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The island of Tasmania, an Australian state, is located 240 km (150 miles) south of the eastern portion of the continent, being separated from it by the Bass Strait. Tasmania has a population of 456 652 (census 2001) and an area of 68 332 kmē (26 383 square miles). As at 31 March 2003, Tasmania's estimated resident population was 476 199. Tasmania had the nickname Apple Isle due to the large number of apples grown there.

The capital and largest city is Hobart, which includes the cities of Hobart, Glenorchy, and Clarence. Other major population centres include Launceston in the north, and Devonport and Burnie in the north-west.



Main article: History of Tasmania

Physical prehistory

It is believed that the island was joined to the mainland until the end of the most recent ice age approximately 10 000 years ago.

Indigenous people

Tasmania was once inhabited by an indigenous population, the Tasmanian Aborigines, and evidence indicates their presence in the territory, later to become an island, at least 35 000 years ago. The indigenous population at the time of British settlement in 1803 has been estimated at 5 000, but through persecution (see Black War and Black Line) and disease the population was decimated (some mixed-blood descendants still survive). The impact of introduced diseases, prior to the first European estimates of the size of Tasmania's population, means that the original indigenous population could have been somewhat larger than 5 000. The last full-blooded Tasmanian Aborigine was Truganini - she died in Hobart in 1876.

European arrival

The first reported sighting of Tasmania by a European was on November 24th 1642 by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman who named the island Anthoonij van Diemenslandt, after his sponsor, the Govenor of the Dutch East Indies. The name was later shortened to Van Diemens Land by the British. Captain James Cook also sighted the island in 1777, and numerous other European seafarers made landfalls, adding a colourful array to the names of topographical features.

The first settlement was by the British at Risdon Cove on the eastern bank of the Derwent estuary in 1803, by a small party sent from Sydney, under Lt. John Bowen. An alternative settlement was established by Captain David Collins 5 km to the south in 1804 in Sullivan's Cove on the western side of the Derwent, where fresh water was more plentiful. The latter settlement became known as Hobart Town or Hobarton, later shortened to Hobart, after the British Colonial Secretary of the time, Lord Hobart. The settlement at Risdon was later abandoned.

The early settlers were mostly convicts and their military guards, with the task of developing agriculture and other industries. Numerous other convict-based settlements were made in Van Diemens Land, including secondary prisons, such as the particularily harsh penal colonies at Port Arthur in the south-east and Macquarie Harbour on the West Coast.

Van Diemens Land was proclaimed a separate colony from New South Wales, with its own judicial establishment and Legislative Council, on December 3 1825.

World attention

Although the state is seldom in the world news, global attention turned to Tasmania on April 29 1996 when lone gunman Martin Bryant opened fire, killing 35 tourists and residents and injuring 37 others in an incident now known as the Port Arthur Massacre.

Recently it has also received attention with the 2004 wedding of former Hobart woman Mary Donaldson to Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark, on May 14 2004.

Geography of Tasmania

Main article: Geography of Tasmania

Tasmania is a rugged island of temperate climate, so similar in some ways to pre-industrial England that it was referred to by some English colonists as 'a Southern England'.

Geographically, Tasmania is similar to New Zealand to the east. As Tasmania has been volcanically inactive in recent geological times, Tasmania has 'rounded smooth' mountain ranges similar to mainland Australia, unlike most of New Zealand. The most mountainous region is the Central Highlands area, which cover most of the central west parts of the state. The central east area (the Midlands) is fairly flat, and is predominantly used for agriculture, although farming activity is also scattered around the state.

The South-West region, in particular, is densely forested, the National Park holding some of the last temperate rainforests in the Southern Hemisphere. Management of such an isolated and inaccessible area has been made easier and more reliable with the advent of satellite imaging.

Most of the population lives on and around the coastal rivers - the Derwent and Huon Rivers in the south, the Tamar and Mersey Rivers in the north.

The temperate climate (only Australian state with any land below the 40th parallel,) rustic environment and numerous historic features (for example, Richmond Bridge in south-eastern Tasmania is the oldest bridge in Australia) has made Tasmania a popular choice for retirees who prefer a temperate climate over a tropical one such as Queensland.


Main article: Government of Tasmania

The form of the government of Tasmania is prescribed in its Constitution, which dates from 1856, although it has been amended many times since then. Since 1901 Tasmania has been a state of the Commonwealth of Australia, and the Australian Constitution regulates its relationship with the Commonwealth.

Under the Australian Constitution, Tasmania ceded certain legislative and judicial powers to the Commonwealth, but retained complete independence in all other areas. In practice, however, the independence of the Australian states has been greatly eroded by the increasing financial domination of the Commonwealth.


Tasmania's relatively low population density and temperate, maritime climate mean that it is rich in unspoilt, ecologically valuable regions. Proposals for local economic development have therefore been faced with strong requirements for environmental sensitivity, or outright opposition. In particular, proposals for hydroelectric power generation proved controversial in the late 20th century. In the 1970s, opposition to the construction of the Lake Pedder Dam led to the formation of the world's first green party, the United Tasmania Group. In the 1980s the state was again plunged into often bitter debate over the proposed Franklin River Dam. The anti-dam sentiment was shared by many Australians outside Tasmania, and proved a factor in the election of the Hawke Labor government in 1983, which halted construction of the dam.

Nationally, Tasmania is well represented in the Australian Senate, where seats are not proportional to population. Since 1975, Tasmanian Independent senator Brian Harradine often held the balance of power. As a result he was able to hold the government of the day to pass legislation that, although often matches his conservative religious views, was also very financially rewarding for the state. Harradine successfully defended his seat in six consecutive senate elections and did not stand for re-election at the 2004 federal election, voluntarily retiring.

In state parliament, the Greens have held a growing number of seats since 1990. In the 2002 state election , the Greens won four of the 25 seats, the highest proportion of any Green party in any parliament in the world.

On 23 February 2004, the Premier Jim Bacon announced his retirement, due to being diagnosed with lung cancer. He passed away four months later.


Tasmania's erratic economy was first experienced by colonists in the early 1800s. The reasons have been many and varied over the years, and have often been attributed to: lack of federal infrastructure, lack of a gold rush, lack of open immigration initiatives, lack of population, decline in the wool and mineral economies, lack of early colonial initatives, or lack of foreign investment. Also of considerable note is the continuing exodus of youth to mainland Australia in order to seek employment opportunities.

Tasmania's main industries are: mining, including copper, zinc, tin, and iron; agriculture; forestry; and tourism. There has been a significant decline in manufacturing in recent years, leading to a substantial drain of the island's trained and experienced working population to mainland Australia, especially to major urban centres such as Melbourne and Sydney. Tasmania has the least revenue out of any state in Australia - its annual budget is similar to that of the city of Brisbane.

Tasmania's economic woes have caused many Tasmanians to view the world and their place in it quite differently from the rest of Australia. Consequently, Tasmania has a thriving, though under-resourced, arts community and environmental movement. However, this has turned out to be as much a divisive as an inclusive issue in respect of Tasmanian's sense of identity. The thrust of the environmental lobby has resulted in large areas of the state being conserved in national parks and other protected areas thus limiting economic development through means of industries such as forestry and mining.

Today, a significant number of employed Tasmanians work for the government. Other major employers include the Federal Group , owner of Tasmania's two casinos, and Gunns Limited, the state's biggest forestry company. In the late 1990s, many national companies have based their call centres in the state.


The fastest and cheapest method of travel across Bass Strait is by air. The main carriers are Qantas, JetStar, and Virgin Blue, which fly direct routes to Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Adelaide. Major airports include the Hobart International Airport and Launceston Airport; the smaller airports are serviced by Regional Express who generally fly only to Melbourne and the Bass Strait islands.

The domestic sea route is being serviced by the Bass Strait passenger/vehicle ferries operated by the Tasmanian Government-owned TT-Line . From 1986 the Abel Tasman made six weekly overnight crossings between Devonport and Melbourne. It was replaced by the Spirit of Tasmania in 1993, which performed the same route and schedule. The most recent change was the 2002 replacement of the Spirit by two Superfast ferries - Spirit of Tasmania I and Spirit of Tasmania II - which brought the number of overnight crossings up to fourteen, plus additional daylight crossings in peak times. In January 2004 a third ship, the slightly smaller Spirit of Tasmania III, started the Devonport to Sydney route. Two container ships owned by Toll Shipping also make daily crossings between Burnie and Melbourne. The port of Hobart also serves as a host to visiting cruise ships and prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks was a regular port of call for United States Navy ships returning home from the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf.

Tasmania, Hobart in particular, serves as Australia's chief sea link to the Antarctic and South Pacific, with the Australian Antarctic Division located in Kingston. Hobart is also the home port of the French ship l'Astrolabe which makes regular supply runs to the French Southern Territories near and in Antarctica.

Within the state, the primary form of transport is by road. Since the 1980s, many of the states highways have undergone regular upgrades. These include the Hobart Southern Outlet, Launceston Southern Outlet, Bass Highway re-construction, and the Huon Highway .

Tasmania's rail network consists of narrow gauge lines to all four major population centers and to mining or forestry operations on the west coast and north-west. Regular passenger train services in the state ceased in 1977; the only trains are for freight, and tourist trains in specific areas.


In order to foster tourism, the state government encourages or supports several different annual events in and around the island. The best known of these would be the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race [1], starting on Boxing Day in Sydney and usually arriving at Constitution Dock in Hobart around three to four days later, during the Hobart Summer Festival [2].

The Targa Tasmania road rally [3], usually held in late April or early May, attracts world class rally drivers and is staged all over the state, over five days.

Agfest [4] is a three day agricultural show held at Carrick (just west of Launceston) in early May, and despite its agricultural focus it attracts city and country residents - 75000 people in 2004. Other major shows include the Royal Hobart Show and Royal Launceston Show , held in October of each year.

A recent addition to the state has been the 10 Days on the Island arts festival - however it has drawn criticism from environmental groups for its acceptance of sponsorship from forestry company Gunns.

The Basin Concert was a now defunct music concert held at the Cataract Gorge in Launceston. Current festivals include Gone South [5], held four times since 1999, and the Falls Festival [6], a Victorian event now held in both Victoria and Tasmania on New Year's Eve.

The Antarctic Midwinter Festival [7] celebrates Hobart's special connection with the Antarctic, on the winter solstice in June each year.

Prominent people

For a small population base Tasmania has produced a number of significant people in many areas:

Indigenous animals


The island of Tasmania was home to the Thylacine, a marsupial equivalent to a wild dog. Known colloquially as the Tasmanian Tiger because of the distinctive striping across its back, it became extinct in mainland Australia much earlier because of the introduction of the dingo. Due to persecution by farmers, government-funded bounty hunters, and, in the final years, collectors for overseas museums, it also appears to have been exterminated in Tasmania. The last known animal died in captivity in 1936. Many alleged sightings have been recorded in recent times.

Tasmanian Devil

The Tasmanian Devil is a carnivorous marsupial found exclusively on the island of Tasmania. The size of a small dog but stocky and muscular, the Tasmanian Devil is characterised by its black fur, offensive odour when stressed, extremely loud and disturbing screeching, and vicious temperament. It also was threatened with extinction because of human actions, but it has survived and nowadays it is widespread throughout Tasmania and fairly common.

Recently (2004), the Tasmanian Devil population has been reduced to just 9% in some areas by "Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumor Disease" which renders the Devils unable to function and the majority have died of starvation when the tumors have spread to their mouths. Enquiries have found that the tumors may be caused by the runoff of a poison the Department of Forestry has been using to curb pests in plantation forests, but devils with tumors have also been found in areas where no aerial spraying takes place. [8]

The Tasmanian Devil is also a Warner Bros cartoon character loosely modeled after the animal. Wildlife centre operators have often been dismayed by foreign tourists asking them to make their captive Devils "spin" like in the cartoon. This is not possible, as Tasmanian Devils do not spin in real life.

Places in Tasmania

Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain, Central Tasmanian Highlands
Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain, Central Tasmanian Highlands



Significant Bridges:

Main Highways:




See also: List of Australian islands, lakes, bridges, highways, rivers, mountains and regions.

Related topics

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