A NSW indigenous politician says the 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook's arrival on the east coast of Australia is a "difficult" time and there shouldn't be a one-sided celebration of the explorer.
Planned commemorations to reflect on April 29, 1770, when Cook sailed into Botany Bay, including a "meeting of two cultures" event, have been suspended or delayed by the COVID-19 crisis.
Federal Labor MP and Wiradjuri woman Linda Burney says it's an anniversary of mixed feelings.
"It's obviously a very difficult anniversary," Ms Burney told Sky News on Wednesday.
"I'm not saying that Cook was not a great navigator. I'm not saying that Cook's contribution to the world is not significant.
"But what today means for First Nations people was the beginning of terra nullius - the beginning of a very difficult period in our history."
Ms Burney said it was important the truth be told and there not be a one-sided celebration of Cook.
"There is the story from the ships out in Botany Bay but there is also the story from the shore and both stories need to be told."
Alison Page, a descendant of the Walbanga and Wadi Wadi people of the Yuin nation and an honorary professor at the UTS school of design, agrees.
"This year marks the first time the microphone has been given to indigenous voices and that's really important," she told AAP on Wednesday.
Part of the process included correcting a longstanding misconception that the first words spoken by indigenous people to Cook - "warrawarrawa" - meant "go away" when they were actually more akin to "these people are dead".
"These words actually reveal a far more nuanced story about when these two cultures came into contact," Ms Page said.
The National Aboriginal Design Agency founder said Cook was often portrayed as a "bad guy" but she changed her mind after reading his diary entries.
"Here's a man who in 1770 sort of comprehended ... that the land provided everything (indigenous people) needed and that they were pretty happy," she said.
"He was obviously far from perfect but I think he really understood Aboriginal cultural values, which I appreciate."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the anniversary provided an opportunity to celebrate the world's oldest continuing living culture while learning about the origins of modern Australia.
"The day Cook and the local indigenous community at Kamay first made contact 250 years ago changed the course of our land forever," the prime minister said in a statement on Wednesday.
"It's a point in time from which we embarked on a shared journey which is realised in the way we live today."
While Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese explorers had seen and even landed on the continent a century earlier, Britain seized the opportunity to expand its empire and chose Cook to lead the ambitious project south, leaving Plymouth in August 1768.
He was sceptical about the existence of the great southern continent but on April 19, 1770, sighted what is now southeastern Victoria.
The Endeavour followed the coastline north, reaching a large shallow inlet before Cook stepped ashore at Botany Bay 10 days later.
Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt said the Endeavour's arrival "marked the first true understanding from the Western world on the world's longest-living indigenous culture".
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Wednesday was an important milestone in the nation's "very long history".
"We acknowledge that landing did shift Australia's history forever," she said.
Australian Associated Press