The Unsettled curators thank Neenah R. Gray for her assistance with this section’s web pages.

Curators’ acknowledgement

“We pay our respects and dedicate the Unsettled exhibition to the people and other Beings who keep the law of this land; to the Elders and Traditional Owners of all the knowledges, places, and stories in this exhibition; and to the Ancestors and Old People for their resilience and guidance.

We advise that there are some confronting topics addressed in this exhibition, including massacres and genocide. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be advised that there may be images of people who have passed away.”

Laura McBride and Dr Mariko Smith, 2021.

Recognising Invasions

First Nations peoples have been here since time immemorial (this means time so long in the past that it is indefinite in history or tradition).

Aboriginal peoples’ homelands were taken by force; it was not a peaceful settlement.[1] The colonists did not make agreements or treaties with any of the sovereign Nations, making the colonial seizure of land in Australia a process that could be described as a series of invasions.[2]

The lack of recognition of dispossession goes to the very heart of a wound in the nation.[3] It has informed the political, social, and economic systems in Australia, resulting in the racial inequity we see today.[4]

For First Nations peoples, it is not merely an opinion that Australia was invaded – it is historical fact.

This section of the exhibition includes references to historical accounts from the perspectives and experiences of First Nations peoples as well as from those who were onboard the HMB Endeavour during the 1770 East Coast voyage such as Lieutenant James Cook, Sir Joseph Banks, and James Mario (Maria) Matra.

Recognising Invasions helps illuminate what happened between Cook’s Endeavour voyage in 1770 and the arrival of the Captain Arthur Phillip with the First Fleet in 1788, including some of the key reasons which were directly related to the British government’s decision to establish a New South Wales colony.

First Nations’ perspectives about Cook


  1. Ryan, L. (2020). Mapping the Sites of Frontier Massacres. Lecture, National Library of Australia.
  2. Goodall, H. (2008). Invasion to Embassy: Land in Aboriginal Politics in New South Wales, 1770-1972. Sydney University Press; Reynolds, H. (2006). The other side of the frontier: Aboriginal resistance to the European invasion of Australia (revised edition), University of New South Wales Press; Mabo v Queensland (No 2) [1992] HCA 23, (1992) 175 CLR 1.
  3. Keating, P. (1992). Redfern Speech (Year for the World’s Indigenous People). Speech, Redfern Park, NSW, Australian Government. From paul_keating_speech_transcript.pdf; Rudd, K. (2008). Apology to Australia’s Indigenous peoples. Speech, Canberra, ACT, Australian Government. From au/house/Rudd_Speech.pdf
  4. Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. (2000). Reconciliation: Australia’s challenge. Final report of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation to the Prime Minister and the Commonwealth Parliament. Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. Australian Government. (1991). Final Report: Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Research paper, Parkes, ACT, Australian Government Publishing Service. Australian Human Rights Commission. (1997). Bringing them home: Report of the national inquiry into the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families. Chapter 21 (Child Welfare Care and Protection). From https://