About Tasmania

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First known as Van Diemans Land, Tasmania is one of six self-governing States which form the Commonwealth of Australia. As the only island state of Australia, it also has the smallest population base of 508,000 (2011 ABS Census) - most of whom are ethnically of Anglo-Celtic origins.

The main cities are the capital Hobart in the south, Launceston in the north and Burnie and Devonport in the north-west. The State is well known internationally for its iconic animals - the Tasmanian Devil and the Tasmanian Tiger or Wolf - and scenic beauty.

Discovery and transportation

Discovered by Dutch navigator, Abel Tasman in 1642, the first Europeans to occupy the Island were the British, who landed in 1803 and 1804, making a settlement on the site of the present city of Hobart.

Until 1853, the British Government used the Colony as a place of transportation for persons convicted of offences against the law in Great Britain and Ireland. Some 76,000 men and women were transported to Tasmania as convicts where they were used as cheap labour to build the colony between 1803 - 1852.

Free immigrants also came in great numbers, particularly after 1853 when the gold rushes around the country attracted immigrants from all over the world.

Population

In the decades following World War II, some thousands of migrants from Continental Europe became Australian citizens in Tasmania: but in much lower proportions than in Victoria and New South Wales. 

These were mainly Italian, Dutch, German, Greek, and Polish. Since 1981, a number of South East Asian refugees have been settled in Tasmania. More recently refugees from South America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa have migrated to Tasmania in increasing numbers.

Indigenous Tasmanians

The first Tasmanians came here around 40,000 years ago via a land bridge which existed between Victoria and Tasmania. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, it is estimated that the Indigenous population of Tasmania was in the range of 3000 - 15000.

Primarily nomadic people, they moved from area to area as seasons dictated food sources. The impact of European settlement had a huge impact upon the Indigenous population, with disease, violence and persecution taking a significant toll.