In the first episode of season 3 of 80 Days: an exploration podcast, we’ll be talking about Tasmania, the island state of Australia, known to early European explorers as Van Dieman’s Land. This verdant island is roughly the size of Ireland but with only 8% of the population. Tasmania or ‘Tassie’ lies 240 km or 150 miles south of the Australian mainland, and the state encompasses the main island of Tasmania, the 26th-largest island in the world, and the surrounding 334 islands. Just over half a million people live in Tasmania, 40% of whom reside in the island largest city, Hobart, which is lies on the banks of the Derwent River on the south side of the island.
Up until the early 1800s, the island was inhabited exclusively by Aboriginal Tasmanians, but was soon after claimed by the British and converted into a penal colony. For the next 50 years, around 75,000 convicts were sent to the island, which was viewed as a kind of ‘prison without walls.’ In 1854 its name was changed to Tasmania, and in 1901 it became a state in the newly-created federation of Australia.
Here are a few things you may want to read/watch more about:
- Of general interest: The Companion to Tasmanian History website, edited by Alison Alexander; Van Dieman’s Land – A History by James Boyce (2008)
- The following resources talk about the indigenous people of Tasmania before Europeans arrived in this part of the world: An episode from the History Extra podcast ; a timeline of Tasmanian aboriginal history from the website of Tasmanian Geographic
- Early Tasmania (James Backhouse Walker, 1902)
- The story of William Buckley’s survival and integration into aboriginal society can be found in a text called The Fort Phillip Settlement
- The story of Alexander Pearce is recounted in The Road to McCarthy (Pete McCarthy, 2003), comments from the director of a movie about the story, The Last Confession of Alexander Pearse, can be found in an interview here,
- Fanny Cochrane Smith was recorded by Dr Horace Watson in 1899 on wax cylinders – this was very early audio recording technology and it’s amazing that this voice from the 19th century exists, announcing herself as ‘the last of the Tasmanians’ (YouTube); This recording even inspired a song by a descendant of Watson. Some considered Truganini to actually be the last full-blooded Tasmanian (see National Geographic article)
- ABC article about Smith, and transcription of her songs in an academic article by Murray J. Longman
- List of multiple killings of aboriginal Tasmanians collected by Science Po
- You can have a listen to The Dollop podcast’s take on the history of homosexuality in female prisons in Tasmania, by clicking here ; or alternatively read this paper on “the plight of convict lesbians” (Female Convicts Research Centre)
- On Port Arthur prison
- On Irish revolutionaries imprisoned here (also referenced in The Road to McCarthy)
- On the First World War (Companion to Tasmanian History)
Music you heard was from the following sources:
- Dewayne singing in aboriginal language to schoolkids
- English folk song about transportation to Van Dieman’s Land
- Irish folk song “The Black Velvet Band“
A massive thanks to all of our patrons on Patreon who are supporting season 3. If you’d like to join them and see what rewards are available for supporters, and get a peek behind the curtain check out www.patreon.com/80dayspodcast. We really appreciate every penny!