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The Great Victorian Denial

By Rodney Croome - posted Monday, 19 April 2010

The recent ABC documentary about William Buckley was strangely silent about this man's many connections with Tasmania.

An omission which has not gone unnoticed in Tasmania.

According to Tasmanian historian, Michael Tatlow, writing in the Hobart Mercury,  "The Victorian Government's film production fosters a virtual conspiracy of denial."


To illustrate this denial is systemic he recalls, "I searched in vain at the time for any crediting of pioneers from Tasmania among a host of articles published in Melbourne to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the city's founding."

"They are ashamed it seems that the founding fathers of their grand metropolis were piddling Tasmanians."

Michael Tatlow is right. Victorians have a collective amnesia about their Tasmania origins.

Historians like Bain Attwood and Stephan Petrow have shown it's impossible to understand early Melbourne, Victorian race relations, or other aspects of Victorian society from religion to commerce without first understanding the attitudes and experiences of Victoria's early Tasmanian inhabitants.

Yet, a recent visit to Melbourne's museums showed me that Victorians still regard themselves as a society that came from the sophisticated north, rather than the "tainted" south.

The scarcity of the term "Van Diemens' Land" in these museum’s exhibits reminded me of those signs dotted around ancient Greek ruins in Turkey from which the word "Greek" is pointedly absent.


Unfortunately, Victoria’s dismissiveness of Tasmania isn’t limited to the past. It also influences contemporary attitudes to Tasmania.

When the Victorian Government proposed a relationship registry in 2007 I contacted news editors and advocates to offer information about the Tasmanian model upon which that proposal was (mostly) based, only to find they were less than interested.

As one opinion page editor put it, “the registry has a better chance of getting up if we don’t highlight the Tasmanian link”.

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About the Author

Rodney Croome is a spokesperson for Equality Tasmania and national advocacy group, just.equal. He who was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2003 for his LGBTI advocacy.

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