Proud to be Tasmanian?

Back in the day, back when I was about twelve years old, there was a show we all used to watch on TV, called “News Free Zone” (okay, it was a while ago. In the interests of full disclosure I have to admit that Mr. Google helped me out yet again with the name of the show, although he doesn’t have much at all to say about the rest of this post. The rest of this is all my thoughts and memories, so you’ll just have to put up with any inaccuracies).

Where was I? Oh yes.

Back in the day, back when I was about twelve years old, there was this sketch comedy show, and none of it is particularly relevant, except that it had this one regular segment called Australia Street, which chronicles the stories of the inhabitants of a share-house, each resident reflecting a state of Australia. Remember that show anybody? With the prissy Victoria Bitter, and Sunny Queensland with his floppy hat? Okay, it was the 80s. It was a long time ago. But it was kind of funny. And even if I didn’t fully get the jibes about the stereotypes of each state at the time, I did get the bit about Tassie. I was from Tassie. Heck, I was IN Tassie, and one thing I knew was that you don’t get many representations of Tasmania on TV or movies, or in stories.

So in this share-house on Australia Street, Tassie Franklin was a large hippy-ish woman living in a shed out in the back yard. She wandered in from time to time, eating an apple (Tasmania is famous for growing apples), and she’d say dim-witted, random things, and everyone would humour her for a few minutes and then tell her to nick off so they could get on with what they were meant to be doing. Something like that.

Good old Tassie. Left off maps and generally forgotten. Lives out in the back shed. In-bred. Two heads. Something about a convict past.

The other day I asked a friend who was born and raised on the mainland how she’d seen Tasmania while she was growing up, back in the 80s and 90s. I can’t remember the words she used, but the slightly patronising smile is one I remember from mainlanders years ago. The “oh, you’re from Tassie! How…sweet.” Like we were all a bit simple, a bit on the slow side. A bit not quite with it, with the notion that they should slow down their speech and thought patterns a little. My friend apologised, she’s a passionate Tassie advocate now, and I told her thank you, I was glad to hear that it wasn’t just my perception, or my own poor interpretation of memory. I remember visiting my cousins on the mainland and hearing that same patronising tone in their voices sometimes, or those of their friends. “Oh, you’re from Tassie. How…sweet!”

I remember the attitude back then, whether implied or spoken, that anyone with a brain gets out of Tassie as soon as they can. That the obvious step for anyone with some intelligence is to leave for the mainland. And many did. My friend questioned too, what does that do to a place when all the thinkers are encouraged to leave.

When we were in Canada we stopped at a bakery in a little town in Southern Alberta, run by an Australian woman, from Wollongong. We chatted a while, and she said “Tasmania eh? You don’t meet many Tasmanians!” We talked about how long she’d been in Canada (some twenty years now), and how she’d had a Tasmanian friend once, and how expensive it was to get to Tassie, which prohibited a lot of Tasmanians from travelling to the mainland, and limited others from travelling as often as they’d like. I remember the miracle that happened in the early 90s when budget airlines first began their Tasmanian operation, and suddenly poor students like me could travel, some for the first time in their lives.

I remember the feeling of “stuckness”, that of “missing the boat” because the man I fell in love with and married had no desire at all to leave Tasmania in spite of his wild intelligence. I remember feeling “dumbed down” by the sheer fact that travel was such a limited option. I remember resenting Tassie’s smallness, its apples, the vast expanses of treacherous water surrounding it, the attitude still of “Oh you’re from Tassie. How…sweet!”

Tasmania from space (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Tasmania from space (source: Wikimedia Commons)

I never chose to live here. I just…did. And after a while you learn to accept that people are coming now, moving TO Tassie and not just from it, intelligent people, thinkers, and not because they think it’s…sweet.

Here’s an amazing thing though. When I was in the US I met people who thought I was interesting, fascinating, exotic even, because I was from Tassie. I met people from cities wider and vaster than my entire state who thought I was the exotic one–not the simple one, not the stuck one, not the one who’s obviously inbred-two-headed-less-than-intelligent–the exotic one.

It made me think about Tassie differently. It made me see the stereotypes for what they are–stereotypes, from people who had little real experience of the a place rich and beautiful and steeped in history. It made me happy that, even if by default, I chose to live here. And, most importantly, it fuelled my desire to write Tasmanian stories.

I’m doing it now. I’m kicking off on a new novel, a Tasmanian novel, which is partly why I’m exploring these thoughts. I’d love to know how common these thoughts are. Are you Tasmanian? From the mainland? From elsewhere, and never heard of Tassie until you started reading my blog? Drop me a line. Help me with my research. Tell me YOUR Tassie story. Please?

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21 thoughts on “Proud to be Tasmanian?

  1. “I never chose to live here. I just…did” I grew up here, and while I have wild dreams of travel I have always loved Tassie. We moved away and after 8 years came home. We didn’t move back, we came Home. Because to both of us that’s what it is. On another note, slightly skewed by my “always loved Tassie” comment, I my parents have never moved and I felt I had to relocate to see if I was meant to be somewhere else. I didn’t want to spend the next 50/60 years here and regret it. Now I can say ‘been there done that’. (Does any of that make sense?)
    While we are now a destination in our own right, those stereotypes still exist, and having lived elsewhere, it’s still the same ol’ stuff.
    Thanks for this Megan. I’ve been feeling a little more patriotic about our little island since you came home.

  2. Love that beautiful island… And the rich gold mine of people there, enjoying the balance between a relaxed way of life, low cost of living, everything so natural and pure, oxygen you can’t feel going into your lungs, and lattes and booming artistic and cultural life too. Win.

    Alas am now living in Sydney, which is different and good for this chapter, I was recently greeted with “Oh! But you don’t seem very… Tasmanian!?” It was intended as a compliment – but it made me want to go eat an apple and some Atlantic Salmon! I am so proud of my heritage, and I do have to say that mostly – in the part of Sydney I live in, I have had more “wow!”‘s than “oh!”‘s at my divulging my place of origin. I proudly walk past the gourmet deli in my boutique suburb now, and see Mures seafood stock, Tasmanian Heritage cheeses, Tassal packets, and Atlantic Salmon for a RIDICULOUS premium – considering we could catch it for free 300m from our house when the Bruny Island nets would break and the text would go around that the ‘salmon run’ was on! My chest is now proudly puffed out when I announce my heritage. “I know, I know… ” I tell them, “I’m one of the lucky ones… I got to grow up in Tasmania.”

    Can’t wait to buy your novel Megan. Perhaps see it on the shelf next to my gourmet deli.
    xx

    • Amy I love that! And I love that you can find premium Tassie foods up there. That makes me proud too. One of the big things I realised while in the US was the high quality of our local produce – something I’ll try not to take for granted again.
      Glad you’re looking forward to my novel. I’ll be sure to keep you posted 🙂

  3. I of course grew up in Tassie and for me it will always be home. I am ridiculously proud of my home state and although I live on the mainland now, it doesn’t mean I think it’s better – it’s just where I live. People laugh at me when I refer to the “mainland” and are often surprised to learn that I’m Tasmanian – I don’t quite know what to think about that! I remember at Uni when they found out where I was from they went around the room to see who had the best Tassie joke – two heads etc.. I laughed along with them but yet, it has still stuck with me. Anyway, can’t wait to read what my fellow Tasmanian friend’s Tasmanian story – there can never be too many.x

    • Simmone it’s so nice to hear that people are proud of Tassie! I do think that there’s something that happens in the leaving that makes you appreciate home so much more, and it’s a good thing.
      Funny about the Tassie jokes though. Still amazes me that we weren’t just accepted as a state, as we saw ourselves, but that Tassie was “other”, “different”, “weird”. I’m glad that’s changing now…or, at least, I think it is…

  4. The only thing I know about Tasmania – is that it is a place in Australia. I’ve always been intrigued about where people grew up and how it shaped them. I bet you have some very very interesting stories!

    • It IS interesting, thinking about how environments shape people. I’ve been asking a lot of questions of late from friends with different experiences to my own. You learn so much about. And yes, there are some pretty interesting Tassie stories – good, bad and ugly. But oh boy is it a beautiful place!

  5. I’m from Canada but lived in Australia for a year on a work exchange. Tasmania was on the ‘must see’ list and I have to say that is was utterly captivated by it, even though we were only there for a few days. I would love to go back…for longer next time!

    • I’m glad Tassie was on the must-see list. I was in Vancouver only a few weeks ago, then the Rockies, and the whole time I was utterly amazed at how much like Tassie it was, but on powerful steroids. It just felt so much like home! My latest theory is that Tasmania is actually a province of Canada – we just floated off one day and got lost. This is possibly why mainlanders find it hard to accept us as well. Hey, works for me! 🙂

  6. I was born in Tassie and moved to the mainland (Canberra) with my Mother when I was 8. My sister and I visited our extended family in Tassie every year until I was about 15. I didn’t really think much of it as a child (except that I was leaving all my friends etc.) but as a teenager, once I’d been around people who knew something of the place, I started to feel as though there was something “wrong” with being from Tasmania. However, that didn’t stop me feeling proud of where I was from. So I always told people, quite self-righteously, that I was born in Tasmania and waited for the onslaught. Between then and now (late 20’s) I’ve gone from tolerating it, to hating it, to loving it, to wanting to move back. Now, when I visit, I sometimes feel a sense of remoteness which depresses me. However, I still think it’s a beautiful place and all the things that once turned me off the idea of moving back (the smallness of it, that fact that my family lives there, just how quiet and safe a place it feels), are now the things that make me want to live there again.

    • Wow, that’s interesting. Thanks so much for sharing that. I think the people who felt it the most are people like yourself, who have had a lot of exposure to mainland people (gosh that sounds silly, but you know what I mean). People who were born here and lived here with all their extended family and only went to the mainland for tourist-type holidays seem more immune. This is helpful. Thanks.

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