Botany Bay: Where Histories Meet

By Maria Nugent | Go to book overview

7

REMEMBERING DISPOSSESSION AND SURVIVAL Botany Bay stories revisited

On 18 January 1988, the First Fleet sailed into Botany Bay for a second time. It had been 200 years between visits. This re- enactment, although not an official event, was nonetheless a greatly anticipated, well-publicised and popular one among the many held during Australia's bicentennial year. Crowds lined Botany Bay's foreshores to see history being remade. Most were in a welcoming mood, but others were not. Quite a large group of Aboriginal people and their supporters had gathered to protest the return of the First Fleet. This was not the first time that an historical re-enactment of this type had attracted both onlookers and opposers. In 1970, the 200th anniversary celebrations of Captain Cook's arrival in Botany Bay, had also attracted large crowds who wanted to witness the re-enactment, and a small group of Aboriginal people who wanted to express their opposition.

The Aboriginal protest staged at Botany Bay in 1988 was itself a re-enactment of sorts. It specifically drew upon the 1970 protest, which in turn had drawn on the 1938 day of mourning held in Sydney on the occasion of the sesquicentenary of the arrival of the First Fleet. It can thus be interpreted as part of a tradition whereby Aboriginal people, in their struggle for recognition and rights, challenged the historical narratives that non-Aboriginal people told

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