Tasmania is the smallest state of Australia… first discovered by Abel Tasman in 1642. He originally named it “Anthoonij van Diemenslandt” after the Governer of the Dutch East Indies who was his sponsor, and was shortened to Van Diemans Land by the British in 1772.
First settlement was by the British at Risdon Cove in 1803 but was abandoned when Hobart was founded. Early settlers were mainly convicts and guards across numerous prisons but the main, and most famous one was Port Arthur.
“When European colonization started in 1788, it was devastating for Australia’s Indigenous communities. Their numbers fell from around 750,000 to just 93,000 by 1900. Thousands died as British settlers drove people off their lands, and brought killer diseases such as measles, smallpox and tuberculosis. Indigenous Australians were segregated from the rest of society, forced to adopt British customs and abandon their own culture” Amnesty International
An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 of these lived on the island, however by 1833 there were only 300 left. Almost all of these were relocated to Flinders Island. In 1856 Van Diemans Land was renamed Tasmania and in 1877 Port Arthur closed.
Port Arthur Historic site is now world heritage listed and is an essential part of any tour of Tasmania. Within the site are over 30 buildings, ruins and restored period homes set in 40 hectares of landscaped gardens. Just off the settlement is Isle of the Dead – a tiny isle that was used as a cemetary for the settlement and tours are available of the island. You also take a tour to another tiny island Poirt Puer Boys Prison, where ‘convicts’ as young as nine were sent.