There was a time when there was no human habitation on the Southern Asian – Australian land mass. Before the human invasion, the land belonged to the birds, plants and animals.
More than 40,000 years ago humans appeared on the northern continent of Australia. They arrived by passing across a land bridge and many of them eventually travelled to the island state of Tasmania. The waters of Bass Strait rose and isolated what would become unique tribes of indigenous people, the First Tasmanians.
One of the earliest mariners, Abel Tasman, left Java in 1642 and sailed around Tasmania. He was unable to fulfil his Company’s goal for new trading opportunities and named the island Van Diemens Land, after the Governor General of the Dutch East India Company. This pre-dated the arrival of English convict ships but it is from 1788 that Australian settlement was officially recorded
Tasmania is the second oldest settlement in Australia, established in 1803 at Risdon Cove on the River Derwent by Lieutenant John Bowen of the British Royal Navy. He arrived with 48 settlers on 12 September 1803. By October of the same year, David Collins was the Commander of a convict settlement of about 300 convicts and a few settlers at Sorrento. The area was not suitable and in 1804 he established the second permanent European settlement in the colony at Sullivans Cove.
In 1804, Colonel William Paterson established the first settlement in Northern Tasmania on the eastern side of the Tamar River. It was called Georgetown in honour of King George 111, and Paterson came ashore with 180 settlers and convicts.
The Tasmanian coastline is the site of many shipwrecks from the early days and continued to take ships and lives over the years. Whaling thrived, more convicts arrived and the cruel penal settlements of Port Arthur and Sarah Island continued until transportation ceased when the last convicts arrived in NSW in 1850. It wasn’t until 1877 that Port Arthur finally closed as a penal settlement.
The local indigenous people and the settlers continually clashed and aboriginal weapons were no match for soldiers’ guns. Trugannini became known as the last Tasmanian Aboriginal when she died in 1876.
Tasmania’s population is about 500,000. From 1852 unassisted migrants have been arriving in Tasmania. Assisted and unassisted settlers have been arriving for over 200 years and they left their homelands for many reasons. It may have been for a better way of life, or because of dispossession, persecution or wars.
There was a great post-WW11 demand for workers in Australia and migrant labour was eagerly sought. This decision was to have a long lasting effect on Australia and its states both economically and socially. These newcomers influenced our culture with their food, wine and music and continue to do so in the 21st Century.
They had come so far to live on this island called Tasmania.