their stories … they saw the men going up the masts and said they were like bandicoots climbing up these great big poles.
“The Stradbroke Island people thought they were ghosts or something. They were saying “go away, go away” because again they didn’t understand what it was.”
Roslyn is eager to discover how North Queensland’s tribes perceived Cook and his men; and share the stories in the week’s leading up to 7 June 2020 and the Grand Finale celebration.
“Because the logbooks say they saw the campfires along the coast, we’ll go down there and have a big bonfire on the beachfront – Council permitting – to say ‘Yes, we were here and we’re still here’.”
Corroboree 2020 will run from 1 May – 7 June 2019. If you have information to contribute about The Endeavour passing Townsville, contact Roslyn Sailor on firstname.lastname@example.org