University Of Tasmania

File(s) under permanent embargo

Tasmanian gothic

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 01:20 authored by Greg LehmanGreg Lehman
SOME DARK SECRETS run so deep that they slip from view. The hole left in our collective conscience is gradually plugged, with shallow distractions and awkward half-truths. Questions, if uttered, pass unheard. An uneasy and enduring silence prevails.

So it has been in Tasmania since the end of our war. This was the first and only properly declared war fought by the British on Australian soil. Initiated by Governor George Arthur on 1 November 1828, it was waged against an enemy once dismissed as a meagre scattering of 'savage crows'. But the first Tasmanians were an enemy so committed to driving the settlers from their ancestral lands that neither ad hoc massacres on a lawless frontier, nor the ravages of disease that swept ahead of muskets and poisoned flour seemed capable of quelling their determination. As their numbers fell, Aboriginal resolve seemed to increase. They simply could not give up their land.

This is a story about the consequences of such resolve and the marks it has left on the history and identity of today's Tasmanians. It is about an intriguing painting that sits uncomfortably alongside the more familiar icons of Australia's island state; offering a rare insight to why Tasmania, of all the states of Australia, should be a place with an unsettling gothic thrall.


Publication title

Griffith Review


39 (Autumn)






Aboriginal Leadership


Text Publishing Company

Place of publication


Rights statement

© Copyright 2012 Griffith University & the author.

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Understanding Australia’s past