Freo’s gift not worth a brass razoo

• The Endeavour sails back into Fremantle harbour in 2011, one of the rare chances for locals to see the ship they helped build 25 years ago. File photo.

Feds won’t cough up for our Endeavour anniversary

NOT a cent has been set aside by the federal government to recognise Fremantle’s link to the 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook’s encounter with the east coast of Australia.

Although a big-ticket item of the looming festivities will be two $6.7 million re-enactment voyages by the HMB Endeavour to New Zealand and New Caledonia, there will be no recognition of Fremantle as the birthplace of the plucky replica – even though December 9 next month marks 25 years since its launch off Mews Road.

A local volunteer who has spent hundreds of hours on the 550-tonne vessel guiding visitors and scrubbing its decks says the snub is an extraordinary oversight.

“The ship was a gift to the nation from Fremantle,” said the volunteer, who didn’t want to be named in case it affected her chances of getting a berth on one of the big sestercentennial voyages.

True replica

“This is the only true replica of its kind in the world that can sail.”

The volunteer said the Australian National Maritime Museum, which owns the replica, didn’t seem interested in setting anything aside for next month’s milestone, but had “wasted” thousands of dollars investigating a piece of timber from a wreck at Rhode Island, Newport which has been identified as “likely” to be the original Endeavour, even though it was unlikely to ever take possession of the relic.

“If they don’t do anything for its 25th, that’s their mess,” she fumed.

She predicted that after the big re-enactments, the museum would look to mothball the replica or sell it off because of the money it costs to run.

More than half of the $48.7 million set aside for Cook celebrations in the May federal budget were allocated to prime minister Scott Morrison’s electorate, which encompasses the explorer’s first footfall on Australian soil at Botany Bay.

Cultures

The money will go towards upgrading the Kamay Botany Bay National Park with a new visitor centre, cafe, aquatic monument, ferry wharves, exhibition space and interpretive displays at the landing site, with the key message being the “meeting of two cultures”.

“This is the place where our ancient Australian story began a new chapter that has led us to the free, peaceful and prosperous nation we are today,” Mr Morrison said when first announcing the funding as federal treasurer.

But that’s put Cooktown mayor Peter Scott’s nose out of joint, as he’s also feeling the federal government’s penny pinching and has not got a skerrick for the 48-day Cooktown 2020 festival. Mr Scott reckons Cooktown has a far stronger connection to European and Aboriginal contact than the PM’s electorate.

You see, during Cook’s eight days in Botany Bay, the local Gweagal clan kept running away from the strange foreigners; in fact, the only real contact was a marine’s musket ball which slammed into the thigh of one of the warriors who’d been warning them to nick off.

“But after Cook ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef, he spent 48 days up here repairing the Endeavour, and spoke to the indigenous people and even had them walking about on his ship,” Mr Scott told the Herald.

“There was one fracas, but Cook handed back their spears and they were reconciled.”

The extended contact also left a legacy for all of Australia; it was here that botanist Joseph Banks saw his first bounding marsupial, which he learned from the local Guugu Yimithirr people was called gangarru. Banks translated it as “kangaru”.

Mr Scott says Cooktown 2020 will emphasise the contact between Cook and the Guugu Yimithirr people, and hopes that the 250th anniversary of Cook’s arrival will spark a rewrite of school curriculum’s to note Queensland’s important role.

“The key story is that it’s being told from the indigenous perspective,” he says of the festival.

“As one of the traditional owners said to me, ‘this is not about ship to shore, but shore to ship’.”

Cooktown also has a $10m application in to the federal government for some “legacy” projects but Mr Scott’s concerned there won’t be enough time to build them before the festival.

“We needed the money two years ago – this is getting ludicrous,” Mr Scott said.

by STEVE GRANT

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