Journals of the earliest British visitors to Australian shores facilitated the creation of the image of Australian Indigenous nations as savage, primitive and inferior in every aspect of their appearance and their way of life to both Europeans and indigenous peoples of other lands. In 1688, William Dampier described the inhabitants of “New Holland” as “the miserablest people in the world … having no [sic] one graceful feature in their faces.” In 1770, James Cook found the natives’ canoes “the worst … [he] ever saw” (A New Voyage ch. 16). The encounter took a hostile turn when beads and nails thrown at their feet failed to impress Aboriginal people and pave the way for a peaceful landing. Prejudiced descriptions and opinions justified European colonisation of Australia and dispossession of indigenous peoples. It took more than two centuries to revise those views. Literature was a powerful tool of colonisation and in turn was used by the colonised to oppose the coloniser. In this article, literature is examined as a tool for adopting fresh perspectives in education of new generations of young people in Australia about Cook’s discoveries on the Endeavour journey. The paper examines two children’s novels—The Goat Who Sailed the World by Jackie French (2006) and Captain Cook’s Apprentice by Anthony Hill (2008)—in order to demonstrate that these novels can be extremely important in educational, cultural and socio-political terms because they open the ground for a discussion of ideologies, social behaviour and cultural values in classroom, and thereby can contribute to the ongoing process of reconciliation in Australia.
Keywords: children’s literature; first contact in Australia; reconciliation; revision