12th March 2008 | Draft
Interweaving Demonic and Daimonic Associations in Collective Memory
Co-presence of "Tas-mania" and "Van Demon's Land"
- / -
There is No Time and Nothing Matters: Cognitive Challenges at the Edge
of the World
highlighting and giving focus to various themes in the light
of metaphors arising
from travels in Tasmania.
Traumascape -- of the "White Man's Dreaming"?
Terra cognita vs Terra incognita
Interweaving Demonic and Daimonic Associations in Collective Memory (Annex A)
-- Demonic associations and demonisation
-- Unusual, unsayable, unsaid, untruth -- and denial
-- Prefiguration: Van Diemen's Land as strategic pioneer in the
treatment of dissent and otherness
-- Daimonic associations: imaginative, aesthetic, inspirational or spiritual
-- Refiguration of "the other" through fantasy
Memory Challenges at the Edge of the World (Annex
-- Symbolic journey -- to the "Edge of the World"
-- Dubious associations -- with the "Centres of the World"
-- Amnesia at the "Edge of the World" -- a key to unrealistic optimism?
-- Mnemonic devices for collective remembrance
Import of Nothingness and Emptiness through Happening and Mattering (Annex
-- Varieties of nothingness and emptiness
-- Questionable understanding of emptiness and nothingness
-- "Mattering" and
-- "Nothing" emerging through combinations of "mattering" and
-- Dynamic complexification: integration of "no time"
-- Emergence of "nothing": creating "cognitive
-- Emergence of "nothing": globalization as exemplar
-- Emergence of "nothing": "import" of significance
-- Polarization and the dynamics of nothingness
Transforming the Edge of the World through Voiding the Centre
Demonic associations and demonisation
Curiously little is made of the demonic and demonisation in relation to Van
Diemen's Land. It does not appear to be a theme of interest to historians
or to psychoanalysts. And yet it figures prominently in the tales of Van Diemen's
Land and Tasmania -- if only in past justifications for "remedial" action
by western faiths and the naming of various kinds.
Van Diemen's Land (so
designated in 1642) was named after Anthoonij van Diemen, governor general
of the Dutch East Indies. It became a separate British colony in its own right
in 1825. It was renamed by proclamation in 1855 as Tasmania during
the process of elaboration of a new constitution accepted by the Queen in 1855.
Under the authority of Van Diemen, Abel Janszoon Tasman had been the first
European to "discover" the long-inhabited lands of New Zealand, Tonga,
the Fiji Islands -- and Van Diemen's Land. The name "Tasmania" had
been used unofficially by 1823 (Boyce, 2008, p. 158).
The Van Diemen's
Land Company, created in 1824, received a Royal Charter in 1825 and was
granted 250,000 acres in northwest Tasmania in 1826. The company continues,
under that name, to retain much of the original land grant and is widely
believed to be the last chartered company still operating. Given its direct
participation in the elimination of the Tasmanian Aborigines (Boyce, 2008,
p. 202), there is now presumably a historical case for them also to apologize
-- but to whom?
"Demons": The change of name may have been made
to some extent because of the unfortunate homophonic association with "demon" and
the easy assumption that "Van Diemen's Land" could be appropriately
translated as the "Land of the Demons". At the time of
the change, Lieutenant Governor William Denison noted to London with polite
is a feeling here that to the name Van Diemen's Land a certain stigma attaches",
if only in relation to its primary designated role as a penal colony. Whatever
the case, as noted by James Boyce: "Van Diemen's Land never vanished,
but by edict of an embarrassed ruling class, it went underground" (Van
Diemen's Land, 2008).
continued to be made thereafter to "Van Demon's Land" and
Demon's Land". Whilst homophony may have been significant to the illiterate,
the literate might have been more influenced by associations with "Die
This would also have given it the unique distinction of a country subject
determinism (or aptonymy ?),
namely that its key characteristics ("Die Men")
were explicitly implied by its designation (as pronounced in English) --
which may well have influenced their development.
It is one of the last places to have figured
on earlier maps as Terra
Incognita (as part of Terra
Australis Incognita) -- occasionally
to be depicted as inhabited by monsters and demons ("here
be dragons"). Its top predator/scavenger
(other than humans) is the Tasmanian
Devil -- named for the demonic sound it makes at night. It has effectively
become the mascot of the State of Tasmania -- with "devil" being
incorporated into popular names of sporting teams as well as those of commercial
products and services. As Richard Busch remarks: "So it's not surprising
that most people know little about this Australian state, except maybe the
fact that it's the home of the devil" (Australia's
Best Kept Secret,
Demonic toponymy: The first map of Van Diemen's
Land, by Thomas
Scott in 1830, was produced when 'over half' of
the island was colonised. The
south west forest (possibly the most internationally well-known part of Tasmania)
was named Transylvania on such early maps, setting into motion a strange unnamed
kind of Tasmanian Gothic that has dominated much artistic production there
More evident is the extent to which many topographic
features there continue to have names that contain "devil" (Devil's
Kitchen, Devil's Gate
Gullet State Reserve, etc). Areas are described as "Devil country" (in
reference to the animal), notably in promoting tour packages.
Tasmania also has a River
Styx. The River Styx of Greek
seven times around the underworld, as the boundary between Earth and Hades - the
land of the dead. The Styx Valley contains all that remains of
Tasmanian temperate rainforest -- some of the tallest trees in the world
(exceeded in height only by the Giant Redwoods in California). The valley
is currently the focus of a bitter campaign between loggers and environmentalists
seeking to protect the old growth forest (through the Styx
Valley Global Rescue Station) -- each appropriately demonising the other,
given that the mythical River Styx was also known as the River of Hate. [As
one campaigner notes, if all goes according to the logging schedule there,
Tasmania's Styx could be flowing through a lifeless world in emulation of
"Hell hole": A Tasmanian, Hilarie Roseman (Humiliation
Flowering from Historical Roots: an Australian experience. 2005)
concentrates "on 'demonic' inhumane treatment of the convicts
in the Australian past, and the present manifestation of treating people
like 'objects' or 'dogs' to try to break their spirit in the present history
of Australia today". She notably cites Robert Hughes (The
Fatal Shore, 2003):
Prisoners would simply murder an overseer or a prisoner so that they could
be hanged. Macquarie Harbour would remain a colonial benchmark for some time - the
nadir of punishment, until it was shut down.... If it was not 'demonic' it
would have been as useless a deterrent as gallows with no rope. Mercy on
the mainland needed the background of terror elsewhere.
Van Diemen's Land has therefore often been characterized
as a "hell hole" (although it is less well-recognized that the brutality
was primarily reserved for secondary offenders, or recidivists):
- Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) entered the 19th century with a reputation
as "hell on earth" reinforced by the novel of Marcus Clarke, For
the Term of his Natural Life,
- To the inhabitants of Sydney only one place was worse in its isolation.
It was a lonely, windswept speck a thousand miles from Sydney in the Pacific
Ocean called Norfolk
Island. As a hell hole where men's spirits shrivelled
up in misery, it was equalled only by Van Diemen's Land. Norfolk Island was
considered part of Van Diemen's Land from 1844 (Boyce, 2008, p. 217)
- According to Roslynn
Haynes (From Habitat to Wilderness;
Tasmania's role in the politicising of place, 2003): After the Sarah
island penal colony was opened in 1822 for the "worst" convicts,
the south-west quarter of the State was ideologically condoned off and
declared a Hell on Earth, an appropriate place for such felons. The entrance
to Macquarie Harbour was named Hell's Gates... The myth of an evil land
was employed as propaganda by both supporters and opponents of transportation
In Australian legends, Tasmania was known for incest, bestiality,
birth defects and freaks. Gerry
the Ghosts: Mudrooroo and Gothic Refigurations.
2003) argues that:
Tasmania... has so often been figured, in the Australian mainland imaginary,
as a space of terror, of backwardness, of depravity. Australia itself, however,
long before it was ever 'discovered' by European explorers and
cartographers, was constructed as a space of monstrosity, where even to believe
in its possibility was considered heresy. Tasmania, owing to its notorious
convict prisons, was seen to be even darker.... the Gothic has
frequently been used by imperial agencies to identify Aboriginality as primitive,
pagan and unenlightened, precisely by returning to the origins of the word,
so that in one easy gesture the "Dark Ages" and Aboriginal
Australia are equated. Both are dark, unenlightened.
Turcotte notes the development of this argument by Penny Van Toorn (The
Terrors of Terra Nullius: Gothicising and De-Gothicising Aboriginality,
What is to be said of an imperial power that used as its penal colony a "hell
hole" named such as to enjoin to a very probable death both the original
inhabitants and those forcibly transported there -- thereby empowering those
able to facilitate this? It might aptly have had inscribed on its gates the
slogan, supposedly on the Gates of Hell, from Dante's Divine
Hope All Ye Who Enter Here").
It is extraordinary that it was faith-based (or faith-inspired) governance
that was responsible for creating and sustaining
hole". This is notable in the case of George
Arthur, after whom the notorious Port
was named -- who had undergone an evangelical conversion to Christianity
in 1811 (Boyce, 2008, p. 187) and thereafter ensured the implementation of
one the severest penal regimes with their associated dehumanisation.
Fire: Any sense of hellishness, the demonic or evil in Tasmania
(and more generally in Australia) is easily
reinforced by the incidence of wildfires and their imaginative association
with "hellfire" -- especially when communities are visibly menaced
by a wall of smoke and the glow of flames, just over a neighbouring hill, with
the possibility that the wind might change, cutting off vital evacuation routes.
Wildfires remain a major risk and were in fact one of the weapons most effectively
used by the Aborigines in response to the early settlers on their traditional
hunting lands (Boyce, 2008, pp. 194-196). Given any association of Aborigines
with evil at that time, their skillful use of wildfire (acquired to manage
their environment), and the dependency of some ecosystems on their periodic
destruction by fire, could readily compound such associations.
Evil: The perception and legitimate definition of criminality
to Victorian laws and conventions) were of course inspired by
Christian views of the nature of evil and the demonic -- offering a significant
example of the phenomenon of "demonisation".
The "demonic" nature of both convicts and Aborigines derived from
the projection onto them of the antithesis of Victorian "Little England" that
was the optimistic vision of Tasmanian society values (cf Sharon Morgan. Land
Settlement in Early Tasmania: creating an Antipodean England, 1992).
This effectively transformed Van Diemen's Land, and Tasmania, into an accumulator
of those demonically inspired -- if not to be considered as possessed by demons.
- Evil colonists: The Aboriginal peoples of Australia
tended to perceive arriving colonists from 1788 as ghosts, or evil spirits.
It remains the case that Aboriginal people necessarily cultivate other stories
about their problematic current situation in the light of the "evils" which
gave rise to the Prime Ministerial apology of 13th February 2008. They, for
example, make extensive use of the documentary films and arguments produced
Pilger and Alan Lowery (The
Secret Country: the First Australians fight back, 1985; Welcome to
Australia: the secret shame behind the Sydney Olympics, 1999). However,
already in 1826, the Colonial Times queried, with respect to the treatment
of the Aborigines, whether "we
ought not to endeavour to compensate for these and other evils which they have
experienced at our hands?" (Boyce, 2008, p. 191)
- Convict evil: According to Frost (1857), himself
a former convict, the conditions and treatment were such that a convict consequently
became like "a demon".
For John Henderson:
Without hope to 'sustain' the moral feelings or to 'restrain
the fell passions', the convict consequently became like 'a
demon' and 'crimes
which at one time would have been thought of with horror, are committed
with avidity'.73 'Blasphemy, rage, mutual hatred and the
unrestrained indulgence of unnatural lust' were thus the terrible
outcomes of the convict state. (p. 74)
the free low-born European soon acquires a thorough
acquaintance with the evil practice of the convict, and speedily becomes
as little worthy of confidence...
As noted by Boyce (2008, p. 236), an official inquiry in 1838 found that
the evil of convictism could not be successfully quarantined, declaring:
there belongs to the [convict] system [the] monstrous evil of
calling into existence, and continually extending, societies or the germs
of nations, most thoroughly depraved, as respects both the character and
degree of their vicious propensities.
- Aboriginal evil: Such evil was notably seen to
be associated with Aboriginal beliefs, including consorting with the dead,
and presumably a greater proximity to the Fall of Man, in order to justify
any corrective brutality in response. Following the failure of the infamous "Black
Line" -- a military offensive designed to trap the Aborigines on
the Tasman Peninsula and convert it into a reserve -- the Christian missionary George
Augustus Robinson ("Protector of Aboriginies") sought to replace
ancient Aboriginal beliefs by those of Christianity. Ironically the map used
for that military operation continued to portray part of Van Diemen's Land
[more]. A history
of the time by Henry Melville (The History of Van Diemen's Land:
From the Year 1824 to 1835, 1959) framed the initiatives as 'praiseworthy
and Christian-like endeavours to bring in the whole of the Aborigines.'
However, given the perceived evil of those original beliefs, Robertson's
efforts were considered to have been 'crowned with success; and so
that the evil has been removed, it may appear of little consequence in what
way it may have been effected.'
Under the Northern Territory Aboriginals
Ordinance (Cth) in 1911 (repealed in 1957), a Chief Protector (made
legal guardian of every Aboriginal and `half-caste' child under 18)
Children are removed from the evil influence of the aboriginal camp
with its lack of moral training and its risk of serious organic infectious
- Feminine embodiment of evil: Given the combination
of Victorian attitudes to sexuality and those of the established religions,
it is not surprising that the ambiguity of "evil" should be associated
with female convicts and their treatment in Tasmania -- a theme variously
explored by a number of authors (P. Tardif, Notorious Strumpets and Dangerous
Girls: convict women in Van Diemen's Land 1803-1829, 1990; Marilyn
Lake, Convict Women
as Objects of Male Vision: an historiographical review, 1989; Anne
Aboriginal Women as Slaves, 1976). As noted by Eleanor Conlin Casella,
the quality of convict life was the resultant of a negotiation between both
demonic and heroic (To
Watch or Restrain: female convict prisons in 19th-century Tasmania,
2001). As noted by Boyce (2008, p. 127):
Much of the
condemnation of the moral degeneracy of Van Diemen's Land has its origins
in the nineteenth-century evangelical revival, with its rigid belief in
the evils of sex outside marriage.
- Vampires: A combination of
the early naming of unexplored and threatening forest lands as Transylvania,
together with the demonic sound of the Tasmanian
Devil, and the wolf-like Thylacine, helped
to sustain a sense of pervasive threat of evil (Phil Bagust, Vampire
Dogs and Marsupial Hyenas: fear, myth and the Tasmanian Tiger's extinction,
In: Peter Day. Vampires: myths and metaphors of enduring evil, 2006, pp. 94-108).
In consequence, vampires are further discussed below as
a continuing aesthetic theme.
criminality: The use of Tasmania as
colony from 1803, which finally ceased only in 1877 ,
became the focus of public demonstrations in London, notably in the light of
the account provided by John Frost (The Horrors of Convict Life,
1856) as usefully reviewed by K M Reid (The
Horrors of Convict Life: British radical visions of the Australian penal
2007). Some indicators:
- Van Diemen's Land became home to 72,000 criminals, namely 42 % of
those transported to Australia as a whole; nowhere else did convicts and
their descendants constitute the majority of the population over such a long
period of time. (Boyce, p. 2, 9)
- the proportion of criminals still under sentence rose from an all-time
low of 17.7% of the population in 1817 to 40-50% in the early 1820s, where
it stayed until 1839 (Boyce, 2008, p. 162)
- by 1851, three-quarters of the adult males of Van diemen's Land...
were or had been convicts (Boyce, 2008, p. 225)
- cessation of transportation foreshadowed in the Queen's speech to parliament
in 1852 -- order-in-Council effecting it signed 1853
- almost half of the convicts who came to Australia came to Van Diemen's
- 1861 89,000 pop of which 3,00 were in detention
- in 1820s pop increased from 5468 to 24,279 (convicts 1817 > 1830:
13,000???) half as servants
- the character of the island which became the enforced home of over
72,000 sentenced criminals (42 % of the convicts transported to Australia)
- by 1822 convicts made up 58 percent of the white populace of Van Diemen's
- the island had a very high proportion of transportees to free settlers - in
1840 three-quarters of its inhabitants were convicts, ex-convicts or their
children. In the decade leading up to the discovery of gold, more than 25,000
convicts were added to the existing population of fewer than 60,000 people.
- secondary / recidivism
As noted by Caitlin Mahar (Vandemonians,
Electronic Encyclopedia of Gold in Australia, 2007):
the mainland, those who hailed from the island colony were known as "Vandiemonians"
The second moniker referenced the place where they had (usually) served time
but, as Bruce Moore notes,
it also "blended with the word demon". These "demons" flooded
into Victoria in the early days of the gold rushes - in the second
half of 1851 there were more recorded immigrants from Van Diemen's
Land than from New South Wales and South Australia combined.
Victorian usage of "Vandemonian" was noted
by Rafaello Carboni (The
Eureka Stockade, 1855) as implying "evil,
maybe from Tasmania". More generally the term was used in
the nineteenth century to refer to people on the bottom rung of the Tasmanian
social ladder: convicts, aborigines, and their descendents. Ironically
a guide to Aussie slang notes that "demon" indicated
a policeman or detective -- originally a Tasmanian (Vandemonian) ex-convict recruited
into the colonial police force. "Vandemonian" came
to be associated with sinister -- as in the description by Rafaello
Carboni, of a "Vandemonian" as a fiendish thug or ruffian:
... a sulky ruffian, some five feet high, with the head of a bull-dog, the
eyes of a vulture, sunken in a mass of bones, neglected beard, sun-burnt,
grog-worn, as dirty as a brute, -- the known cast, as called here in this
colony, of a 'Vandemonian,' made up of low, vulgar manners and hard talk,
spiked at each word, with their characteristic B, and infamous B again; whilst
a vile oath begins and ends any of their foul conceits.
The proximity of Victoria to Tasmania saw many of the "Vandemonian Banditti" make
their way across the Bass Strait to continue their life of crime. As noted
by Stefan Petrow (Combating
the Hated Stain: Victorian legislation against Vandiemonian convicts in the
1850s. Australia and New Zealand Law and History E-journal,
Other Australian colonies feared that Vandiemonian convicts would find their
way to, and spread crime and immorality in, their pure communities. As the
closest colony and with the magnetic incentive of rich goldfields, Victoria
was the most fearful and in the 1850s a moral panic arose over an upsurge
in violent crime and robberies in Melbourne and the goldfields that were
largely attributed to Vandiemonian convicts... A product of this panic was
the enactment of draconian legislation, beginning with the Convicts Prevention
Act 1852. This Act provided for the arrest of any Vandiemonian convict found
living in Victoria whether conditionally pardoned or not and including those
who had not committed any crime, the confiscation of property, a sentence
of working in irons on Victorian roads from one to three years, or their
return to Van Diemen's Land.
Curiously the capital of Victoria, Melbourne, did not originate under
official auspices, instead being formed in 1842 through the foresight of settlers
from Van Diemen's Land. Its first mayor was Henry Condell,
himself a "Vandemonian", as recalled by his friend William
Westgarth -- noting
that that was the "ill-omened name" of that time.
Abomination: Tasmania has been the last of the Australian
states to decriminalise homosexuality (in 1997), following a declaration by
the United Nations that its laws were in breach of international civil and
The homophobia was partly a consequence
of the connection made in the 1840s between homosexuality and the concentration
of convicts in remote probation gangs. As noted by James Boyce (Van
Diemen's Land, 2008):
This topic aroused such emotion and hysteria that its implications were
seen to go far beyond penal policy, with convict sex in the Van Diemonian
bush becomoing a matter of the highest imperial concertn. With the biblical
warning of Sodom vividly in mind, the politically influential evangelicals
claimed that the fate of the whole society, indeed possibly the whole empire,
was at stake....the mid-nineteenth century evangelical view of homosexuality
became inextricably associated with Van Diemen's Land and instilled an enduring
sense of shame . The pervading "stain" of convictism arguably has
its origins more in shame about sex than in memories of sevitude.
It is curious that fear of homsexuality was such a determining factor in
the termination of the "hell hole" rather than any concern about
the murderous brutality associated with it. Boyce quotes an anonymous poem
of the time (1847):
|Shall Tasman's Isle so fam'd
So lovely and so fair
From other nations be estrang'd
The name of Sodom bear?
The newly enriched Victorian elite
cringed at the idea of their colony being morally tainted by slovenly ex-convicts
from the south, many of whom were considered sodomites, so they simply banned
them from landing in Melbourne. [more]
Unusual, unsayable, unsaid, untruth -- and denial
Encroachment: The manner in which Europeans encroached upon
land used otherwise by earlier inhabitants is readily reframed to
justify the historical process and its modern counterparts (Errorism
vs Terrorism? Encroachment, Complicity, Denial and Terraism, 2004).
The subtleties of the process can be used to engender
astonishment and moral indignation at the inappropriateness of any violent
reaction. Such violence can be reframed as unjustifed evil -- thereby justifying
any level of brutality in response, including extermination (Boyce, 2008, p.
Encroachment has also had more readily acknowledged impacts on the natural
environment, notably the extinction of animal species (Tasmanian emu on which
European colonists were first significantly dependent, or the Moa of New Zealand).
Such questions are discussed by Boyce with respect to tree flora, the introduction
of species, and the propagation of weeds problematic to agriculture.
Genocide: "White Tasmania", like "White
is recognized by some to have a "black history". The last
Tasmanian aborigine was effectively "exterminated" by 1876 (see
James Boyce, Towards Genocide: Government Policy on the Aborigines 1827-38,
in: Van Diemen's Land, 2008). As noted below, considerable controversy
has been raised by the issue of whether their disappearance was a deliberately
genocidal policy, if only as cultivated negligence. According to Henry
Melville (History of the Island of Van Diemen's Land
from the Year 1824 to 1835):
is generally believed that this race of human
beings will soon become extinct altogether, as the deaths are common, and the
increase nothing equal in proportion. Little is known as to the manner in which
they are governed, and the Colonists are not at all informed of the proceedings
of the Government towards them.
It is claimed that "The Black War of Van Diemen's Land" was the
official campaign of terror directed against the Black people of
Tasmania -- whereby between 1803 and 1830 the Black aborigines of Tasmania
were reduced from an estimated 5,000 people to less than 75 (Cive Turnbull,
War: the extermination of the Tasmanian Aborigines, 1948/1965). In
Tasmania in 1824, settlers were authorised to shoot Aborigines, possibly in
government "roving parties" considered by some to be a "war of extermination"
(Boyce, 2008, 192).. In 1818, Boyce (2008, p. 99) indicates that the Aborigines
were (under)estimated to number 7000, whilst the whites numbered 3240. Curiously
almost all the authorised killing of Aborigines was done by convicts and former
convicts (Boyce, 2008, p. 205). He also indicates (Boyce, 2008, p. 197) that
the number of deaths acknowledged has been seriously underestimated. An article
in the Tasmanian
Colonial Times (1
December 1826) declared, for example, that:
We make no pompous display
of Philanthropy. The Government must remove the natives -- if not, they will
be hunted down like wild beasts and destroyed!
Runoko Rashidi (Black
War: the destruction of the Tasmanian Aborigines. 1998)
With the declaration
of martial law in November 1828, Whites were authorized to kill Blacks on
sight.... In time, a bounty was
declared on Blacks, and "Black catching," as it was called, soon
became a big business; five pounds for each adult Aborigine, two pounds for
each child. After considering proposals to capture them for sale as slaves,
poison or trap them, or hunt them with dogs, the government settled on continued
bounties and the use of mounted police.
Boyce (2008, p. 11) notes:
Massacres were, as most nineteenth-century historians believed, likely to
have been commonplace. Equally horrific, and almost certainly unscrutinised,
were the government-sponsored ethnic clearnances conducted on the west coast
after the fighting was over.
The elimination of Tasmanian Aborigines,
whether deliberately instigated and sustained or not, was as much due to structural
violence as to physical violence. As in Victoria, by 1851, the
Aboriginal population had through dispossession, a policy of turning a blind
eye to the pastoralists massacres, and disease, been reduced to such a degree
that they were expected, like in Tasmania, to disappear in two or three generations
(cf Robert Travers, The Tasmanians:
the story of a doomed race, 1968).
There is a curious resemblance to the debate in certain countries regarding
and its criminalisation. Any such comparison is necessarily controversial,
as in the case of that of
Dirk Moses (Revisionism and Denial in: Whitewash: On Keith
Windschuttle's Fabrication of Aboriginal History, 2003, pp. 337-370).
Moses compares Windschuttle to the renowned Holocaust denier David
although reviewers have considered this neither helpful nor relevant. Whilst
"whitewash" is an insightful title, it can usefully be seen as responding
to the "blackwash" criticized as inappropriate by Windschuttle.
Endurance of the Tasmanian Aborigines: Despite the disappearance
of pure blooded Aborigines in Tasmania, the continued existence of "Aborigines" has
been achieved by reframing the progeny of their miscegenation and intermarriage
(dating from 1810) -- now the focus of the Office
of Aboriginal Affairs and the Tasmanian
Aboriginal Heritage Office (a "business unit of the Department of
Tourism, Arts and the Environment") in seeking
to preserve honourable traces of that culture. All those choosing to define
themselves as Aborigines (estimated at 16,000) now have Caucasian genes, as
noted by Peter Hay (Tasmania:
the strange and verdant politics of a strange and verdant island,
2000), who comments:
It is no longer the dominant view that the Tasmanian Aborigines are extinct.
There is an extremely active, robust, and articulate community claiming descent
from Tasmania's "Palawa" -- claiming moreover, a continuous tradition of
identification as Aboriginal, and insisting on this account that Palawa society
is still very much with us.
Tasmania is however the only State of the Commonwealth of Australia to have
made formal arrangements to compensate the "lost
generation" -- the descendants of Tasmanian
aborigines forcibly removed from their parents.
Indigenisation: In its early years as a penal colony, obtaining
adequate food supplies was a challenge for all. As a consequence those to whom
convicts had been allocated (possibly as indentured labour) empowered them
to act as hunters in the wild -- typically "armed" with dogs rather
than other weapons. The dogs were used to hunt kangaroo as extensively described
by James Boyce (Canine Revolution: the social and environmental impact
of the introduction of the dog to Tasmania, 2006). To an unrecognized
degree the wilderness became home to the convicts and represented freedom.
Their they could live free and independent lives. As noted by Boyce (2008,
p. 49): "With what seems extraorindary speed, a motley collection of British
criminals made the bush their home". A convergence in the way of life (and clothing)
of the immigrant and indigenous populations became evident before the degeneration
into officially sanctioned savagery set in.
Blurring of roles: To an unusual degree, Van Diemen's Land
was witness to an extraordinary blurring of roles. Convicts and guards drank
in the pub together, the distinction between (convict) servants and bushrangers
was blurred, there was a dependence
on convicts to acquire food through hunting. As noted by Boyce (2008, p. 174):
"By 1835 there was one policeman for every 88.7 people [1 per 135 in 1847]...About
two thirds of the police were serving convicts". As noted above,
almost all the authorised killing of Aborigines was done by convicts and former
convicts (Boyce, 2008, p. 205). Free settlers minimized stock theft by handing
over a portion of ownership (typically a third) to convict stock-keepers. The
division of Van Diemen's Land into those who had been convicts and those who
controlled them was very loose. Even in the 1820s association with the Aborigines
had contributed to a "degree
of unusual levity and wildness"
amongst the native-born.
According to Margaret Giordano (Tasmanian
Tales of the Supernatural, 2001), of all the states of the
Australian Commonwealth, Tasmania is said to be the most haunted (see also
Joan Dehle Emberg, and Buck Thor Emberg, Ghostly Tales
of Tasmania, 1991).
Ghosts are often mentioned in the press, while the better-known legendary hauntings
are recorded in books of local history. The turbulent "Van Diemonian" past
of the island -- characterized by cruelty, murder, alienation, sudden death
and suicides -- typically inspire many such tales of the unknown.
The cultural context is conducive to such beliefs, whether through Aboriginal
belief in consorting with the spirits of the dead or through the early massive
emigration of Irish women of a class that had cultivated Celtic beliefs in
the supernatural -- and sensitivity to them. Most of the convicts had Irish
as their first language (Boyce, 2008, p. 226).
You Weren't Here …': thinking about trauma, place and
the Port Arthur massacre, 2001) cites Avery F Gordon, Ghostly Matters.
Haunting and the Sociological Imagination, University of
Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, London, 1997):
Haunting is a constituent
element of modern social life. It is neither pre-modern
superstition nor individual psychosis: it is a generalizable social phenomenon
great import. To study social life one must confront the ghostly aspects
It is appropriate to argue that "Tasmania" continues to be haunted
and its various inhabitants, black or white. For those of Aboriginal descent,
ghosts necessarily tend to be encountered in places where massacres are known
to have taken place.
There is a curious coincidence to the fact that Margaret
Tales of the Supernatural (2001) was earlier the biographer
of the man who opened Cradle Valley as a nature reserve and established Waldheim
Man and His Mountain: the story of Gustav Weindorfer, 1987), of which
more below. Were Waldheim to have been haunted (of
which there is no public record), and razed to the ground "after a fire" in 1974 (as it was)
for that reason, and were it then to have been rebuilt following public protest
in 1976 (which is not widely known), this pattern would epitomize the challenge
of collective memory in Tasmania (discussed in
It is now a museum. Waldheim as it now stands, even
as a replica, might be considered to correspond to what many imagine to be
a haunted building -- perhaps appropriately haunted by the people of
"Cradle Valley" that Weindorfer seemingly chose to forget. Giordano
does however reproduce (pp 134-136) the extensive record of five people
describing an "unusual
phenomenon" collective witnessed on Cradle
Mountain for which she considers
Aboriginal spirits "seem
also to be the explanation". She asks:
Was it indeed something to do with the angry spirits of long-dead Aborigines
into whose domain they had unknowingly strayed? It is recorded, in fact,
that a family of Aborigines, fugitives from George Augustus Robinson, who
had persuaded the rest to accept deportation to Flinders Island in 1835,
resisted here for a number of years... Within five years of giving themselves
up, the family was decimated, the parents and three of the sons perishing
as a result of their contact with white civilisation.
With respect to that place, Giordano notes the remark of David
Thoughts From Wild Places,
1999) that: "The place does have a preternatural feel".
towns: As a consequence of the exhaustion of gold
and other mining possibilities, or the attraction of gold rushes elsewhere,
a number of towns in Tasmania are effectively ghost towns -- or only slowly
recovering from that status. A prime example is Queenstown --
a total contrast to Queenstown in
New Zealand. Such ghost towns have also been created as a result of the completion
of major hydro-electric construction projects and the consequent abandonment
of the housing and other facilities for workers. Places like Queenstown may
also be severely affected by the continuing presence of pollutants arsising
from the mineral separation processes.
Tourism hyperbole: Whilst many rural towns and villages
have their charm -- including ghost towns -- there is a curious discrepancy
between the exaggerated (high quality, professional) descriptions of their
attractions and the reality actually to be experienced. Many such locations
therefore constitute exemplars of contexts in which "nothing happens" --
or at least apparently so. Much is based verbally on very little -- as is
perhaps characteristic of proprietary representation of real estate and symbols
of identity. It is the context as a whole that is so remarkable, but there
is little that can be effectively detailed about "wholes". There
is not a lot that can be said about the quality of places, so attractive to
many, "where there is no time and nothing matters".
Road kill: A highly unusual experience for tourists travelling
by car throughout Tasmania is the number of animal corpses on the road. These
are typically possum and wallaby -- or occasionally wombats or Tasmanian Devils.
Whilst such road kill is a recognized phenomenon in many parts of Australia,
the quantity of such wildlife in Tasmania means that it is not uncommon to
find such corpses every kilometre or less on rural roads. Of course such animals
are killed (or wounded) by vehicles travelling the roads -- typically between
dusk and dawn (of which road signs duly warn).
Although promoting ityself as the Natural State, others have suggested that
it might well be called the Roadkill State -- in the light of figures
showing that more than 100,000 animals are killed on Tasmanian
roads each year (Tim Jeanes, Report shows high animal
road kill toll in Tasmania,
ABC, 24 November 2005).
Curiously the phenomenon has to some extent been reframed as an acceptable
part of the natural cycle because of the insufficiency of predators to limit
burgeoning animal populations (possum are notably destructive
to trees) -- the Tasmanian Devil being itself endangered by disease even
though it is a protected species. However it is scavengers, such as the Tasmanian
Devil, which are expected to clear the corpses off the roadway at night.
Political system: One feature of the Tasmanian Act of Constitution
which distinguishes it from those of other states of the Australian Commonwealth
is that it is incomplete. According to R. D. Lumb (The
Constitution of the Australian States, 1963/1991), there are no provisions
in the act which empower the legislature to make laws for the peace, welfare,
and good government of the "colony" or enable it to change its constitution.
The act must therefore be read in conjunction with those of the Australian
Constitution Act (No. 2) which conferred law-making power, including the power
of constitutional alteration.
Unbeknown to most, even in other parts of the
Commonwealth of Australia, Tasmania has a very unusual political system, whether
in terms of electoral processes, or the composition and powers of its houses
of parliament -- or its consequent conservatism. Known as the Hare-Clarke system
of proportional representation, it has been recognized as one of
the world's most fair.This has been helpfully described by Peter Hay (Tasmania:
the strange and verdant politics of a strange and verdant island,
2000), with problematic aspects described by Kate Crowley (Disenfranchising
the Greens: Labor's Electoral 'Reform' Strategy in Tasmania, Paper
for the Australasian Political Studies Association 2000 Conference). Its
constitution has only been slightly amended since its elaboration in 1855.
Despite such conservatism, Tasmania is unusual in its legal provision for
relationship between partners:
The Australian state of Tasmania does not recognize same-sex marriage. However,
the Relationships Act 2003 provides for recognition and registration of a
type of domestic partnership in two distinct categories -- Significant Relationships
and Caring Relationships [more]
Whilst politics in Tasmania has indeed tended to be extremely conservative
over many decades, it has been deeply riven by conflict centering on environmental
issues, notably those affecting its vast wilderness areas. It has been witness
to archetypal confrontations between "the greens" and the business
interests associated both with the timber industry and with the very extensive
hydro-electrical power industry -- both being largely responsible for
the excellent road system providing appropriate access for the exploitation
of such resources.
As one example of the rhetoric from a green perspective, Peter
101 for Bill Bryson, 2003) notes on a blog (appropriately called Life
on the Edge):
Tasmania's government has made its corporatised forestry department, Forestry
Tasmania, exempt from the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conversation
Act, the Threatened Species Act, the Freedom of Information Act, and our
state's own Resource Management and Planning System. Is this not corrupt
or what? And Tasmania is the only state that sets out to poison its own native
animals. "Clean and green?"
On Forestry Tasmania...
the old growth rain forests have been clearfelled and destroyed with a demonic
enthusiam equal only to the immorality of the fire bombing of Dresden. In
their drive to make Tasmania the toilet paper center of the world, they are
willing to sacrifice, not only the hundreds of thousands of animals and plant
species living in the diverse habitate of our old growth forests, but also
the thousands of employment opportunities related to boat building, honey
production, the furniture industry, the arts, true eco-tourism, organic farming,
scientific research and land management. If this is supposely world's best
practice, it doesn't say much for the world.
Protest and dissent in relation to Tasmania continue to be curiously associated
with a "Vandemonian" perspective, both positively and negatively.
The 150th anniversary of the historically significant Eureka rebellion in Ballarat
(Victoria), at the Eureka
was recently celebrated by Australian anarchists (Reclaiming
the Radical Spirit of the Eureka Rebellion in 1854). That revolt
of gold miners, many notably attracted
from Van Diemen's Land (and purportedly triggered by a Vandemonian), arose
from grievances associated with mining claims. The Victorian Colonial authorities
had worked from the premise "that all gold
belongs to the Queen" and that the diggers making claims on crown land were
needed to be controlled with an iron fist.
Potemkin forestry and autistic economics: In travelling through
the wilderness of Tasmania, roads typically pass through areas formally
declared as national parks or World Heritage Sites, and then, by contrast --
through other areas -- where roadside signs from Forestry
Tasmania declare "This
is a working forest". Such a statement effectively frames the protected
areas as "unemployed forests", raising the spectre of "forest
and the policy challenges it implies. The concern with "old growth forests"
must presumably then be seen in relation to "forest retirement" and
the worthy case for "forest euthanasia".
thinking derives from an (autistic) understanding of economics -- whereby "forests"
can only "work" when appropriately employed by government or those
licenced to exploit such areas. This cognitive fixation is of course
nonsense in terms of the thermodynamic understanding of "work" (and
the capacity of trees to lift large quantities of water to a great height).
Such thinking corresponds to past failures by economists to recognize that
those defined as "homemakers" also
work. Given current preoccupation with the urgency of carbon sequestration
by forests, in response to climate change, clearly this fixation process is
presumably also not to be understood as "work", whether
or not it is undertaken in protected areas. A related inadequacy is evident
in the underevaluation of the energy resources available to a society, most
notably following any collapse of electricity supply systems (Reframing
Sustainable Sources of Energy for the Future the vital role of psychosocial
variants, 2006). The mindset is also to be fojund in the undervaluation
of tasks performed by volunteers when no monetary value has been allocated
to their work.
Illustrating the mindset of the early settler (and of generations of developers
and economists to come), Boyce (2008, p. 216) cites a commentator from 1840
to the effect:
The floral mead -- the pearly stream -- the goodly grove, however they
delight the eye, or ravish the imagination -- what are they all? -- a worthless
waste, until the genius and industry of man converts and fits them all for
the welfare and enjoyment of his kind.
As in other parts of the world, Tasmanian forestry makes use of uncut
trees lining the road to screen from view from the road the clearcutting
that takes place behind them -- in a "working forest" at least. This
practice has been appropriately termed Potemkin
forestry and is designed to stem protest at the depredation caused to forested
lands and the associated wildlife.
Untransparency of power: In contrast to many other countries,
there is little evidence of security services. On the other hand people are
exposed to another manifestation of power in the form of very large log-carrying
trucks en route for sawmills at high speed -- and necessarily encountered on
rather narrow winding roads, where they may easily be experienced as physically
menacing. The sense of menace is exacerbated by the lack of any sense
of whose interests such activity is serving and by whom it is effectively controlled.
It is further enhanced by the limited number of vehicles on such essentially
"lonely" roads -- possibly one every 15 minutes
A different sense of undefined menace is associated with the various ways
in which the hydroelectric industry is silently encountered in wilderness
areas. Huge investments have been made there in setting up networks of dams
to channel water over large pipelines to power stations -- with which abandoned
residential communities for construction workers may have been associated.
When these are subsequently taken over by other business interests, as effectively
gated upmarket conference facilities and tourist centres, the experience of
such artifical communities may be quite eerie -- reminiscent of the homebase
of some sects.
Curiously, as the occupants of what
had been named "Transylvania",
Forestry Tasmania and "the Hydro" now readily lend themselves
to demonisation by environmentalists -- who take on the role of despicable
Vandemonians in the eyes of those in power (cf All
Blacks of Davos vs All Greens of Porto Alegre, 2007). This is an
example of the process of enantiodromia at work (cf Psychosocial
Energy from Polarization within a Cyclic Pattern of Enantiodromia, 2007).
Religious surrealism: "Complementing"
noted above, are the unusual, religiously inspired, place names in parts of
Tasmania. For example, in front of the official information office of Sheffield,
a signpost points to the following neighbouring locations: Garden of Eden (15
Paradise (5 miles),
No Where Else (5 miles),
Promised Land (11 miles) -- all of which have a physical reality.
Somewhat further afield are the Walls of Jerusalem -- bounding a national park
of that name. This is next to Cradle Mountain.
These names arise from a period in the 19th century when religiously inspired
settlers of various denominations occupied that central region of Tasmania
-- somewhat as they had done in the United States. The landscape indeed
encourages such descriptors -- even the Walls of Jerusalem. But
where else in the world would one find a juxtaposition of such place names
-- intermingled with their demonic counterparts (and perhaps appropriately
Such a process of naming features of the land (noted above),
to appropriate it psycho-culturally, bears a strong relationship to that of
disparaged Aboriginal attitudes through which their identity is associated
with the landscape, if not embodied into it. (cf Darrell Addison Posey (Ed).
Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity, 1999).
Denial: Boyce (2008) expresses considerable concern at the
degree of denial by Tasmanians, Victorians and Australians -- in the past and
to this day -- regarding the convict society of Van Diemen's Land and what
occurred there. This challenge of amnesia is one theme explored in Annex
B. Particularly surprising is the rapidity with which history was rewritten.
Boyce (2008, p. 243) notes the commentary of James West (1852) reproduced with
govbernment support a century later:
The colonists had demanded the end of the convict system, and it had ceased.
They had demanded self-goverment and got it. Vamn Diemen's Land, with its tyranny
and cruelty, with its leg-irons ansd the flagellator's lash, was dead, and
Tas,mania rose from its ashes.
He also notes the degree to which Victoria continues to avoid the "inconvenient
truth" that it was first settled by ex-convicts from Van Diemen's Land -- who
established Melbourne and provided its first mayor (2008, pp. 244-250). There
is a certain irony to the triumph of the "Little England" values of Queen
Victoria in Tasmania whilst those of the Vandemonians triumphed in their own
way in "Victoria". However, by an Act of 1852, Victoria sought to exclude
former convicts from Van Diemen's Land, and as noted by Boyce (2008, p. 250):
The role played by Van Diemonian convicts as the founding fathers of Victoria
still remains largely hidden, and the truth that former convict shepherds
and bushmen did the main work of settlement -- incliding the violence consequent
to it -- is little known. Forgetting the immigrants from Van Diemen's Land
and concealing their bloody deeds have, it seems, gone hand in hand....The
story of the convict settlers...differs dramatically from the accounts which
still fill Australian history books and set the terms for debates about national
More intriguing for a future, reflecting on "alternatives" in the event of
social and environmental collapse, is the argument of Boyce (2008, pp. 253-254)
The Van Diemonians of southern Australia are undoubtedly difficult founding
fathers with whom to come to terms. However, their way of life poses an alternative
to the widely publicised vision of their masters -- which is the only early
settler perspective most Australians have ever heard....environmental imperatives
meanst that many imported products -- clothes, tents, tools... -- were commonly
discarded, needs were simplified still further.... success was not to be
gauged by the accumulation of capital but rather by self-sufficiency and
the extent to which one could preserve life and freedom.
In stressing the need to "break out of intellectual straitjackets that constrain
national imagination" and learn from the deep resilience of the Van Diemonian
story, Boyce notes the point made by E P Thompson (Customs
in Common, 1993) that it is not that it is possible or desirable to
return to "pre-capitalist human nature" but that in the context of ecological
crisis: "a reminder of its alternative needs, expectations and codes may
renew our sense of nature's range of possibilities".
For Boyce (2008, p. 258):
A central challenge of the early twenty first century is to reconnect this
cultural heritage to the great environmental and social questions of our day.
Prefiguration: Van Diemen's Land as strategic pioneer in the treatment of dissent and otherness
The policies adopted by the British Empire and implemented in Van Diemen's
Land, with respect to treatment of criminals and indigenous peoples, should
not be seen as unique for the times. However it is appropriate to raise the
question as to the extent to which the policies implemented (often prior to
their use elsewhere) constituted a "test
drive" for policies that were used over the following century -- even
to this day, in some cases.
The following highlight the possibility that from an historical
perspective, Van Diemen's Land offered a context for a policy "proof of
that was later implemented and emulated in other imperial contexts and by other
colonial powers. Do they represent the policies of "best practice" retained
in a classified "bottom drawer" as options for future use by those
obliged to deal with dissent in response to the development of national or
In no particular order:
- Encroachment: As noted above, this is the process whereby
land claimed by others according to their principles, is progressively
occupied by settlement of latecomers, whether or not they claim it is unoccupied
or that they have a right to it through land grant accorded by authorities
who claim ownership of the land (Errorism
vs Terrorism? Encroachment, Complicity, Denial and Terraism, 2004).
Any aggressive response to this process is framed as totally unjustified,
inexplicable and possibly as evidence of barbarism. Such encroachment was
a feature of subsequent settlement by all colonial powers. A variant
of it continues to sustain the cycle of violence in Israel/Palestine.
Another variant has been evident in Tibet.
- Alienation of land / Dispossession : This legal technique
may be used to sustain the pattern of encroachment through land grants to
free settlers, depriving earlier Van Diemonian settlers of land they were
exploiting (Boyce, 2008, pp. 146-151). Such dispossession also ensured the
gradual alienation of the hunting grounds of the Aborigines necessarily meant
their expulsion and extinction (West, 1971, Boyce, 2008, pp. 152-157). This
pattern might be said to have been anticipated by the Highland
clearances in Scotland in the 18th century, but was paralleled by the
Lowland clearances there
from 1760-1830. The pattern was also paralleled by the historically controversial Irish
Potato Famine (1845-1852) during which 500,000 people were evicted
-- some to emigrate to Van Diemen's Land. A similar pattern is of course
now evident in Palestine.
- Resettlement and reservations: The policies regarding
the treatment of indigenous peoples in Van Diemen's Land, notably their systematic
isolation in the Flinders Island reservations preceded and accompanied the
further development of such policies within the British Empire (South Africa,
Canada, New Zealand, etc) as well as within the USA. Stalin later used
this approach within the USSR. The Gaza strip may be considered a variant
- Concentration camps / Labour camps: The use of Van Diemen's
Land as a a penal colony
created and developed a pattern, and a mindset, echoed later in the 19th
century by the British in South Africa -- with the development of "concentration
camps" used to isolate the Boers during the period of the Boer
Wars (1880-1902). Other examples might be found from the List
of concentration and internment camps by noting others established
later, such as:
- France: Devil's
Guiana) as a penitentiary was first opened by Emperor
Napoleon III's government in 1852,
and became one of the most infamous prisons in history.
- British India: the notiorious Cellular
Jail (also known as Kālā Pānī,
literally 'Black water') was used in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (India)
from 1857, with prson construction from 1896-1906;
the jail was used by the Japanese to house British prisoners after
having notably been used by the British for members of the Indian
Independence League --
many of whom were tortured and killed there. As with the Port Arthur
prison, it has since been converted into a National Memorial (in 1969).
- British Kenya: during the Mau
Mau uprising by Kenyans against the British from 1952 to 1960, there
were numerous atrocities by both sides, some notably authorized by the
government (see Bernard Porter, How did they get away
with it? 2005).
An estimated 87,000 Kenyans were imprisoned in concentration camps in which
many died from brutality and torture -- for which compensation has since
been sought (Kenyan
Mau Mau seek compensation from British government, 1999)
- USSR: the network
of gulags developed within the USSR, following the use
of exile and katorga developed
after the change in Russian penal law in 1847; Botany Bar was termed
by poet Les Murray as "England's
- China: the network of factory prisons, laogai,
developed within Communist China
- Germany: Historically these were of course an inspiration for both
the notorious concentration
camps developed in Nazi Germany and its system
through forced labour
- Guantanamo Bay: Numerous comparisons have been made between Port
Arthur and Guantanamo Bay. It could even be argued that the
transportation of criminals and undesirables to Port Arthur in the
19th century was a precursor of the legitimation of modern day policies
associated with Guantanamo Bay (and other secret locations) and the
related processes of "rendition".(Michael Otterman, Sensory
deprivation just another name for torture, Canberra
Times, 05 March 2007; Joshua Comaroff, Terror
and Territory: Guantánamo
and the Space of Contradiction, Public Culture. 2007,
19, pp. 381-405 [If, as noted by Manning Clark (A
History of Australia:P New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, 1822-1838,
ch. 10), the born-again George
Arthur (1784-1854), was recognized as the "Saint
of Hobart Town", is it appropriate for the future to honour
George Bush as the "Saint of Washing Town"?]
- US-based detention camps: From 1999, the government has entered
into a series of single-bid contracts to build detention camps at
undisclosed locations within the USA, as reported by Lewis Seiler
and Dan Hamburg (Rule
by Fear or Rule by Law? The
San Francisco Chronicle, 4 February 2008)
- Puniushment regime and torture techniques: Boyce (2008,
p. 169-170) comments on the development in Van Diemen's Land of a
"sophisticated seven-layered hierarchy of penal punishment" with (in 1834)
14% of male convicts on road gangs, 6% in iron shackles, and 7% incarcerated,
namely 25% were in some form of work-oriented punishment; the majority of
convicts were assigned as servants with 10% given "tickets of leave". As
Boyce notes: "convicts were regularly moved up and down the punishment/reward
hierarchy so that the terrors of the new punishment were widely experienced
and universally feared". Some 15% of convicts would experience incarceration.
As recently reported by Michael Otterman (Sensory
deprivation is just another name for torture (Canberra Times,
5 March 2007), wardens at Tasmania's Port Arthur penal settlement had called
it "separation". At the Separate Prison, inmates too violent to
control were housed in 2m by 2.5m cells. Speaking was forbidden. The prisoners
were addressed by number, not name. Masks were placed on prisoners when they
were moved from their cells to prevent them recognising fellow prisoners.
To maintain utter silence, guards wore soft slippers and communicated by
hand signals. Isolation, it was then believed, led to reflectiveness. In
turn, this led to repentance. Otterman's report compares this precedent to
the Pentagon's Joint Task Force Guantanamo.
- Extra-legal confinement: The communication delays of months,
between authorities in London and their representatives in Van Diemen's Land,
created a situation in which the local authority was able to take initiatives
(in response to circumstances) beyond any immediate control by poorly informed
superiors. This left both in a convenient position to blame such
delays on implementation of policies considered excessive by other parties.
A variant of this is evident today in the months required for chains of responsibility
to become apparent and subject to democratic scrutiny -- as with the debate
regarding the legality of USA rendition and the torture of detainees.
- Demonisation of opponents: Resistance of any kind enabled
opponents to be demonised (as noted with respect to encroachment), especially
if it was associated with indigenous peoples or with those who had already
been convicted of crimes.
- Removal of indigenous children from parents: Inspired
by Christian values, possibly alien to the indigenous peoples concerned,
the strategy conceived for the most rapid integration of those peoples in
Van Diemen's Land was forcibly to remove their children (possibly aided
by deception) and place them in orphanages or foster homes -- leading to
the situation now labelled in Australia as the "stolen
generations". In Van diemen's Land this process commenced in 1810
(Boyce, 2008, p. 84) although the first "orphan school" was established in
1825, with only a small minority being actual orphans (Boyce, 2008, p. 184).
This policy continued in Australia until 1969.
- Preventing access to cultural heritage: Whether by removal
of children and/or the creation of mission environments, use of the Aboriginal
language was forbidden. This practice has been widely adopted from Ireland
to Latin America.
- Willful negligence / Withholding assistance: Given the
constraints on resources and the priority necessarily accorded to those most
closely associated with those in power, their was little possibility in Van
Diemen's Land to assist those in distress. This negligence accorded with
any implicit policy to "facilitate"
the demise of such indigenous peoples. This pattern of willful negligence
has since been widely practiced with respect to indigenous peoples. It was
also evident in the disastrous famine in the Ukraine (1932-1933), named the
Holodomor. It remains evident in Dafur and in the case of Palestinians in
- "Targetted assassination": This might be an
appropriate way of framing the legal authorization issued in Van Diemen's
Land for the killing of indigenous peoples by legitimate settlers, notably
following the declaratiomjn of martial law in 1828 (Boyce, 2008, p. 196).
This practice was adopted elsewhere with respect to other indigenous peoples,
possibly to be reward by a bounty. The practice has since been adapted for
use by government agents in the Middle East, for example.
- Assertion of moral superiority: In Van Diemen's Land
this necessarily followed from the position of the majority of its inhabitants,
as (former) convicted criminals or their descendants, in relation to the
moral superiority associated with the British Crown, its agents, as reinforced
by the established churches. As noted by Boyce (2008, pp. 177-8), the church
was particularly associated with the privileges of the landed gentry and
committed to a church-state partnership to control the convicts. This pattern
of monopolization of moral authority by the establishment was necessarily
also evident in other British colonies -- even after their independence (as
in South Africa).
- Structural violence: In Van Diemen's Land, even where
physical violence cannot be claimed to have been used against the
indigenous peoples, policies affecting them were effectively structured such
as to do violence to their culture, their livelihood and their capacity
to survive -- such as to enable the authorities to deny responsibilities
for the consequences. This technique has since been widely used by colonial
powers to marginalize indigenous populations, or to further undermine the
conditions of the underpriveleged after independence.
- Promotion of caste society: With a high percentage of
the population of Van Diemen's Land having a criminal background or associations,
and the presence there of indigenous peoples represented as an archetypal
underclass, a multi-class society was promoted by the privileged which severely
inhibited interactions between the "castes" and with the "untouchable"
majority (Boyce, 2008, pp. 159-161).
This pattern was repeated in other clonial situations, notably Latin America.
It has been most evident with the apartheid policy subsequently developed
in South Africa.
- Cultivation of double standards: This is most evident
in Van Diemen's Land with the role of the churches and their complicity
in the destruction of the culture and the demise of the indigenous peoples
-- and their implicit support for the actions of settlers against them --
whilst purportedly pursuing a policy of "Bringing them Home").
Boyce (2008, p, 178-9) notes that churches were largely uncritical supporters
of state policy, furthermore, after Arthur's arrival, it was in the interest
of all to seem moral if they wished to be in good standing with the governor
(responsible for the horrendous penal conditions). It is a problem which
remains endemic in most societies today faced with the situation of the marginalized.
- Reframing others as subhuman or primitive: In Van Diemen's
Land, this followed from Cook's initial framing of the indigenous peoples
as, if not quite "savages" at least not fully "civilized" and
was used to justify mass evictions -- as occurred in Scotland and Ireland.
It corresponded to widespread attitudes towards negroid races as being in
some way of an inferior human nature. These attitudes remained a significant
factor worldwide through the following century (as was evident in the Nazi
policy towards Jews) -- and traces persist even today.
- Destructive exploitation of sustainable ecosystems: Van
Diemen's Land was recognized to be rich in flora and fauna, to the degree
that it was a key resource for the sustenance of the New South Wales colony.
Boyce (2008, pp. 206-209) documents the destructive impact resulting from
destruction of the fauna, introduction of European species, and the destabilization
of ecosystems sustained by the indigenous peoples for 30,000 years: "Ultimately,
though, the environmental impact of Aboriginal dispossession cannot be fully
grasped, and perhaps belongs to another realm of understanding". The same has
been said of ecosystems elsewhwere, notably the Amazonian rainforest.
- Eugenically justified de facto euthanasia: To the extent
that genocide may be recognized to have been a policy effectively practiced
in Van Diemen's Land, this can be seen as having been partially justified
by principles of eugenics which
continued to be favoured by the most eminent through the following century,
notably in the British Commonwealth -- culminating in the Nazi
eugenic policies in favour of the "Aryan
race". Such policies were officially associated worldwide with the supposed
challenge of inhibiting the propagation of those of inferior genetic stock
or mental capacity.
- Deceptive "positive" reframing: The sleight
of hand whereby penal "Van Diemen's Land" was reframed as "Tasmania", such
as to repress and deny the effects of such criminal associations, violence
and associated genocide, exemplifies the skills of image management and spin
that continue to be widely applied.
- Brutal treatment of opposition: The brutality of the treatment
of opponents, noted above, might be said to have provided a model for such
treatment in many other countries, including Germany, France, and the USSR.
It remains only too evident in the policies for the treatment of those in
interrogation centres such as Abu
- Deceptive promotion of saviour image: "Salvation" of the
Aborigines was a policy theme of the 19th (and early 20th) century. As noted
with respect to the cultivation of double standards, the established churches
were unfortunately complicit in supposedly "protecting" Aborigines,
notably by "Bringing
them Home". The deceptive dimensions of this have become increasingly
evident in current analysis of the involvement of churches in the "stolen
phenomenon through the missions to which indigenous children were allocated.
George Augustus Robinson indicated to George Arthur in 1829 that Aboriginal
children "appear to be destined by providence as a foundation upon which
the superstructure of Your Excellency's benevolence is hereafter to be erected."
(Boyce, 2008, p. 86).
- Suppression of information: This is evident in
the inadequate records maintained regarded the conditions and implementation
of policies in Van Diemen's Land. It can be legitimately described as an
historical cover-up, as documented by Boyce in the light of the limited
understanding of Australians (especially Tasmaniansd and Victorians) of what
occurred. This pattern has of course been repeated in other countries where
a high proportion of relevant records are classified or shredded, purportedly
because of their threat to security.
- Selective commemoration of the past: A consequence in
Tasmania (and more generally in Australia) is a very selective commemoration
of the past, minimizing reference to the convict heritage and to the treatment
of the indigenous peoples (as discussed in Annex
B). This pattern is
also evident in many countries where history tends primarily to honour the
dominant groups and to avoid reference to the more disgraceful initiatives
it took to achieve such dominance.
- Faith-based governance: Whereas the role of the Catholic
Church in the colonial initiatives of other powers was
much more evident (in Spain especially), that of the established churches
in the British Empire is less evident. It might be argued that Van Diemen's
Land was indeed an early experiment in faith-based governance by the non-Catholic
churches, following those in New England in the previous century. The established
churches indeed played a significant role in the formulation and implementation
of policies, notably through the activities of George Augustus Robinson.
The early conversion of George Arthur to Christianity should also be
recognized, given his role in formulating the penal policies of Port Arthur.
- Gated communities: In the final years of Van Diemen's
Land (and thereafter) the society of landowners became increasingly enclosed
-- in gentry estates and principal settlements -- allowing them "to live
a quarantined existence, scarcely impinged upon by the social and environmental
realities of the island" (Boyce, 2008, p. 220). This process anticipated
developments in other colonies, even after their independence (as in South
In the 1840s Van Diemen's Land was conceived by the British to be the "jail
of the Empire" -- comparable to the current role of Guantanamo Bay for the
Possible constructive learnings of the "proof of concept" initiatives
- such was the horror provoked by the
- it contributed very significantly to early
movements to penal reform.
- it rendered explicit the phenomenon of homophobia, thus anticipating
the processes of response to challenges of otherness in other contexts
- given the proportion of criminals forming the population of Tasmania
in the 19th century, it might be also be
argued that present-day Tasmania offers every reason for optimism regarding
the future of the US society -- of US society with %... with burgeoning
- in early Van Diemen's Land:
- the blurring of categories, independence, resilient
response and adaptive lifestyles, all suggest that (in its earlier decades
at least) Vandemonians demonstrated a degree of viability under chaotic
conditions which offers learnings od possible significance for the sustainability
of alternative modes of social organization in the future.
- as a form of counter-culture, it might be seen as standing as a challenge
in relation to Britain as the threat of Cuba is currently perceived from
- the demonstrated resilience of an alternative way of life in opposition
to the imposed social order of Little England at the time of emergence of
Tasmania. Boyce (2008, p. 222) describes this process as "a silent withdrawal
from the centres of dependence to the back-blocks, forests and 'waste lands'
of the island" rather than any form of rebellion. The hills, mountains and
highland plains served as "human wildlife corridors" penetrating across the
gentry's domains through a network of bush footpaths. It was this that ensured
that "Van Diemonian culture also found an enduring foundation" (Boyce, 2008,
p. 221). The bush became a lifeline for many thousands of unemployed, especially
since the majority of the 73 probation and punishment stations were in the
bush (Boyce, 2008, pp. 228-229). It could be argued that this pattern is now
evident in the social and other networks over the web.
There is a dilemma for the future in that, in contrast with aliens in foreign
lands, any contact with extraterrestrial aliens may be based on their enlightened
principles (Communicating with Aliens: the psychological
dimension of dialogue,
2000). These may include the fundamental non-interventionist principle of doing
unto others only as they do unto their own. Earth may then be framed by them
as their Port Arthur or Guantanamo Bay. Why would humanity expect otherwise?
Daimonic associations: imaginative, aesthetic, inspirational or spiritual
There can be no question that Tasmania is relatively unique in being a remarkably
idyllic island, whether in terms of the beauty of the vast wilderness areas
or the unusually unstressed lifestyle in its many rural areas -- themselves
often to be found in idyllic settings. Curiously, beyond the developed areas
invested by legitimate authorities and inhabitants -- the uncluttered countryside
and towns of rural Tasmania are now the epitome of what the rest of the world
might have aspired to be in terms of natural beauty and lifestyle. The absence
of billboards and hoardings -- especially for products widely marketed -- contributes
significantly to this.
In the following points a contrast is made between the "demonic" (as
described above) and the "daimonic" as
associated with the "daimon" (or
Djinn, Muse and Duende: variations on a timeless experience, 2007;
Patrick Harpur, Daimonic
Reality: a field guide to the Other World, 1994).
Aspects were notably honoured in classical Greek culture as the voice of the
conscience, in Iberian cultures as "duende",
and by such as the poet W
B Yeats (The Daimon).
Creative people may simply recognize it as the gift of their "muse" --
deploring the challenge of its absence or loss. In psychology
the daimonic may also be
recognized as the unrest within everyone which forces a person (or presumably
a culture) into the unknown, leading to self-destruction or self-discovery
Wilderness inspiration: Tasmania offers numerous
areas in which people can commune with nature in ways that increasingly urbanised
environments inhibit. As noted above, Tasmania promotes itself as an Island
of Inspiration. This opportunity is much valued in ecophilosophy, by "nature
lovers" and "deep
ecologists". as well as by rock climbers (David Orton, The
Green Movement and the Deep Ecology Movement, 2006; Joanna Griffiths,
of Nature Experience, Worldviews: Environment,
Culture, Religion, November
Curiously the iconic high points of tourism worldwide are places specially
significant for the experience of there being "no time" and of "nothing
but marked by the nature of the journey to that place and the perspective it
may offer. This is the case with Uluru
(Ayer's Rock, Australia)
and specifically with Cradle
Mountain in Tasmania. It has been said of Australia,
for example, that it is the only continent with two-thirds of its landmass
effectively reserved for mystical experience (David Tacey, On
the Edge of the Sacred, 1995). A similar point might be made of Tasmania
as its largest island.
The appreciation of that area as a wilderness, which directly
resulted in its early creation as a national park, arose from the dedication
of the early nature conservationist Gustav
Weindorfer (1874-1932) and his wife Katie (cf Margaret Giordano, A
Man and a Mountain: the story of Gustav Weindorfer, 1987; Sally Schnackenberg, Kate
Weindorfer -- the woman behind the Man and the Mountain, 1998). For Weindorfer
the motto of the area was "where time stops and nothing
matters" (the focus of Annex
So significant is this area that, unusually, it has 7 of the 10 criteria from
which World Heritage Sites are nominated.
was an Austrian (from Carinthia), who obtained Australian citizenship (1905),
and with his wife built a chalet there, open to visitors (1912) -- starting
a pattern that continues to this day. The chalet they built was called Waldheim,
meaning "forest home".
Despite the significance attached to it,
then and now, unfortunately it is the marginalised Aboriginal peoples who have
developed the greatest cultural dependence on their interaction with their
surrounding natural environment (Darrell Addison Posey (Ed).
Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity, 1999; Boyce).
Creative imagination: This may be seen as a process of deliberately
engaging in the engendering of psychoactive cultural artefacts as a way of
reframing collective reality:
- Naming the land: Many place
names in Tasmania, as with other British colonies, replicate those of the
colonizing country. Interesting examples of this at the collective level
are provided by the process of land nám, coined
Coomaraswamy (The Rg Veda as Land-Nama Book, 1935), to refer
to the Icelandic tradition of claiming ownership of uninhabited spaces
through weaving together a metaphor of geography of place into a unique
mythic story. This territorial appropriation process, notably practiced
by the Navaho and the Vedic Aryans, was further described by Joseph Campbell
(The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: metaphor as myth and religion,
Land nám ("land claiming or taking") was [the Norse]
technical term for this way of sanctifying a region, converting it thereby
into an at once psychologically and metaphysical Holy Land.... Land
nám, mythologization, has been the universally practiced
method to bring this intelligible kingdom to view in the mind's eye.
The Promised Land, therefore, is any landscape recognized as mythologically
transparent, and the method of acquisition of such territory is not by
prosaic physical action, but poetically, by intelligence and the method
of art; so that the human being should be dwelling in the two worlds
simultaneously of the illuminated moon and the illuminating sun. (p.
The process continues to be common whenever dominated territories recover
their independence -- as in South Africa where indigenous geographical
names are substituted for European names. Variants are to be found in the
naming by scientists of theories, equations and processes -- after their
originators in the discipline in question. In the case of astronomers and
biologists, this extends to stars and species respectively. This offers
a more dilute understanding of cognitive property -- unrecognized by law
as intellectual property -- by which communities empowered to do so place
their (trade)mark upon cognitive space.
In the case of Tasmania, it is especially significant when
it is used to substitute for pre-existing Aborginal names (significantly
absent in naming striking geographic features). Boyce (2008, pp. 137-141)
notes that before 1820, before the systematic use of names from England
were imposed in 1811-1821:
...most geographical features were named by the ordinary people,
especially the kangaroo hunters, stockmen and bushrangers who first vitied
them. This has been obscured because many of the major geographical features
wwere subsequently renamed
as part of the broader attempt to remake the land and its people....Poorly
represented...inpart because of the role played by ordinary people in their
discovery, were Aboriginal names...[such people] lacked the sensibility
or detachment to appropriate the language and culture of the indigenous
people in doing so.
He gives as examples: Murderer's Plains, Killman Point, Hell Corner, Four
Square Gallows. Reference has also been made above to:
A consequence is that Tasmania has many "secret" names, as with "Uluru" prior
to the repackaging of "Ayer's Rock" in the centre of Australia in response
to Aboriginal sensitivities. Cradle Mountain was named by Joseph
1827 -- although presumably it would not
have been difficult for him to discover its Aboriginal name -- had he
wished to do so. Aboriginal use of the Cradle Mountain area is presently
dated from the last ice age (namely from some 10,000 years ago).
- Demonic toponymy, namely the ready use of "devil" and "hell" in
naming the land.
- Religious surrealism, namely the unusual degree
to which geographical features, including towns, are given biblical names
of the Nomenclature Board (Tasmania) indicates that it has no specific
mention of what might be "Cradle Mountain",
but that John A Taylor (Tasmanian Place
Names: the Aboriginal connection,
Study of the Palawa (Tasmanian Aboriginal)
Place Names, 2006) refers to War loun dig er ler (or Way(why)
lin un dick a lar)
-- presumably from George Augustus Robinson's records.
This name is apparently confirmed in its use by Tasmanian artist Bea
Maddock in her landscape panorama Terra
Spiritus...with a darker shade of pale (1998) -- using Aboriginal
and English place names to weave a pattern that connects the whole of Tasmania. Curiously,
given the theme of Annex
C of this paper, her art has been
celebrated in an exhibition catalogue with a consonant title (Roger Butler and Anne
and Nothingness: Bea Maddock, Work From Three Decades, Australian
National Gallery / Queensland Art Gallery, 1991). Her panorama explores
"the implications of living in a specific place - in
the present and with a sense of the past" [more].
- Fiction and fantasy (as discussed below).
Van Diemen's Land has notably been an inspiration to the horror magazine
Australis: the Australian Horror and Fantasy Magazine,
- Vandemonian songs: A distinction can usefully
be made between the songs and music of the time, those associated with incarceration,
and those now played in memory of those times (or inspired by them):
- Contemporary: Most curiously, songs evoked by Van
Diemen's Land continue to be produced, including Van
Diemen's Land [from YouTube],
- Folk songs: A number of older Australian, English
and Irish folk
Van Diemen's Land in some way.
- Prison songs: James Boyce (Van
Diemen's Land, 2008, pp. 135-6) notes
that convicts sang (notably the Song of Death) whilst watching
the executing of other prisoners: "By celebrating the life of
the condemned man and expressing solidarity with him in his final fearful
moments, the music undermined the intended function of the gruesome public
spectacle." The jingling of chains was also turned into music "whereto
they dance and sing" -- a veritable danse macabre.
Reference has been made above to the psychological significance
of vampires to colonists. The current significance of the theme is discussed below.
- Role Playing Games: "Van
Demon's Land" figures as part of the widely played Warcraft series: "This
land was once enhabited by elves, but now the demons rule. The land has
become twisted and evil. Will you seek out the elven resistance, or go
straight for the demon stonghold? There is much power in this ancient land
... seek it out".
- Edge of the World: Tasmania is sometimes described
in relation to Australia as the island "down under down under" and
held to be at the edge of the world as when it was first known as part
Incognita Australis. There was therefore an imaginative opportunity
to mark its western-most spot as the "Edge of the World" (facing
Argentina, 17,000 kilometres away). This was possibly inspired by an early
Edge of the World, 1937), later repackaged (Return
to The Edge of the World, 1978), about Foula (the most remote
inhabited island in the Shetlands), where the
way of life was dying and its economic viability threatened (see Living
at the edge of the world, Jon Henley The Guardian, 21
Dreaming: A curiously fundamental factor in the relations
between Aborigine and European in Australia is the understanding of "dreaming"
by Aborigines and the seeming failure to comprehend its significance by Europeans
(cf W. E. H. Stanner, White
Man Got No Dreaming, 1979). For Aborigines it is variously understood
as a personal, or group, creation myth and for what may be understood as
the mythological "timeless time" of formative creation and perpetual creating.
Ironically, the archetypal notorious Vandemonian,
Michael Howe, kept a journal of dreams, and as noted by Boyce (2008, p. 81):
"His dreaming place was the heart of Van Diemen's Land itself".
On the other hand it might be argued that the
optimism (that is the focus of the responses discussed in the initial
is a form of "dreaming" of the "White Man". Any form
of social change is now typically envisaged in terms of a
"dream" -- exemplified by Martin Luther King's widely-cited phrase "I
have a dream....". Weindorfer's dedication, with his wife,
to conserve the Cradle Mountain area as a nature park, is an example of the
pursuit of such a life-long dream as specifically noted by Margaret Giordano
effort to frame a compromise between Aboriginal dreaming and that of the
White Man is that of Germaine Greer (We
Can Dream Too. The Guardian, 19 June 2004). This would
call for an act of faith for:
- Blacks to see merit in the White Man's Dreaming
- Whites to see merit in the Black Man's Dreaming
Whilst the Dreaming of the Black Man may be focused on creation myths (uniquely
active in their understanding of the present moment), it is an interesting
question whether that of the White Man (as illustrated by the question to scientists
discussed in the initial
is focused on creativity and vision -- possibly about the processes of creation.
is an irony to the fact that White elites, as part of their "re-creation",
go to places in Tasmania such as Waldheim (Cradle Mountain) to dream and seek
inspiration. Weindorfer's naming of Waldheim, "where
time stops and nothing matters", might be recognized as a White Man's
intuitive understanding of what the Australian Black Man may name as the Dreamtime.
There is a further irony to the fact that the White Man goes to Waldheim to
"consume inspiration" and that is how the experience is marketed.
In the terms of Forestry Tasmania, it is not a "working" area. It
produces "nothing". The
Dreamtime of the Black Man is also essentially "unproductive" in
conventional economic terms. The irony is that it is the White Man's productivity,
and the dreaming it sustains, that has proven to be unsustainable (despite
Development Goals). This may be compared with the millennia long sustainability
of the Aboriginal peoples, as noted with respect to Tasmania by James
Boyce (Van Diemen's Land, 2008) with respect to the destructive impact
of latecomers on the environment .
|Dreaming about the nature of the
"Edge of the World"?
||Black Man's Dreaming
||White Man's Dreaming
||"Waldheim" as an edge?
||"where time stops and nothing matters"
||over thousands of years
||an art to be discovered
Another articulation of a form of compromise between these potentially
complementary dreams has been the subject of dialogue with Aborigines as
a University of Earth (cf University
of Earth: Questing for a more comprehensive dream, 1999)
"Haunting release": Margaret Giordano
Tales of the Supernatural, 2001) reports on the use of a poem specially
written to free a location of the spirits of Aborigines by which it was visibly
|Spirit in a Tree
|Patterned in the leaves
of an ironbark, a face,
like a granite sculpture,
scans with flummoxed frown
imprisoning roots that lattice
tendrils into traps over the land.
The haunted eyes search
the labyrinth of history
for Creation Ancestors
of the Dreamtime
Ebon in tragedy
the eyes perceive the trespassing,
the iniquity that aborted revivals
of the oppressed.
(by Norma Knight,
reproduced with permission of the family of Margaret
The phenomenon had previously been officially reported.
"Saved by the Muse": Rural Tasmania does not offer
many economic opportunities. Many towns are threatened with some form of decline.
It is therefore intriguing to read of an aesthetic response from 1985 to a
decline in the economic state of the Kentish region centered on the Tasmanian
town of Sheffield -- promoted as the "gateway to Cradle Mountain".
As the story is told:
...a new organisation was founded - the
Kentish Association for Tourism. With sublime synchronicity, a documentary
about Chemainus [a community on Vancouver
Island, Canada], and its resurrected prosperity through mural art, was shown
on television on the eve of KAT's
KAT (now renamed SMART: Sheffield
Mural Arts and Rural Tourism) has becomed
renowned as an area of mural art -- on the blank walls of any properties
or buildings. Since 1986 more than 10 artists have added more than 30 murals
to an Outdoor Art Gallery in Sheffield and 12 more all
round the district [images].
The mural art offers new attractors, bringing tourists into the
Whilst some of the art remains from year to year, other works are renewed.
This has been notably achieved since 2002 through a National
Mural Fest, to be followed from 2008 by a Global
Mural Fest [more].
Latterly this has taken the form of a competition to generate mural art
-- inspired by a different poem presented to competitors each year [poems].
"Spiritual retreat": Whilst there are indeed many
opportunities for spiritual retreat in Australia, it is amusing to note the
extent to which this concept has been appropriated and commodified to focus
on every form of bodily health therapy and relaxation, however unrelated it
may be to the spiritual dimension as otherwise understood. A "spiritual
in Tasmania is therefore typically a context in which physical well-being is
the focus, and "spirit" may well include the alcoholic variety --
if it is not understood as the essence of such a retreat. This ambiguity
has of course long been a feature of monastic communities that have derived
a significant proportion of their income from beer or spirits.
A-maze-ment: Tasmania is readily to be perceived as amazing.
But, given the emphasis on bushwalking and its association for some with personal
spiritual vision quests,
themselves associated with the symbolism
of the labyrinth, it is not surprising to note that Tasmania has one
of the world's largest maze complexes located in a town perhaps appropriately
named as Promised Land (Tasmazia).
A-muse-ment: There is a certain irony to the fact that so
much of Tasmanian income through tourism is dependent on "re-creation" and "a-muse-ment" (respecting
the origin of the term).
Refiguration of "the other" through fantasy
Fiction and fantasy: The point has been made that the original
claim, made by the British Crown in taking possession of Australia through
Captain Cook, constituted a legal fiction. This "fiction" has however been
the basis for the credibility of that claim ever since.
For Alex C Castles (An Australian Legal History, 1982):
Some of the differences between Van Diemen's Land and the other British
colonies in Australia during this period are not always easy to determine.
In Van Diemen's Land the years between 1825 and 1850 were marked by the birth
and nurturing of legends on the working of the convict system.... Fact and
fiction also tend to surround the reign of George Arthur, the "Saint
of Hobart Town". (pp. 254-5)
As noted by Boyce (2008, p. 67):
A true picture of the frontier before 1820
is extremely difficult to establish. There was no government supervision,
very few free settlers and only occasional second-hand newspaper reports.
A number of fictional tales have been inspired
by Van Diemen's Land, some based on fact, to a degree that they are studied
to clarify the often fragmentary histories of the reality of that period (cf
Marcus Clarke, For
the Term of his Natural Life,
have been notably challenged by contrasting interpretations of the information
variously considered factual and especially that relating to the demise of
the Aborigines (Keith Windschuttle, The
Fabrication of Aboriginal History: Van Diemen's Land 1803-1847, 2002;
Robert Manne (Ed.), Whitewash:
On Keith Windschuttle's Fabrication of Aboriginal History, 2003 which
includes Fantasy Island by James Boyce; Stuart Macintyre, On
'fabricating' history: history, politics and the philosophy of history,
Such Australian "history
wars" regarding the degree of violence in the course of British settlement
have resulted in various studies (Andrew Gunstone, Reconciliation,
Nationalism and the History Wars, 2004; Ann
Curthoys and John Docker, Ann Curthoys and John Docker. Is History Fiction? -- the necessity for and difficulty of finding the truth in history. University of New South Wales, 2005. Is
History Fiction? -- the necessity for and difficulty of finding the truth in
history, 2005; Robert Hodder, The Narrative
Wars in an Island State: Vandemonian legacies into fiction, 2007).
A novel of Christopher Koch (Out
of Ireland, 2000), set in the Tasmania of the 1840s, offers a
profound exploration of human idealism and an intensely literary experience
that intentionally echoes the structure of Dante's Inferno. As "Van
Demon's Land" it figures in Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce
(Not olderwise Inn the days of the Bygning would our Traveller remote,
unfriended, from van Demon's Land... [more]).
The curious "temporal condition" associated with Van Diemen's
Land is suggested by its mention in Umberto Eco's novel The
Island of the Day Before (L'isola del giorno prima, 1994),
a story about a 17th century Italian nobleman trapped at an island at the
International Date Line. Day and night night are effectively reversed with
respect to England.
Vampirism: As noted earlier,
the imagined existence of vampires was perceived as significant to the threats
to which nervous Vandemonians assumed themselves to be exposed. This has since
offered a literary theme. Late in 1991, Tasmania was said to have entered the
realms of the macabre with Vandemonian,
a journal edited and published by Kate George. Ostensibly a Stephen King Fan
Club publication it included general horror material (stories and poems); only
a single issue was produced.
The significance of this theme is remarkably explored by Gerry Turcotte (Re-mastering
the Ghosts: Mudrooroo and Gothic Refigurations. 2003). Turcotte discusses
the question of the Gothic mode as it has been used to construct a eurocentric
notion of Aboriginality. His focus is on the way the mode
has been transformed by Mudrooroo to produce an oppositional,
revisionist discourse that works to undermine European historiography. Mudrooroo (aka
Colin Johnson and Mudrooroo Narogin) has held the Chair of Aboriginal Studies
at Murdech University (Perth).
examples used in Turcotte's study are Mudrooroo's Master
of the Ghost Dreaming (1991) and The Undying (1998), which locate
their ghost and vampire tales at the site of the invasion of Australia by Europeans,
and around a battle which was frequently effected through missionary activities.
Turcotte is especially interested in Mudrooroo's
rewriting of the "conciliating" efforts
of George Augustus Robinson (Protector of Aborigines), in what was then
called Van Diemen's
Land), and his disastrous attempts to establish
a "Friendly Mission" that would effectively rid the small
island of its Aboriginal inhabitants and so leave it free for white settlement.
This is explored in Doctor Wooreddy's Prescription for Enduring the
Ending of the World (1983).
Noting the study by Ken Gelder (Reading
the Vampire, 1994), acknowledging that the fictional association
of vampires with Transylvania (in Bram
Stoker's Dracula) was made
after its use on a map of Van Diemen's
Land in 1830,
Turcotte highlights Gelder's comment that 'it also, perhaps,
anticipates that later association' and his argument
of the peculiarities of vampire fiction is that it has - with great
success - turned a real place into a fantasy.'
it is certainly true that European epistemologies have persistently enacted
a similar refiguration of the "other": constructing and
inventing a fantastic identity for "undiscovered" or recently "discovered"
lands and peoples. He then argues:
- If we accept that Dracula enacts what one critic has called the 'anxiety
of reverse colonization' by 'bringing the terror of the Gothic
home', in contradistinction to the usual flow of the Gothic into 'displaced' lands,
times and spaces, then it is possible to read Mudrooroo's ongoing
account of the invasion of Australia as a particularly powerful elaboration
and satire of that fear, relocated into the orientalised space itself....(cf
Stephen D. Arata, The Occidental Tourist: Dracula and the anxiety of
reverse colonization, 1990)
- Mudrooroo re-animates the figure of the vampire as
a European presence which descends upon the Australian landscape to suck
it dry, and to contaminate its spaces. The Indigenous figures who meet this
invading force are alternatively perplexed and continuously adaptable, transforming
themselves, their songlines, their very world, in order to resist acculturation
into what is presented as a devilish, impoverished and ultimately soul-destroying
enterprise. At the same time, Mudrooroo cleverly signals the way the "other"
is fetishised in that process of projection so typical of European Gothic
- The Gothic began by locating its darkest narratives "elsewhere",
but its most terrifying accounts were those which returned to the home, or
the self, as the source of the monstrous. Dracula is one of many Gothic narratives
which chill by alerting its readers to the enemy without, whose greatest
power is its ability to colonise from within.
- Given Mudrooroo's interest in re-writing disabling European forms,
and dislodging their authoritative hold over the Aboriginal imaginary, it
is not surprising that he should turn increasingly towards this mode of writing.
And in his sequels to Master of the Ghost Dreaming, he embraces
most recognisable form - the vampire story - as a way of acknowledging
and overturning this association.
- The Undying is a novel which acknowledges the virulent contamination
of Aboriginal culture by the European settlers, a contagion which is enacted
biologically, but also narratively. Aboriginal culture is irredeemably changed
because of the predations of the otherworldly ghosts, just as the songlines
are forever different because of the texts of Empire.
Beyond genres: As noted earlier with respect to the comments
of Michael Schiltz (Form
and Medium: a mathematical reconstruction, Image [&] Narrative,
6, 2003), the adequacy of the form on which understanding is expressed
can be usefully challenged. With respect to a genre, such as "fantasy",
from the Fringe, 1990) notes that genres:
... have developed as a European way of categorising works of literature.
In themselves, they are ways of manipulating the text so that the reader
is led from an intuitive to a logical response to the work. Not only this,
but the Aboriginal writer is led to believe that there are fixed categories
of literature to which he or she must conform. If we as writers accept this
we, in effect, dilute the Aboriginality of our work.
With respect to Mudrooroo's approach, Gerry Turcotte (Re-mastering
the Ghosts: Mudrooroo and Gothic Refigurations. 2003)
The texts, therefore, are redolent with contradiction - they are contra/dictions:
against utterance. Similarly, the project of Empire has been both explicit
and indirect, admitting to its totalitarian vision of colonisation, and yet
simultaneously couching this desire/design within a rhetoric of, dare one
say, missionary purpose, of colonising for the good of the colonised. This
double vision is expressed through many of the narratives which Mudrooroo
invokes in his novel. In The Undying Mudrooroo reveals the hidden, he enacts
the unperformed, he declares the unspoken.
Of Master of the Ghost Dreaming (1991), he says 'the novel
resonates with the rhythms of a different Australia and a different mental