Remoteness fostering a sense of pride in state

EVENTS in the past month have revealed the deep divisions in Tasmanian society, but have also served to unite us.

Tasmania's remoteness at the bottom of Australia is clearly a mixed blessing.

We've been described as environmental vandals, bogans, and then left off the map.

Historian Henry Reynolds writes that even in the early days of European settlement the people of Van Diemens land already displayed a "degree of nationality" and had quickly become attached to the island.

Reynolds also writes that in 1825 rivalry with New South Wales was already developing, quoting a correspondent in the Colonial Times in 1825: "We can discover no advantage which Sydney has over us".

He said those left behind by mainland colonies displayed "defiant patriotism" and a strong relationship between the landscape and island that residents had developed.

Another academic writes about a theory known as "islandness", which can describe the behaviour of a small population cut off by sea.

One characteristic of "islandness" is a strong sense of place caused by geographical and economic remoteness.

In Tasmania, this strong sense of place, or "islandness", has led to two dominating views.

One view is that because of our small size and vulnerability we need to maximise our natural resources and "dig up and cut down" as much as we can.

The other, is that we must preserve our island, and use our natural resources for eco-tourism and natural technologies.

These polar views were seen no more clearly than when the federal government attempted to remove 74,000 hectares of forest from world heritage listing.

In the lead up to the World Heritage Committee's decision, thousands protested in the state, and a "Save Tassie's Forests" banner was even spotted at the Glastonbury music festival in the United Kingdom.

Glamorgan Spring Bay Council Mayor Bertrand Cadart was slammed for telling The Monthly magazine that his residents were "too disparate, from the most bogan of bogans . . . to the greenest pains in the ass".

But perhaps Cr Cadart had a point, and we have allowed our island condition to divide us rather than unite us.

Our Australian stereotype, that we are desperate to shake, is that we are the mainland's poor cousin - socially backward and a basket case.

Worsened recently by Palmer United Party Senator Jacqui Lambie's crass comments on radio travelling around the nation and economic reports again placing us last on all indicators.

A sad but familiar letter to the editor earlier this week expressed frustration with being tormented on a cruise by mainlanders for being Tasmanian.

"The year-round freezing weather, the isolation and the general 'bogan-ness' of the population were the highlights of their comments," the letter read.

But our division and mainland stereotype seems to be kept fairly under wraps to the rest of the world.

Overseas, Tasmania is seen as exotic and unique, a place of mystery and adventure.

The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), wilderness adventures and food and wine experiences reach the rest of the world and help the state to be seen as an exciting place to visit.

When travelling, I'm proud to boast that "I'm from Tasmania".

The state banded together to express mutual disgust and outrage at being left of the map of a uniform at the Commonwealth Games.

The "defiant patriotism" once seen in our earlier days was back.

From cessation, to compensation, the omission of our little island united us and reminded us of all that makes us great, and why we deserve to be on the map.

If only we could allow our great sense of place and love of the island to bring us together more often.


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