James Cook was a British Explorer whose achievements were much celebrated by the British at a time when the race was on between European countries to claim territory far from their own shores. Advances in shipbuilding and especially in navigation, meant European sailors could reach destinations never before possible.
Despite the "Great Southern Land" (Terra Australis) having already been reached by the Dutch, and known to navigators as New Holland, Cook raised the Union Jack on its Eastern shores and claimed it for Britain, making no consultation whatever with its indigenous population. Colonists from Britain began to arrive some 20 years later, bringing with them the British-centric view that Cook had discovered Australia and was a hero of the Empire. This view persists today among the desendants of colonists, but is increasingly challenged by those taking a broader view of history, and by Indigenous Australians.