‘Tassie’ is a place to watch.

Australia’s smallest and most southerly state has been making deep impressions in global markets as the flag bearer of Australia’s ‘clean and green’ image. So it’s a good time to find out more about Tasmania and Tasmanians. Here are some important (and fun) things I’ve learned and relearned on my latest visit to Tassie.

  1. World leading marine vessel manufacturing – Tasmania has been a ship building centre since the early 1800s, from sea-going brigs and schooners to today’s manufacturers of the world’s fastest catamarans.
  2. Reducing plastic bag waste – Tasmania is more advanced than other states on plastic bag usage and recycling at the local supermarket. If you go to Coles or Woolworths, you have to pay for a plastic bag. Elsewhere, you don’t.
  3. Supporting swimming safety – Tasmania is also the only state in Australia that gives free swimming lessons to people until they can swim 50 metres independently. Water safety is a huge safety and cultural issue in sea-girt Australia. Go Tassie!!!
  4. Switched on – Tasmanians are often much more switched on about mainlander Aussies, politics and other happenings than mainlanders are about Tasmanians. Tasmanians are vociferous mainland visitors, going to Victoria and other states up to 4 to 5 times a year.
  5. First there – Actually, the word ‘mainlander’ is incorrect. Tasmania is the mainland and the rest of Australia is the Island to the North. That’s because Tasmanians were there ‘first’. Aboriginal peoples have lived there up to 40,000 years and the island was second only to New South Wales in being proclaimed a separate colony.
  6. Get the phrases right – When in Tasmania, don’t ask for a James Boag beer. That shows you’re obviously not a local and you’ve probably been watching too many beer commercials. Ask for a Boag’s.
  7. Tasmania is not Fantasy Island – If you think you can avoid the reality of confronting social, environmental and economic contrasts for your holiday escape, don’t go to Tasmania. It’s in your face the whole time. Stunning wilderness with jaw-dropping environmental destruction. Spectacular coastal scenery framed by industrial mills. Stately homes around the corner from frail cladded houses. Tasmania is real and raw.

Port Latta iron ore pelletising operations in Port Latta, North West Tasmania. A major (if little known) export hub of iron ore to China and Port Kembla.

  1. Palate and price – What d’you fancy? There’s magnificent local produce for every food budget. You can empty your wallet at a foodies festival in Hobart. You can also get excellent cream puffs for a song from the bakery in north-west Smithton, filled with the North-West’s beautiful cream. Or Tassie’s best Cape Grim steaks at the pub in Marrawa.
  2. Tasmania…small? – For all its intimacy and relative smallness, Tasmania is an island of superlatives. For instance, Tasmania’s Macquarie Harbour is Australia’s second biggest natural harbour, 6 times larger than Sydney Harbour (Victoria’s Port Philip Bay is no. 1). It’s also the location of some of Tasmania’s Atlantic salmon fisheries, which export globally.
  3. Cleanest as well as greenest – Tasmania has the world’s cleanest air, as measured by the Cape Grim Air Pollution Station in the far north-west (also home of some of the world’s most sought-after beef).
  4. The end of the world – There is no significant landfall between Tasmania’s West Coast and Argentina. Just the Southern Ocean and the ferocious Roaring Forties, where the world’s oceans and most extreme marine conditions meet. That also helps explain why Tasmania too is a world leader in marine and Antarctic research.
  5. Land border? Check. – Tasmania is an island with a land border, which it shares with Victoria on Boundary Islet in Bass Strait. Happily, no border disputes.
  6. Tasmanian AFL team?Don’t wish a Tasmanian AFL team on Tasmania, even if it seems logical. That could devastate local footy.

My thanks to the local farmers, business people, ministers, postmasters and publicans who kindly set me straight on a few things.

And added a little Tassie mythmaking, too.