Two hundred and fifty years ago, Captain James Cook landed at Kamay, or what he named Botany Bay, on the shores of the Gweagal Clan of the Dharawal Nation.
For Aboriginal people, the impact of what started that day has never eased.
There are a multitude of Aboriginal oral memories about Captain Cook from right across the continent.
Research from Deborah Bird Rose shows that many Aboriginal people in remote locations are certainly under the impression that Cook came there as well, shooting people in a kind of Cook-led invasion of Australia. Many of these communities, of course, never met James Cook; the man never went there.
But the deep impact of James Cook spread across the country and he came to represent the bogeyman for Aboriginal Australia.
James Cook . . . came to represent the bogeyman for Aboriginal Australia.
Even back in the Protection and Welfare Board days, a government car would turn up and Aboriginal people would be running around screaming, "Lookie, lookie, here comes Cookie!"
I recently wrote about Uncle Ray Rose, sadly recently departed, who'd had a stroke. Someone said, "How do you feel?" And he said, "No good. I'm Captain Cooked."
Cook has been incorporated into songs, jokes, stories and Aboriginal oral histories right across the country. Perhaps it's an Aboriginal response to the way we've been taught about our history.
I came through a school system of the 50s and 60s, when we weren't even mentioned in the history books except as a people belonging to the Stone Age or as a dying race. It was all about discoverers, explorers, settlers and Phar Lap or Don Bradman. But us Aboriginal people? Not there.
We had this high exposure of the public celebration of Cook, the statues of Cook, the re-enactments of Cook - it was really in your face. For Aboriginal people, how do we make sense of all of this, faced with the reality of our experience and the catastrophic impact?
We've got to make sense of it the best way we can, and I think that's why Cook turns up in so many oral histories.
Wider Australia is moving towards a more balanced understanding of our history. People now recognise the richest cultural treasure the country possesses is 65,000 years of Aboriginal cultural connection to this continent.
That's unlike anywhere else in the world. I mean no disrespect, but 250 years is a drop in a lake compared to 65,000 years. From our perspective, in fact, we've always been here. Our people came out of the Dreamtime of the creative ancestors and lived and kept the Earth as it was in the very first day.
I have high regard for James Cook as a navigator, as a cartographer, and certainly as an inspiring captain of his crew. That has to be recognised. But against that, of course, is the reality that he was given secret instructions by the Navy to: With the consent of the Natives to take possession of the convenient situations in the country in the name of the king of Great Britain.
Well, consent was never given. When they went ashore at Botany Bay, two Aboriginal men brandished spears and made it quite clear they didn't want him there. Those men were wounded and Cook was the one firing a musket. There was no gaining any consent when he sailed on to Possession Island and planted that flag down. Totally the opposite, in fact.
The most insightful viewpoint is from Cook himself, who wrote: all they seem'd to want was for us to be gone.
The impact of 1770 has never eased for Aboriginal people. It was a collision of catastrophic proportions. The whole impact - of invasion, dispossession, cultural destruction, occupation onto assimilation, segregation - all of these things that came after 1770.
Anything you want to measure - Aboriginal health, education, employment, housing, youth suicide, incarceration - we have the worst stats. That has been a continuation, a reality of the failure of government to recognise what has happened in the past and actually do something about it in the present to fix it for the future.
We've had decades of governments saying to us, "We know what's best for you." But when it comes to Aboriginal wellbeing, the only people to listen to are Aboriginal people, and we've never been put in the position. We've been raising our voices for a long time now, but some people see that as a threat and are not prepared to listen.
An honest reckoning of the reality of Cook and what came after won't heal things overnight. But it's a starting point, from which we can join hands and walk together towards a shared future.
A balanced understanding of the past will help us build a future - it is of critical importance.
While you're with us, did you know the Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news - sign up here
IN THE NEWS:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.