Tasmania (abbreviated as Tas and known colloquially as "Tassie"; ) is an island state, part of the Commonwealth of Australia, located to the south of the Australian mainland, separated by Bass Strait. The state includes the island of Tasmania, the 26th largest island in the world, and the surrounding 334 islands. The state has a population of 507,626, almost half of which resides in the Greater Hobart precinct, which forms the metropolitan area of the state capital and largest city Hobart.
Tasmania's area is , of which the main island covers . Tasmania is promoted as a natural state; almost 45% of Tasmania lies in reserves, national parks and World Heritage Sites and the state was the founding place of the first environmental party in the world. The modern state was founded as Van Diemen's Land by the British Empire, though it was inhabited by Tasmanian Aborigines for up to 40,000 years before. In 1856 it become a self-governing colony and renamed to Tasmania, and in 1901 it became part of the Federation of Australia.
The northernmost terrestrial point of the state of Tasmania is Boundary Islet, a nature reserve in Bass Strait which, due to a quirk of history, is shared with the state of Victoria. The subantarctic Macquarie Island and its surrounding islands are also under the administration of Tasmania as a nature reserve and part of the Huon Valley Council local government area. The Bishop and Clerk Islets, about 37 km south of Macquarie Island, are the southernmost terrestrial point of the state of Tasmania, and the southernmost internationally recognised land in Australia.
The island was adjoined to the mainland of Australia until the end of the last glacial period about 10,000 years ago. Much of the island is composed of Jurassic dolerite intrusions (upwellings of magma) through other rock types, sometimes forming large columnar joints. Tasmania has the world's largest areas of dolerite, with many distinctive mountains and cliffs formed from this rock type.
The central plateau and the southeast portions of the island are mostly dolerite. Mount Wellington above Hobart is a good example, showing distinct columns known as the Organ Pipes. In the southern midlands as far south as Hobart, the dolerite is underlaid by sandstone and similar sedimentary stones. In the southwest, Precambrian quartzites were formed from very ancient sea sediments and form strikingly sharp ridges and ranges, such as Federation Peak or Frenchmans Cap.
In the northeast and east, continental granites can be seen, such as at Freycinet, similar to coastal granites on mainland Australia. In the northwest and west, mineral-rich volcanic rock can be seen at Mount Read near Rosebery, or at Mount Lyell near Queenstown. Also present in the south and northwest is limestone with magnificent caves.
The quartzite and dolerite areas in the higher mountains show evidence of glaciation, and much of Australia's glaciated landscape is found on the Central Plateau and the Southwest. Cradle Mountain, another dolerite peak, for example, was a nunatak. The combination of these different rock types offers incredible scenery, much of it distinct from any other region of the world. In the far southwest corner of the state, the geology is almost completely quartzite, which gives the mountains the false impression of having snow-capped peaks year round.
Tasmania was first inhabited by the Tasmanian Aborigines. Evidence indicates their presence in the region, later to become an island, at least 35,000 years ago. Rising sea levels cut Tasmania off from mainland Australia about 10,000 years ago.
By the time of European contact, the Aboriginal people in Tasmania had nine major ethnic groups. At the time of the British occupation and colonisation in 1803 the indigenous population was estimated at between 5,000 and 10,000 people. Through the introduction of infectious diseases to which they had no immunity, war, persecution and intermarriage, the population dwindled to 300 by 1833. Almost all of the indigenous population was relocated to Flinders Island by George Augustus Robinson.
A woman named Truganini (1812–1876) is generally recognised as the last full-blooded Tasmanian Aborigine. Strong evidence suggests that the last survivor was another woman, Fanny Cochrane Smith, who was born at Wybalena and died in 1905.
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 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 Bay in 1772.
Captain James Cook landed at Adventure Bay in 1777—with young William Bligh aboard. Bligh returned in 1788 (HMS Bounty) and again in 1792 (HMS 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 1800, the French sent an expedition led by Commander Baudin to explore the South Seas. It was suspected that the reason for this expedition was to try to establish a French colony on the coast of New Holland. In response to this, the Lady Nelson and the whaler Albion, both commanded by Lieutenant John Bowen, sailed from Port Jackson on 31 August 1803. Bowen arrived in the Derwent on Sunday, 12 September 1803, in the Albion. The Lady Nelson had arrived five days before, on 7 September. 12 September is regarded as the birthday of the colony (now state) of Tasmania. Lieutenant Bowen chose Risdon Cove on the left bank of the Derwent a few miles above Hobart. Among the settlers were 21 male convicts and an overseer and three women, besides the officers and two free settlers. About two months later, the colony had increased to 100 people. An alternative settlement was established by Captain David Collins 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. 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.
Colony of Tasmania
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. As a result of the eventual flooding of Lake Pedder, the world's first greens party was established; the United Tasmania Group.
National and international attention surrounded the campaign against the Franklin Dam in the early 1980s.
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.