Aboriginal Launceston

Envisaging Landscape

John Glover “Mills Plains”. TMAG Hobart

This was painted in the 1830s after actual occupation of the area by Tasmanian First Peoples – they were ‘painted’ into the landscape. But note the extraordinary regrowth of invasive wattle [acacia melanoxion] – and remarked on by Glover – in the background indicating cessation of firing of the landscape. The big gums were preserved by “cool” firing which suppressed regrowth seedlings.

A Vast Estate Managed with Purpose

A Vast Estate Managed with PurposeIn 2011 Bill Gammage published his controversial, The Biggest Estate of Earth: How the Aborigines made Australia. He refuted the idea of Aborigines as nomadic wanderers idling across the landscape. Instead, he saw the Aborigines as...

Why multiple names for the river?

Why multiple names for the river?Many languages use generic names with adjectival qualifiers e.g “Grey Kangaroo” where “Kangaroo” is the basic word for the animal and “grey” is an adjectival qualifier that broadens our understanding of the basic generic word....

The Launceston Basin

The Gorge 1808: Still a recognisable Aboriginal Landscape.

The Gorge 1808: Still a recognisable Aboriginal Landscape. George Prideaux Harris, ‘Near Launceston, Port Dalrymple, Van Diemen’s Land 1808’ [Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW]

South Esk River

Joseph Lycettt (1774-1828) View Upon the South Esk River. Art Gallery of South Australia. Ref Link

So why land on Launceston?
What made the Launceston Basin so special?

Launceston is a rich borderland, a place where boundaries meet – where saltwater and freshwater meet, where the First People of the Northern Midlands interface with the riverine people of the Tamar, where the wetlands border the game plains. Because of the interface of saltwater and freshwater this means that landscape abundance is amplified by the diverse ecology.

This, along with the intense landscape modification means the Launceston basin – where the Esk rivers and the Tamar meet – was a densely populated place of First Peoples seasonal habitation.

This was a vast wetland rich in waterfowl and swans, eggs, mussels and oysters, and a variety of edible plants, as well as plentiful grass and game in the grassland of the adjacent hinterland which means in the spring and early summer it was a magnet to the First People.

And by the way, it is one of the reasons white occupation centred here as well. The British, learned from the Dutch, the value of the nutrient rich alluvial wetland soils. When drained these soils were highly productive.

First People engagement with the landscape encouraged the dominance of certain species. Intense human landscape interaction has been shown historically to alter the balance and dominance of selected species. Plants follow in the paths of favoured human selection.

But far from the present tendency to over exploit, those plants and animal species that were favoured foods were nurtured and encouraged to become dominant – plants follow human need and respond to it.

This is not so much ‘sustainability’, as methodical, conscious decisions to factor in future resource needs.


Tamar Valley Geology and British Settlement

Tamar Valley Geology and British Settlement Addendum: to Tamar Valley Geology Determining the First Peoples Occupation of Northern Van Diemen’s LandAddendum: to Tamar Valley Geology Determining the First Peoples Occupation of Northern Van Diemen’s Land Abstract The...

The Garden that became Launceston

The Garden that became Launceston Jamie KirkpatrickSchool of Geography, Planning and Spatial Sciences, University of TasmaniaRivers wear away the ancient Tasmanian mountains, depositing their mineral wealth in flood plains and estuaries. This depositional richness is...

Understanding How First People’s Viewed Their World


AdequacyIt is tempting to apply modern terms like ‘sustainability’ to Indigenous practice however the key to understanding First People’s attachment to country is adequacy. First Peoples did not expend energy on wasted accumulation but on a vast Estate that provided...

Holocene Tasmania


PALAEO ARCHAEOLOGY OF THE TAMAR VALLEY December 2020Human history in the Tamar Valley could extend back some 40,000 years considering that at least one site in the upper Forth River 200km west has such a basal date, but the Tamar lacks sites, caves, that could confirm...


"Ochre” Barry H. BrimfieldBecause of respect and to minimise vandalism the exact location of sites is only approximate. What is Ochre? Ochres are earthy, pulverulent (reduced or crumbled to powder or dust) forms of Haematite and Limonite or friable (easily crumbled),...

Tamar Middens

Tamar Middens By Nigel BurchIn early 1801 Philip King, now Governor, decided to establish a government coal mining operation at Newcastle. Although the expedition was nominally under the command of another officer, it included William Paterson, newly appointed as...

Ochre Exploitation Around the Tamar

Ochre Exploitation Around the Tamar By Nigel BurchUntil very recently it was thought that Tulampanga, near Mole Creek, was the only source of high-grade ochre available to Indigenous peoples. Europeans in the 1820s discovered some of the best-quality ochre in...

Tamar Valley’s Palaeo Aboriginal History

Tamar Valley’s Palaeo Aboriginal HistoryThis work, which comprises the three separate study papers, was put together being all connected to the Tamar Valley’s Palaeo-Aboriginal history.   As the reader progresses they will see that included are remarks on areas just...

Tasmania’s Aboriginal Palaeo Art

Tasmania's Aboriginal Palaeo ArtBarry H. Brimfield 2013 This work is a collection of papers each pertinent to the art produced over thousands of years by the Palaeo-Tasmanian Aboriginal people. Their art had roots extending back to their original homeland "Africa", to...

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this website contains images and names of people who have died. In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written but may no longer be considered appropriate. These articles do not reflect the views of the authors and sponsors.
Aboriginal Launceston