Possession Island (Queensland)

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Possession Island
LocationNorthern Australia
Coordinates10°43′36″S 142°23′49″E / 10.72667°S 142.39694°E / -10.72667; 142.39694Coordinates: 10°43′36″S 142°23′49″E / 10.72667°S 142.39694°E / -10.72667; 142.39694
Area5.5 km2 (2.1 sq mi)
Captain Cook raises the Union Flag on Possession Island, 22 August 1770

Possession Island is a small island in the Torres Strait Islands group off the coast of far northern Queensland, Australia. It is known as Bedanug or Bedhan Lag by one of the indigenous Australian inhabitants, the Kaurareg[1] though the Ankamuti were also indigenous to the island.

Possession Island is located at the centre of the Possession Island National Park, an area of 5.10 km2 established as a Protected Area in 1977 and managed by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service

James Cook's claim of possession[edit]

In 1770 the British navigator Lieutenant James Cook sailed northward along the east coast of Australia in the Endeavour, anchoring for a week at Botany Bay. Three months later, at Possession Island in Queensland, he claimed possession of the entire east coast he had explored for Britain. In his journal, Cook wrote: "I now once more hoisted English Coulers and in the Name of His Majesty King George the Third took possession of the whole Eastern Coast...by the name New South Wales, together with all the Bays, Harbours Rivers and Islands situate upon the said coast."[2]

In 2001 the Kaurareg people successfully claimed native title rights over the island (and other nearby islands).[3]

Commemorative Painting[edit]

In 1857 the artist, John Gilfillan, exhibited in Melbourne an idyllic tableau painting commemorating the annexation titled Captain Cook taking possession of the Australian continent on behalf of the British crown 1770.[4]


  1. ^ "Local history page" Archived 20 June 2006 at the Wayback Machine[dead link] at the Shire of Torres
  2. ^ Cook, James. Journal of the HMS Endeavour, 1769-1771. National Library of Australia, Manuscripts Collection, MS 1, 22 August 1770.
  3. ^ Kaurareg People v State of Queensland [2001] FCA 657, Federal Court.
  4. ^ nla.obj-135699884. National Library of Australia: Canberra.