The history of Tasmania fascinates me.

Nomadic indigenous people lived here for thousands of years, living off the land and respecting it. They took and used only what they needed. They lived within the natural world, there sacred places are natural landmarks, rocks, caves. Evidence of their existence on the land are rock paintings, rock dwellings, camp sites, fireplaces and middens (waste dumps which could contain animal bone, plant material, excrement, shells, tools, weapons, vermin). They did not build temples or churches or pyramids or sports arenas like other ancient civilisations.

Although I knew some of the history of Australia, of Tasmania, I am only just beginning to appreciate the human reality. The impact of both the indigenous people and the white settlers.

What did the first settlers think of this new land where the seasons are back to front. Where trees lose their bark, not their leaves. Where the majority of animals and birds were unfamiliar and even known ones were different, black swans, not white.

In the UK and Europe there is history layered upon layers over the thousands of years. Here there is so much wilderness, it is easy to see how the Europeans arrived by ship from the ocean and seas. How they followed rivers into relatively safe harbours and chose where to make camp. How they then explored inland, following waterways. There are places today where the road, a railway, and electricity lines follow the path of a river.

How extraordinary were these people, heading off into the unknown.

How brave were both the indigenous people and the white invaders, not understanding anything of the ways, language or cultures of each other.

Throughout the first fifty years of it’s colonial history, the island was known as Van Diemen’s Land and was built as a penal settlement on convict labour. Transportation was abolished in 1853. Three years later, the island became self governing, separate from the mainland states. It also changed it’s name to Tasmania, with it’s local born population disassociating itself from its convict immigrant past.

Australia as a whole played down it’s early history for many generations. However it now acknowledges both Aboriginal history and the importance of the First Fleet, early settlers and it’s convict past. All of these elements have shaped this amazing country.