The new land of Australia was to become, not a permanent prison for Britains surplus convicts, but an unprecedented experiment in implementing the most enlightened policies of the day: no slavery in a free land, freedom of the press and religion, independent courts, trial by jury and the rule of law, representative government, universal education, economic freedom, readily transferable land title, democratic secret ballot, and votes for women decades before Britain and America.
We now know the hopes of the Enlightenment leaders in relation to the Aboriginal people were misplaced and soon betrayed.
Both Cook and Phillip believed profoundly that the peoples of the new lands were purer, less corrupted, than those of Europe, or, in Phillips case, than the convicts he carried with him. All the Aboriginal people were to have the rights of British citizens, and offences against them were to be punished. Phillip wanted the convicts to be completely separated from the natives, lest the women [be] abused and the natives disgusted.
We now know that the hopes of the Enlightenment leaders, fulfilled in so many ways, in relation to the Aboriginal people were misplaced and soon betrayed.
Aboriginal people could not exercise the rights of British citizens. They could not use the courts, and colonial governments did not have the resources, capacity, and sometimes even the desire, to protect the traditional owners of the land from the hatred and violence of many of the settlers who were dispossessing them.
The great silence that has settled on this tragic story is now being lifted. Impressive leaders speaking with Aboriginal voices have emerged, first from the mission and government schools, and in the last half-century from universities, using the rights and parliamentary platforms of Australias enlightenment inheritance to claim both traditional rights to land, and the rights promised and foreshadowed on January 26, 1788.
Botanist Joseph Banks recorded a huge number of plant and animal species on the voyage of the Endeavour.  Justin McManus
Australians have remembered Cooks arrival on many occasions in the past, and built memorials to the event, but this year will be different, and the differences will record our evolution as a nation. Memorials this year will express a new appreciation that there were two views of what occurred the view from the Endeavour recorded at Botany Bay in Cooks log, and the view from the shore of the Gweagal people, observing and bravely challenging the arrivals.
It has taken 250 years, but we have come at last to recognise that both views must be a part of the telling of our national story, and building our national identity. Australia today is better able to face its past with more realism than ever before. It is after all a country that is a product both of the scientific and liberal values of the British enlightenment and of the ancient hospitable, artistic and consultative culture already here, a culture inextricably wedded to the magnificent land we now share.
David Kemp was a Cabinet Minister in the Howard Government, and is author of The Land of Dreams: How Australians Won Their Freedom, Miegunyah Press, 2018