In northwest Tasmania exists a place of such beauty & mystique that its values are beyond words. Ancient rainforests that have evolved since the Australian continent separated from the super continent of Gondwanaland. Priceless indigenous heritage that offers a unique record of Tasmania’s lost cultures. Indigenous art that predates the Egyptian pyramids and the last ice age (petroglyphs have been located underwater, in places that were above the sea level during the last ice age).The Tarkine is an ark in a wild sea of unfettered industrialisation, a haven for 55 threatened & endangered species, including the world’s largest fresh water crayfish & Australia’s largest raptor, the critically endangered Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagle. With such a diverse range of ecosystems, the ecological & cultural marvel of the Tarkine has seen it compared to Kakadu, in fact it’s often referred to as the Kakadu of the south. And the parallels with Kakadu do not end with its values. As with Kakadu, the Tarkine is also under threat. This time not from uranium mining, but from many fronts: imminent logging in Australia’s largest rainforest, with its indigenous culture eradicated, the last remnants, the last living history of that ancient culture is being destroyed. Petroglyphs chipped away, massive shell middens carved up in the voracious tracks of the ignorant 4 wheelers.
But this place is no fairytale; the stories that exist and emanate from the Tarkine are as remarkable as any told about colonial Australian history. This is the place, on the Tarkine coast, where Truganini walked with Aboriginal Protectorate Officer George Augustus Robinson as he successfully & unceremoniously convinced the last of the free Tasmanian indigenes to migrate to Flinders Island. This very coast saw the Tarkiners leave forever the thousands of years of culture and evolution – this was the last quiet place left in Tassie. The history wars that now rage in the contemporary Australian political discourse are based upon the stories of the Tarkine.
It is the human stories that are told of the Tarkine- that are wrapped up in truth, lies and ideology. It is the untold story of the amazing ecological & natural history of the Tarkine that has no parallel, of the wonderful, yet sad & despairing indigenous stories that make this place so special and incredibly important to how Australian culture sees, interprets & views itself. It’s the colonial story of settlement & massacre, of genocide & benevolent assimilation. And finally it is the continually evolving post-colonial story of intrepid graziers and tin miners, of the community at the edge of the world and of the resource war that right now is tearing the heart out of the Tasmanian community.
The combination of all these stories wrapped together and the mystique created by the passage of time that makes preservation of the Tarkine human & natural values so important to Australia & the world, for it is most certainly the world’s heritage at stake in this resource war and battle of ideas. The story of the Tarkine is unfinished; it is open, and evolving, but without help, what we hear will be a distorted truth – a lie.
The Tarkine is such a significant area of land that it is one of few natural places that will allow for natural evolutionary processes to continue, for stories to be told that are not of the making of human society. The species that inhabit the Tarkine are free to move across landscapes. A species can move across and through the rainforests, up and over the buttongrass mountain ranges and through magnificent coastal heath. It can move south to adjoining world heritage areas and north to the Arthur river areas never seen before by the human eye. And most importantly they can travel with the changing climate to fill their own ecological niche – to tell their own story.
And it is definitely the same for the individualist people that live there.
The human story can evolve simultaneously, just like the fourth generation farmer who has changed the way he relates to his land and his land management practices, who no longer farms just for monetary gain but for the preservation of biodiversity and to sustain his land-stewardship. When people inhabit such a place it is inevitable that they grow and evolve to become closer to the area’s own rhythm. But how does someone who lives at the edge of the world, in a place that is the last landmass between the coast and South America, how does that person stop the consumption power and the corporate greed from destroying the story before it gets started.
It is the combined human and ecological history that makes the way we manage the Tarkine a beacon for how contemporary Australian society relates to land and place, and to what future story we will tell our grandkids. Because in 2050 there will be very few places such as this left on this planet, and those that are left will tell stories beyond what we now comprehend.
And the only way for these untold stories to be told is for the Tarkine to be protected as the world’s heritage, as it is only under world heritage protection that 10,000 years of indigenous history will survive, and it is only through world heritage protection that the ecological values of Australia’s greatest rainforest can evolve, and it is only under world heritage protection that contemporary human society can evolve with the Tarkine, to tell a truly unique tale.
But how do we listen to these stories? How do can hear them if they are destroyed before they can be told?
There is no doubt that there are great riches to be gained from the wood and mineral assets within the Tarkine. We can be sure that one story that is crowding out the others is that of the timber & mineral merchants waiting with glee to start the machine running. There is no doubt about it, this place is too important for the future health of our society and planet to be destroyed.