Race Relations

Race Relations in Tasmania after British settlement were, overall, appalling, ending in the death of most of the original inhabitants and the expulsion of virtually all the remainder to the Furneaux Islands. From that period the vast majority of Tasmanians were of Anglo-Celtic background, and the dominant culture was Anglo-Celtic. In the nineteenth century migration brought a few settlers from other cultures, notably Germans, whose numbers were small and unthreatening, and no overt racism against them was recorded. Germans congregated in areas such as Bismarck and Lilydale. Chinese miners also received little recorded hostility, and were generally better treated than on the mainland.

During the First World War there was hostility to those of German origin in some areas, resulting in changing the name of Bismarck to Collinsvale, but none in others, as shown in histories of Lilydale and Bellerive. With Tasmania small, isolated and not especially prosperous, few other non-British immigrants arrived before the Second World War, and race relations were peaceful. The influx of many European migrants from the 1950s brought some hostility, but generally the original population was welcoming (or at worst patronising), encouraged by institutions such as the Good Neighbour Council. Activities such as folk dancing in national costumes were enjoyed, as were Chinese restaurants and European delicatessens. There was some hostility between those whose nationalities had been at loggerheads in Europe, such as Croats and Serbs. There was also some covert hostility from those born in Australia towards English immigrants, who could be patronising towards 'colonials'.

From the late 1970s immigrants started to arrive from Asia, South America and, in the 1990s, Africa. Those who look conspicuously different have reported various degrees of hostility. Previously covert for the most part, hostility is becoming more overt, and more noticeable in some parts of the state. There has also been some hostility as the Tasmanian Aboriginal people have become more assertive.

Multiculturalism is encouraged by the government, especially its department Multicultural Tasmania, which works to educate the community, provides cultural awareness information and assists migrants to gain access to government services. The state government has a multicultural policy which complements the Tasmania Together benchmarks to increase migrant intake, retention rates and services. The Tasmanian Advisory Council on Multicultural Affairs works closely with migrants and advises the state government. The Multicultural Council of Tasmania is an independent peak body representing migrant groups and individuals. It lobbies and advocates for better conditions for migrants. The Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act (1998), the Anti-Discrimination Commission (established 1999), and various community groups also encourage multiculturalism. Brighton Council, for example, did much to welcome Kosovar refugees in 1999, the Launceston community rallied behind the Sarwari family when they were threatened with expulsion in 2003, and the International Wall of Friendship in Hobart, established in 1982 and with plaques from 52 countries by 2004, encourages friendship between all races.

Further reading: M Bardenhagen, Lilydale Conflict or unity, Newnham, 1993; A Alexander, The eastern shore, Rosny Park, 2003; J Jupp, The Australian people, Cambridge, 2001.

Alison Alexander, from information supplied by Multicultural Tasmania