When Dreamworks Came to Stanley: Dispatches from Tasmania
The latest book from Midlifexpress columnist Susan Bell is now available on Amazon Kindle.
The following post is taken from the introduction.
This book is a collection of articles about living and travelling in Tasmania and includes some of the more controversial issues facing the state such as the fight against logging and the dire employment prospects in many of its regional cities.
Tasmania is a small island off the much bigger Australian island. Its population hovers around 500,000, with most people living in a few small cities while the remainder are scattered across rural areas.
Hobart lies to the state’s south and is Tasmania’s biggest city with a population close to 220,000. Launceston lies to the north and, with a population of 100,000, is Tasmania’s second largest city. To the north west sits Devonport with a population of 30,000, and nearby Burnie harbors somewhat less than 20,000 residents.
Tasmania was settled by the British in 1803 as a remote penal colony shortly after the founding of New South Wales. Tasmania’s indigenous population was quickly wiped out soon after the convicts arrived. The ruins from Tasmania’s time as a penal colony are found across the island as can the remnants of indigenous caves and fishing grounds.
Tasmania is a quirky place and the butt of many jokes. This is partly due to its isolation and accusations that its people are incestuous, inbred and not quite like the rest of Australia. I suspect, however, that its being at least 20 years behind the mainland (what the Tasmanians call “the rest of Australia”) is what inspires its quirky reputation.
Tasmania is not a prosperous state and generally sits near (or at the bottom) of all economic indicators. Regions on the North West Coast—including Burnie and Devonport—have been economically depressed for many years.
Luckily, over the past few years Tasmania has begun to attract a lot more tourism, partly due to MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) and also because of a push by the State Government to increase tourism in the wilderness areas. Tasmania is indeed a magnificent island, full of scenic views, rolling green hills, large wilderness areas, sparsely populated beaches, and abundant wildlife.
I moved to Tasmania’s North West Coast seven years ago when I bought a farmhouse on several acres. This region is quite different to the southern part of the island and is even further behind it culturally.
Living on the North West Coast can be very challenging, not only because it is relatively isolated, but also because it is parochial and newcomers aren’t always made to feel welcome. Also, employment opportunities are limited and many mainlanders leave after several years. On the positive side, though, it retains a sense of community, people are genuinely friendly, and it is a safe and beautiful place to raise a family.
Finally, no book about Tasmania would be complete without a MONA article and I’d like to thank writers Claire Bell and Merridy Pugh for their contributions.
I have learnt a lot during my time here, and although it hasn’t always been easy, I am grateful for the insight it has provided. Everyone should take the opportunity to visit this beautiful island which has some of the last untouched wilderness areas in the world.
And I don’t just mean the locals.
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About the author
Sue Bell is an entertainment writer and author of Backpacked: A mostly true story, Beat Street and When Dreamworks came to Stanley.