The "Apple Isle" - Island state of Australia

Area: 26,215 square miles (67,900 km2)
Population: 470,000 (1996 estimate)
Capital city: Hobart
Tasmania is an island to the southeast of Australia. Discovered in 1642 by Abel Tasman, the island was known as Van Deimen's Land until 1856, after the Dutch administrator Anthony van Diemen, who had sent Tasman on his voyage of discovery.

The world's 24th largest island, its latitude is similar to that of Northern Spain, its climate is temperate but humid. The island was once heavily forested, ranging from temperate rain forest in the wetter areas, through eucalyptus forest to savanna woodland and scrub in more arid areas. Some clearance has taken place to allow mining and logging operations, however. Predominantly hilly, the highest mountains are in the central highlands, reaching 5,305 feet (1,617m) at Mount Ossa.

Separated from Australia by the Bass Strait, the island has several coastal islands, the largest of which are Bruny Island, off the southeastern coast; and King Island, Cape Barren Island and Flinders Island to the north.

Rich in resources, the island supplies much of Australia's hydroelectric power, and rich deposits of iron, zinc, lead, copper, tin, and tungsten are mined here. Another important resource is timber - the wetter western forests are a rich source of hardwoods and paper pulp. Farming is highly dependent on both climate and soil - much of Tasmania's soil is relatively infertile, and the north and southeast are the main arable areas. Dairy and sheep grazing are also important to the island's economy.

Wildlife is surprisingly lacking in the rain forests but positively abounds in the eucalyptus forest. Bird life includes honey eaters, black jay, the black cockatoo, and a wide variety of parrots. Mammals include the wallaby, various possums and the marsupial carnivores (including the famed, if not legendary,Tasmanian devil). Wombat, platypus and echidna are to be found in the heathlands.

The state capital, Hobart, boasts the University of Tasmania, and the House of Assembly and Legislative Council form the state parliament, with 35 members elected by proprtional representation to the House.

History

The first colonisation was around 30,000 years ago (the aboriginal Tasmanians were a Negrito people, although none remain following European colonisation in the 19th century). Tasman landed on the island in 1642 and named it. Both the French and British subsequently came to explore, and in 1798 the island was circumnavigated and mapped by Matthew Flinders. The first European colonists were quickly at odds with the natives population for both food and land, and the few Aborigines were relocated to Flinders Island, where the last true Tasmanian (a woman named Truganini) died in 1876.

In 1825 Van Diemen's Land was proclaimed a colony, and the population grew over tenfold to over 57,000 by the 1840s. The transportation of convicts (many of whom were housed at Port Arthur) ended in 1853, self-government began in 1855-56, when the island's name was officially changed to Tasmania.

Tasmanians seem to have a reputation for friendliness and hospitality. The one Tasmanian I have met certainly backed this up, claiming that they are extremely open and sociable.


N.B.: Not to be confused with Tazmania, which is an animated TV show.

Tasmanians are looked down upon and mocked by the rest of Australia much in the same way that Alabama or Newfoundland are in their respective countries. They're stereotyped as slow, backwards, hickish, and hopelessly inbred. Tasmania was the site of the worst shooting spree in Australia's history, the Port Arthur Massacre. This shooting was the catalyst for Prime Minister John Howard's government instituting a range of new, tougher gun laws. Until a few years ago, being homosexual was illegal in Tasmania, while owning an AK-47 wasn't.

Tasmania is something of a world apart - a barely acknowledged part of Australia... at the Perth Commonwealth Games a map of Australia in the opening festivities left Tasmania out. And, of course, quite a few foreigners seem to think the place is a separate country.
That said, none of this is really true and it's just a vaguely overlooked part of the same country that gets made fun of. While stereotyped as backwards, Tasmania has now (scant years after decriminalising sodomy passed some of the most progressive gay rights legislation in the world - certainly the most progressive in John Howard's Australia.

Tasmania is one of the two Australian states that I've never visited, and the few Tasmanians that I've met have been exceedingly nice people. Except for this one arsehole, but he hadn't lived in Tasmania for quite a few years...

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