Tasmania was born from a chequered past.
Developed as a British penal colony, Van Diemens Land, as it was known then, was essentially a prison island. Convicts were shipped to the island after being found guilty of many varied crimes – where it be stealing a loaf of bread or smuggling firearms or other weapons. It didn’t matter what type of crime was committed, convicts were all sent to Tasmania to be imprisoned and work off their criminal “debts” to the community.
Over time, it grew, with the families of those who worked at Port Arthur travelling to live on the island as well as the families of prisoners. That was a long time ago, but the remnants of our history are found dotted throughout the state.
The most significant one is undoubtedly Port Arthur, which now serves as a historic site included on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the 11 sites that make up the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property.
Many Tasmanians are proud of their ancestry, and having some convict history has been transformed, with people wearing it as a shrewd badge of pride.
It is for this reason that Tasmania’s heritage register exists, to help protect and preserve the physical remnants of our past, to ensure that this history isn’t forgotten.
However, the validity and accuracy of Tasmania’s heritage register has now been called into question, with the revelation that a site at Relbia was incorrectly listed on the register as being the site of a convict station.
The station in question was found last year at a different property at Kings Meadows, which has had a development application approved by the City of Launceston council for subdivision.
These sites are more than just buildings – they are stories and house clues to what life was like in colonial Tasmania.
Accuracy of heritage listings is of paramount importance – we want to preserve our history and ensure that our background and roots are not lost among a modern streetscape. Those questions deserve answers to ensure history does not repeat.