Captain Cook landing in Far North Queensland takes on new perspective

A major festival commemorating the 250 year anniversary of Captain James Cook's landing at Cooktown has changed its name and theme amid continuing protests and controversy over Australia's colonial past.

The Cooktown and Cape York Expo 2021 - the event formerly known as Cooktown Discovery Festival - will be held in June next year with a focus on reconciliation, regeneration and economic recovery for the Cape region.

The festival was due to be held in July but has been postponed to next year due to COVID-19 concerns.

The event commemorates the 1770 grounding of Cook's ship the HM Bark Endeavour on the Great Barrier Reef and his interactions with local Aboriginal people in what was known as Waymburr.

While not directly linked to recent protests and concerns about Australia's colonial past, the name change comes at a time of upheaval across the nation.

Statues of Captain Cook have been vandalised and a petition launched to pull down the Captain Cook statue on Sheridan St, which has so garnered more than 14,500 signatures. A counter petition calling for it to remain has reached 2100 signatures.

Cook Shire Mayor Peter Scott said the postponement of the 2020 Expo had given council the opportunity to "re-imagine the event".

"We are keeping the theme of reconciliation, but with a focus on regeneration and economic and social recovery for the whole of Cape York," he said.

"To better reflect the new focus, we have re-named the event Cooktown and Cape York Expo 2021 – The Rising Tide. The tagline pays homage to our Indigenous culture – the rising tide is the best time to hunt and gather and brings new life.

"It is also reflective of the need for the community to rise up and prosper in a post-pandemic world, and links to James Cook, as the rising tide helped float his ship from the reef as he made his way to Waalmbal Birri (the Endeavour River) 250 years ago.”

The ten day Expo 2021 will kick off with the free Reconciliation Rocks music festival from 11 to 13 June 2021 featuring Busby Marou, Troy Cassar-Daley and Mau Power, followed by a week-long regional showcase and business expo from 14 to 18 June and finishing with the Discovery Festival weekend from 18 to 20 June.