Cooktown Festival Banks Banquet Dinner
Cook Shire Council Mayor, Councillor Peter Scott and Mrs Sayah Scott; Deputy Mayor, Councillor Robyn Holmes; Councillors and partners; ladies and gentlemen, good evening.
I begin by acknowledging the original custodians of the lands on which we gather and pay my respects to Elders, past, present and emerging. I also extend my respects to all First Nations people here this evening.
Graeme and I are delighted that our first Vice-Regal visit to Cooktown should coincide with its biggest event, the Cooktown Discovery Festival.
This long-standing annual event showcases Indigenous arts and culture, history, science, agriculture - and of course, fabulous food!
We are very happy to be able to join you for the Banks Banquet, and congratulate the organisers and chefs on a beautifully crafted menu.
It is fitting that kangaroo should be featured, since it was in Cooktown that Captain James Cook saw his first kangaroo.
After marvelling at it Cook wrote in his journal that: "It bears no sort of resemblance to any European animal I ever saw.” It had the colour of a mouse, was the size of a greyhound, looked like a jerboa, and moved like a hare. A truly astonishing animal!
Joseph Banks, who lends his name to tonight’s banquet, is credited with naming this animal "kangooroo" from the word gangurru, which was the name given to it by the local Guugu Yimithirr peoples, and which I note is how it is referred to on the menu.
Banks would approve of this addition to the banquet’s menu, having written in his journal in 1770 that this new animal, besides being intriguing, also tasted good!
He would undoubtedly also approve of the work that the Cooktown Botanic Gardens, and its new Curator Peter Symes, continue to do here in one of the oldest regional botanic gardens in Queensland.
Besides being beautiful, these gardens are of great historical significance, and I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity of visiting. It’s not every day that you get to see
some of the original plantings that botanists Banks and Daniel Solander collected from the district in 1770!
Graeme and I am so looking forward to exploring more of Cooktown; unfortunately, we are only able to stay for a fraction of Cook’s 48 days but are enjoying every minute of it.
We are particularly looking forward to experiencing the Captain Cook’s Landing Re-enactment on Sunday, which I understand has been running for an impressive 63 years! It will be a fitting culmination to what I am sure will be a very successful Festival.
Thank you for inviting Graeme and I to share tonight’s banquet at the lovely Nature’s Powerhouse, and we look forward to hearing your stories of Cooktown and your experiences of the Festival over the years.