Tasmania – History

The first reported sighting of Tasmania by a European was on 24 November 1642 by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman. Tasman landed at today’s Blackman’s Bay. In 1773 Tobias Furneaux was the first Englishman to land in Tasmania at Adventure Bay. A French expedition led by Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne also landed at Blackman’s Bay in 1772.

Captain James Cook landed at Adventure Bay in 1777, with young William Bligh aboard. William Bligh returned in 1788 (H.M.S. Bounty) and again in 1792 (H.M.S Providence), with young Matthew Flinders aboard. Numerous other Europeans made landfalls, adding a colourful array to the names of topographical features. Matthew Flinders and George Bass first proved Tasmania to be an island in 1798–99.

The first settling of Tasmania 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 for the purpose of preventing the French from claiming the island. An alternative settlement was established by Captain David Collins 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) to the south in 1804 in Sullivans 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 Diemen’s Land, including secondary prisons, such as the particularly harsh penal colonies at Port Arthur in the southeast and Macquarie Harbour on the West Coast. In the fifty years from 1803 to 1853 around 75,000 convicts were transported to Tasmania. Van Diemen’s Land was proclaimed a separate colony from New South Wales, with its own judicial establishment and Legislative Council, on 3 December 1825.

The Colony of Tasmania (more commonly referred to simply as “Tasmania”) was a British colony that existed on the island of Tasmania from 1856 until 1901, when it federated together with the five other Australian colonies to form the Commonwealth of Australia. The possibility of the colony was established when the Westminster Parliament passed the Australian Colonies Government Act 1850, granting the right of legislative power to each of the six Australian colonies.

The Legislative Council of Van Diemen’s Land drafted a new constitution which they passed in 1854, and it was given Royal Assent by Queen Victoria in 1855. Later in that year the Privy Council approved the colony changing its name from “Van Diemen’s Land” to “Tasmania”, and in 1856, the newly elected bicameral parliament sat for the first time, establishing Tasmania as a self-governing colony of the British Empire.

The Colony suffered from economic fluctuations, but for the most part was prosperous, experiencing steady growth. With few external threats and strong trade links with the Empire, the Colony of Tasmania enjoyed many fruitful periods in the late 19th century, becoming a world-centre of shipbuilding. It raised a local defence force which eventually played a significant role in the Second Boer War in South Africa, and Tasmanian soldiers in that conflict won the first two Victoria Crosses awarded to Australians. Tasmanians voted in favour of federation with the largest majority of all the Australian colonies, and on 1 January 1901, the Colony of Tasmania, became the Australian state of Tasmania.

The state was badly affected by the 1967 Tasmanian fires, in which there was major loss of life and property. In the 1970s, the state government announced plans to flood environmentally significant Lake Pedder. The collapse of the Tasman Bridge when struck by the bulk ore carrier MV Lake Illawarra in 1975 made crossing the Derwent River at Hobart almost impossible. National and international attention surrounded the campaign against the Franklin Dam in the early 1980s. This contributed to the start of the Green movement.

On 28 April 1996 in the incident now known as the Port Arthur massacre, lone gunman Martin Bryant shot and killed 35 people (including tourists and residents) and injured 21 others. The use of firearms was immediately reviewed, and new gun ownership laws were adopted nationwide, with Tasmania’s law one of the strictest in Australia.

In April 2006, the Beaconsfield Mine collapse was triggered by a small earthquake. One person was killed and two others were trapped underground for 14 days. The Tasmanian community has for some time been divided over the issue of the proposed Bell Bay Pulp Mill to be built in the Tamar Valley. Proponents argue that jobs will be created while opponents argue that pollution will damage both the Bass strait fishing industry and local tourism.

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