‘Me Write Myself’ The Free Aboriginal Inhabitants of Van Diemen’s Land at Wybalenna, 1832–47

By Leonie Stevens*

‘This beautifully written and detailed history of Wybalenna on Flinders Island and its colonial contexts, is told through the rich records left by and about the First Tasmanians resident there. It privileges Aboriginal testimony in a way rarely achieved before and will become a classic of Tasmanian history.’ Richard Broome, Emeritus Professor of History, FAHA, FRHSV

Exiles, lost souls, remnants of a dying race ... The fate of the First Nations peoples of Van Diemen’s Land is one of the most infamous chapters in Australian, and world, history. The men, women and children exiled to Flinders Island in the 1830s and 40s have often been written about, but never allowed to speak for themselves. This book aims to change that.

Penned by the exiles during their fifteen years at the settlement called Wybalenna, items in the Flinders Island Chronicle, sermons, letters and petitions offer a compelling corrective to traditional portrayals of a hopeless, dispossessed, illiterate people’s final days. The exiles did not see themselves as prisoners, but as a Free People. Seen through their own writing, the community at Wybalenna was vibrant, complex and evolving. Rather than a depressed people simply waiting for death, their own words reveal a politically astute community engaged in a fifteen year campaign for their own freedom: one which was ultimately successful.

‘Me Write Myself’ is a compelling story that will profoundly affect understandings of Tasmanian and Australian history.

*Dr Leonie Stevens researches and lectures in History. Previous to working with true stories, she had an extensive background as a fiction writer and editor. She is the author of six novels, a variety of short fiction, and is addicted to B-grade disaster films.