’‘DOES Tasmania need an intervention?’’ So reads the headline on a recent article or ‘‘provocation’’ by Natasha Cica, director of the centre for civil society at the University of Tasmania, in the online academic magazine The Conversation ( Here ). ( Natasha Cica’s full article, here )
The article comes with this precede: ‘‘Is Tasmania at a tipping point? While it is known to many of us through seductive tourism brochures showcasing the state’s pristine wilderness, gourmet magazine articles celebrating its burgeoning food culture and newspaper stories gasping at a world-leading art museum, the recent devastating bushfires serve as a stark reminder that all is not as it seems. For most Tasmanians, a darker reality lies beneath the glossy surface.’’ (My italics).
I assume Cica did not write the headline or the precede but, in suggesting that a bushfire might alert us to the need for intervention, they illustrate the shallowness of what is to follow.
Cica takes us into the ‘‘darker reality’‘. Having led with a couple of items from Tasmania’s colonial past, she relates an old Tassie folk story about incest at a place called Black Bob’s. No source is given. She then proceeds to detail two of Tasmania’s grislier murders in recent times before moving to Martin Bryant and the Port Arthur massacre.
Imagine an article headlined: ‘‘Does Victoria need an intervention?’’ The precede touches on a couple of the state’s virtues, then says the bushfires of Black Saturday served as a stark reminder that all is not as it seems. Then the ‘‘darker reality’’ - the Hoddle Street massacre, Carl Williams, the fact that in 2010 Melbourne had two more homicides than the whole of New South Wales plus a couple of horror folk tales from the country etc.
Cica’s article is a swirl of near-random connections during which she mentions Tasmania’s low level of school retention and high levels of teenage pregnancy, child abuse, unemployment and welfare dependence before eventually concluding by saying she is sustained in her darkest Tasmanian days by all the ‘‘gentle, crazy and amazing people’’ who live there - at which point, the article moves beyond parody.
By comparison to Cica, Jonathan West, another contributor to the series, is a model of intellectual rigour ( What’s wrong with Tasmania, Australia’s freeloading state? ). He says Tasmania is a mendicant state incapable of change, not only because of its internal politics (upon which his views are reasonable), but also for cultural reasons. He writes: ‘‘A recent study undertaken by an educational foundation unearthed the startling conclusion that a large proportion of Tasmanians specified not being educated as an important aspect of a ‘true Tasmanian’.’‘
Really? I was born in Tasmania and lived there for 28 years; I never encountered this attitude. West continues: ‘‘Educated people were regarded as ‘less Tasmanian’, and probably worse people.’’ Never met that one either.
The Tasmanian middle class, writes West, value education ‘‘up to a point’’ since their aim in life is a safe job in the government. What’s next? An article on ‘‘Tasmania and the case for eugenics’‘?
Tasmania has always been the play within the play as far as Australia is concerned. It’s the place where the dark side of our national origins cannot be ignored in the way it is elsewhere, and the current discussion about Tasmania may well foreshadow our emerging national politics.
Read more: The Age, here