The Morrison government is spending $6.7 million to send a replica of captain James Cook's ship HMS Endeavour – also known as HM Bark Endeavour – on a 14-month circumnavigation of Australia as part of the 250th anniversary of his first voyage to the Pacific.
“That voyage is the reason Australia is what it is today and it’s important we take the opportunity to reflect on it," prime minister Scott Morrison said in a press release on Tuesday.
The replica Endeavour''s voyage is expected to start in Sydney in March 2020 and end in May 2021, stopping at 39 locations around the Australian coastline.
Arts minister Mitch Fifield says the replica Endeavour''s trip will be managed sensitively, and will present both the view from the ship and the view from the shore.
“The voyage will provide many opportunities for Australians to see the HMB Endeavour replica, either at one of the ports it visits or when it anchors or passes by," Fifield said.
Morrison has described the replica's trip as a "re-enactment".
But critics have pointed out that captain Cook didn't circumnavigate Australia during any of his three voyages to the Pacific.
The Endeavour is believed to be the first European ship to reach the East Coast of Australia, in April 1770, more than 65,000 years after the country was first inhabited by different Aboriginal clans.
Cook's first voyage didn't circumnavigate Australia. But it did circumnavigate New Zealand.
In 1770 Cook spent four months mapping the East Coast before declaring the land was "terra nullius" (no-one's land) and claiming it for King George III.
The First Fleet arrived 18 years later, on Jan. 26, 1788 and established a penal colony and colonial settlement.
It's estimated that over 750,000 Aboriginal people inhabited the island continent in 1788.
The nearly $7 million in funding for the voyage will come from the $48.7 million the government has set aside to mark the 250th anniversary.
The government has previously announced $3 million to build an "aquatic monument" to Cook in Botany Bay, to mark the site where Europeans and Indigenous Australians first encountered one another.
News that millions are being spent on the voyage has reignited the debate over the date of Australia Day, which rages each year in the lead-up to the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet.
Earlier this month Morrison announced that the government would force councils to hold citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day, in response to less than 10 of the over 500 councils voting to not recognise Australia Day on Jan. 26.
Both Morrison and Labor leader Bill Shorten have ruled out changing the date.
The Australian National Maritime Museum started construction on the Endeavour replica in 1988; its maiden voyage was in 1994. According to the museum's website the fully functioning ship has sailed over 170,000 nautical miles, visited 29 countries and operated as a museum in 116 ports.