A Place in History

Long ago Tasmania was attached to the landmass now known as the Australian mainland. We also know that Aboriginal people have inhabited Tasmania for at least 20,000 years.

The first known Europeans to visit the island included the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman who called the island "Van Dieman's Land" in honour of his patron. On that same voyage Tasman also made landfall in New Zealand, Tonga and Fiji. In 1770 explorer James Cook claimed "the great south land" for Britain and three years later the French explorer du Fresne and his crew encountered Aboriginals on the Tasmanian coast - in a skirmish several Aboriginals were shot. In 1802 the British established a small penal and whaling colony on the Derwent River at Risdon Cove.

By the middle of the 1840s, nearly half of Tasmania's population were convicts. Some were hardened criminals but many were victims of poverty; transported for seven or fourteen years or even life for offences such as picking pockets, stealing a loaf of bread or similar acts.

Convicts were transported out to Tasmania until 1853 and two of the most notorious prisons in the world were on Tasmanian soil - Port Arthur and Macquarie Harbour. The name of Van Dieman's Land was changed to Tasmania in 1856.

In 1901 the Federation of Australia as a Commonwealth saw Tasmania gain statehood. Two years later women received the right to vote, the first state to grant this right.