The story of what happened the day Captain James Cook first landed in Botany Bay is one you may not have heard.
On Sunday, people packed the River Rock Cafe in Bermagui to hear Rodney Kelly talk about what happened on April 29, 1770, told from the perspective of Original Australians.
Mr Kelly is the force behind the move to acknowledge the Gweagal people as the rightful owners of artefacts held in British museums, including a shield and several spears. On October 11, a motion requesting diplomatic assistance to help with the return of these artefacts will be presented to the Australian Senate.
Mr Kelly said on the fateful day in 1770, Gweagal people saw “a giant canoe” enter the bay – Cook’s ship the Endeavour – so their warriors gathered the woman and children before taking them into the bush, as “they knew something was about to happen”.
Cook jumped in two small boats with about 50 marines armed with muskets and started to row to shore so two Gweagal warriors went to warn him he needed to gain permission to land.
The captain attempted to signal he meant no harm, but the warriors began shaking their spears to tell him to go away.
Mr Kelly said eventually Cook fired a shot frustrated the two parties could not understand each other. That shot missed the warriors, but he then fired a second shot that hit one in the leg.
After firing a third shot, one warrior ran to their huts to grab a shield, but when he arrived back at the shore Cook had landed.
The warriors threw spears at Cook and his crew, while they responded with musket fire. Eventually, the warriors fled, leaving behind what would become known as the Gweagal shield that was seized by the Europeans.
Mr Kelly is a descendant of Cooman, one of the warriors who stood on the beach. He said the stories of that day had been passed down through generations as well as being written in the journals of Cook and botanist Joseph Banks.
Mr Kelly wants the British-held artefacts to go to an Australian museum, so people “can learn the true history of that day in 1770”.
“The first point of contact between Cook and Indigenous people started in bloodshed – three shots were fired before any spear was thrown,” he said.
“From the first day our lives were never thought of as a human beings.”