History and Heritage

A Potted History of Tasmania

It is believed that the island of Tasmaina was once joined to the Australian mainland. The Furneaux Islands are visible reminders of the land bridge that connected Tasmania to mainland Australia until the end of the last Ice Age about 12,000 years ago. The strip of land connected the north east corner of Tasmania with Victoria's Wilsons Promotory, which is the remnant of this connection on the mainland.

The first reported sighting of Tasmania by a European was on 24 November 1642 by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, who named the island Anthoonij van Diemenslandt, after his sponsor, the Governor of the Dutch East Indies. The name was later shortened to Van Diemen's Land by the British. In 1772, a French expedition led by Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne landed on the island. Captain James Cook also sighted the island in 1777, and numerous other European seafarers made landfalls, adding a colourful array to the names of topographical features.

Iconic Bridges

Tasmania has numerous historic bridges - including Australia's oldest bridge, many of which are recognised as landmarks of their day. These include Kings Bridge, Launceston (1864), Richmond Bridge (1825) and Ross Bridge (1836).

Engineering Landmarks

The dams, powers stations and associated infrastructure of Tasmania's hydro eletricity generation schemes are the state's most significant engineering landmarks. Australia has few large rivers and there are limited sites available for hydro-power. Nevertheless close to 10% of the nation's electricity comes from this source. The Snowy Mountains hydro electric power scheme is the largest hydro electric system in Australia.

Tasmania's network of hydro electric dams and power stations generates the second largest amount of hydro electricity in Australia. Hydro Tasmania, a State-government enterprise, has been producing electricity from water-driven generators in Tasmania for nearly 100 years. Hydro Tasmania operates and maintains an integrated system of 29 hydro power stations and is Australia's largest dam owner, with over 50 large dams.

Historic Churches

Christianity has been the predominant religion ever since the very early days of the colony of Van Diemen's Land. Anglicanism has remained the largest Christian denomination in Tasmania during two centuries of European settlement. For the first half of the nineteenth century the Church of England was treated by government as the colony's official though not 'established' religion. Robert Knopwood, the first colonial chaplain, carried responsibility for the spiritual oversight of the entire colony until the appointment of a Launceston-based chaplain in 1818.

World Heritage Listed Convict Work Sites

The influx of transported convicts, penal administrators, civil and military officers and their families, had a significant and last impact on the island. Their labour has filled the Tasmanian landscape with sandstone streetscapes and grand homes. Much of their work is still used today, from Australia's oldest bridge, to small cottages, public buildings and wonderful streetscapes. Most of these convict built sites have been given heritage listing, protecting them for the enjoyment and education of future generations.

Eleven of Australia's most important and highly significant convict sites were inscribed on the World Heritage List, all of which were included in the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage serial nomination lodged with UNESCO by the Australian Government in January 2008. Of the eleven sites, five are in Tasmania.

Oast Houses

From the very early days of colonisation in Australia, huge attention was given to trying to get hop cuttings to grow, so as to encourage the more wholesome consumption of beer by the early settlers and stamp out all the evils associated with the rum trade. There were many false starts in the harsh, dry Australian climate, not helped by confusion over what time of the year to plant hops on the southern side of the world. They struck paydirt when hops were first planted in the Derwent Valley and irrigated throughout summer courtesy of an abundant water supply from the River Derwent.

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