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Tasmania is an island state of Australia. Its population is approximately half a million[1] and its capital, Hobart, has a population of around 200,000.[2]

Early History

Prior to contact from Europe, Tasmania was home to a number of indigenous groups. It is estimated that when Europeans arrived in Tasmania there were between 4000 and 10,000 Tasmanian Aborigines, in 9 tribes.[3] Most of these were systematically killed by the white colonists in the first 50 years of colonisation.[4]

European Colonisation

Tasmania was first discovered by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman. It wasn't claimed until Captain James Cook of Great Britain explored the coast of Australia. It was settled as Australia's second penal colony under the name Van Diemans land, after the manager of the Dutch East India Company. The colony of Tasmania declined further shipments of convicts after 1853.

Modern Era

Tasmania joined the Australian federation at its inception in 1901, a move that was not supported by a significant minority of the voting population.

A ferocious Tasmanian Devil


Tasmania has been home to two notable creatures; the Tasmanian Devil and the Tasmanian Tiger.

The Tasmanian Tiger or thylacine was a large dog-like marsupial with stripes on its back which led to the tiger appellation. It is believed to have survived on the island owing to the lack of competition from dingos. The last known surviving specimen died in captivity in 1936. Although believed to be extinct there are occasional unconfirmed reports of further sightings and it is often the subject of "Jurassic Park" style research as it is a good candidate for an extinct species which may be revivable.

The Tasmanian Devil is another marsupial. Although a carnivore, it is primarily a scavenger. Devils stand up to 30 cm tall and have a squat thickset build and poor eye-sight. They are generally black but often have white markings on their chest and rump. Devil numbers have been depleted due Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), a unique contagious cancer, which is spread when the devils fight each other. There has been little success in combatting this disease, which results in death by starvation. Efforts to protect the devils consist mainly of maintaining strict quarantine of cancer-free captive populations with a view to repopulation if the wild devils all die off.

Tasmanian Wilderness

Covering an area of over 1 million hectares, the Tasmanian Wilderness constitutes one of the last expanses of temperate rainforest in the world. It comprises a contiguous network of reserved lands that extends over much of south-western Tasmania including several coastal islands.

Tasmanian Wilderness has been inscribed on the World Heritage List since 1982.

Notable Tasmanians

  • Errol Flynn (actor)
  • Mary Donaldson (Crown Princess Mary of Denmark)
  • Ricky Ponting (former captain of the Australian national cricket team)


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Population by Age and Sex, Tasmania, 2005.
  2. Geoscience Australia, Hobart, Tasmania quoting the 1996 census.
  3. 1384.6 - Statistics - Tasmania, 2005 >> History >> Aboriginal occupation Australian Bureau of Statistics. Accessed 21 March 2007.
  4. 1384.6 - Statistics - Tasmania, 2005 >> History >> 1803-1850s, British outpost Australian Bureau of Statistics. Accessed 21 March 2007.