Lutruwita/Tasmania has a rich history of resistance and collective action. This overview provides snapshots of some of the campaigns that had an impact. Of course, there are many more. If you would like to contribute a case study contact the Commons librarians.
This resource is made possible by support from the Alf & Meg Steel Fund of the Australian Communities Foundation.
Campaign Case Studies
First Nations Rights
- Extinct No More: Discourses on Tasmanian Aboriginal Heritage – this 2013 PhD thesis by William Price includes chapters on Dispossession, “Extinction,” and Survival, and the Tasmanian Aboriginal Rights Movement.
- Unesco removes ‘hurtful’ document claiming Tasmanian Aboriginal people ‘extinct’ – long campaigning by Tasmanian Aboriginal people won this result in August 2023.
- The day I handed Queen Elizabeth an Aboriginal land rights petition – Michael Mansell reflects on a moment in 1977 that raised the profile of Aboriginal land rights.
- We ‘love-bombed’ the Tasmanian government to win Indigenous rights – article by Dr Emma Lee that outlines a number of progressive changes in the 2010s and how they were achieved.
- Aboriginal Activists Win Abalone Harvesting Rights, Yes Magazine, 2022
- Current Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre campaigns.
A number of the campaigns listed below include leadership by First Nations people and/or asserting of First Nations rights, along with other movements and communities.
Gay Law Reform, 1990s
Excerpt from A History of Homosexual Law Reform in Tasmania (1997) Alexandra Purvis & Joseph Castellino:
In May (1997), the Tasmanian Government took the significant step of enacting the Criminal Code Amendment Act 1997 (Tas). This
had the effect of repealing sections 122 and 123 of the Tasmanian Criminal Code, thereby decriminalising homosexual conduct between consenting male persons. It is a move that has seen Tasmania fall into line with the rest of the Australian States and Territories. For many of those in the gay and lesbian community, it is the culmination of years of campaigning for the repeal of laws which they believed promoted, and gave legal justification to, homophobia. For others, the repeal of these sections demonstrates a fundamental victory for human rights. Irrespective of the viewpoint, the gay law reform issue in Tasmania has proved as interesting from a legal perspective as it has from any other.
- It’s only 25 years since being gay stopped being illegal in Australia – includes ‘How they won the fight’ to change Tasmania’s laws.
- Tasmania marks 25 years since decriminalisation of homosexuality
- Gay Law Reform by Rodney Croome, excerpt from the Companion to Tasmanian History.
- Sexual Citizenship in Tasmania: Stories of gay law reform
The struggle continues:
Franklin River Campaign, 1980s
The greatest environmental battle in Australian history was also its greatest act of civil disobedience. But the story of saving the Franklin runs far longer, and involves far more people, than its best remembered element, the blockade. – The Battle for the Franklin
In 1978 the Tasmanian Hydro Electric Commission (HEC) announced its plan to dam the Franklin and Gordon rivers. If constructed it would flood a huge swathe of undeveloped, bio-diverse ecosystems in south-west Tasmania. To stop the dam from being constructed would require overcoming the long entrenched power of the HEC and its backers in the state government as well as public sentiments that favored a narrowly defined form of “development” over ecological values.
A five year public awareness and lobbying campaign led by the Tasmanian Wilderness Society (TWS) and branches across Australia which included advertising, rallies, tours of the region and litigation. This built on previous opposition to the flooding of Lake Pedder and other decisions made by the HEC. With work looming it was deemed that preventing the dam from being built would require leveraging national and international opposition to force federal political intervention. A non-violent blockade was seen as the key means of drawing attention to the ecological and aesthetic values of the area via media coverage. It was believed that this in turn would mobilise the public to pressure politicians to take action.
The campaign made stopping the dam a key federal election issue. The Hawke Labor government was elected in March 1983 and proceeded to intervene, passing regulations and legislation that overrode the state government and prohibited further work. The Tasmanian government ignored this for months but eventually halted work in July 1983 after the High Court asserted the federal government had requisite constitutional powers override state legislation when it threatened international treaty obligations. The Franklin and Gordon Rivers continue to run free.
- Franklin River Campaign – videos, books, podcasts, teaching resources and more detailing this historic campaign.
- Tasmanian Wilderness Society blocks dam construction (Franklin River Campaign) 1981-83 – case study in the Global Nonviolent Action Database.
- Effective Action for Social Change: The Campaign to Save the Franklin River – a book written by participants in the campaign which examines the campaign strategy, how the campaign built over time, the centrality of civil disobedience, the key protagonists and the wider conflict.
- Saving the Franklin – Documentary
Relive the iconic campaign to save the Franklin River from being dammed in Tasmania in this bitesize doco.
- The Franklin River Blockade 1983, Tasmania
(1983, 20 mins, Part 1, Part 2)
The Environmental Blockading in Australia and Around the World Timeline (1974-1997) includes many Tasmanian blockades and forest based actions, including:
- 1984 – Warners Sugarloaf, Tasmania – Logging
- 1986 – Farmhouse Creek, Picton, Tasmania – Logging
- 1986 – Lemonthyme, Tasmania – Logging
- 1987 – Lemonthyme, Tasmania – Logging
- 1987 – Farmhouse Creek, Picton, Tasmania – Logging
- 1989 – Picton, Tasmania – Logging
- 1988 – Clumner Bluff, Tasmania – Logging
- 1991 – Weld, Tasmania – Logging
- 1992 – Exit Caves, Tasmania – Mining
- 1993 – The Wilderness Society “Long Hot Summer”, Tasmania – Logging
- 1994 – Picton Valley, Tasmania – Logging
- 1994 – Warners Sugarloaf, Tasmania – Logging
- 1994 – Great Western Tiers, Tasmania – Logging
- 1995 – Tarkine, Tasmania – Logging
- 1995 – Picton, Tasmania – Logging
View the timeline to find out more about these actions.
East Gippsland site occupation in 1994. Courtesy of Friends of the Earth.
Excerpt from Blockades that Changed Australia (Anti-logging, Tasmania, 1986):
During the summer of 1986 environmentalists kept themselves busy with a series of actions aimed at stopping the destruction of old-growth forests across Tasmania. During this time a protest camp and blockade was maintained on the south bank of Farmhouse Creek. This brought road building through the unlogged area to a halt. Police lacked the power to arrest the blockaders as at this time remaining in state forest did not legally constitute ‘trespass’.
The blockade marked the first time that a long-term tree-sit employing a platform was used in Tasmania. Former Wilderness Society director turned state MP Bob Brown had mentioned to activists that he had read about protesters using platforms in Oregon, USA. The group does not appear to have been aware of previous Australian tree-sits in NSW and Queensland where people had climbed trees, used rope to tie them together, and netting, platforms, and hammocks to remain in them. Lacking any details of US actions beyond Brown’s comments, the group patched together a platform from planks of timber and masonite. This would prove far from comfortable. They spent the best part of a day getting activist Alec Marr up a tree, where he remained for 16 days.
Tree sitting delayed work and helped the blockade gain increased media attention. Initially, this was due to tactical novelty and then for violence after timber workers attacked protesters while police stood by. An attempt was also made to cut Marr’s tree down with him in it and Brown was shot at.
None of this dissuaded Australian activists from continuing to mount tree sits. Having witnessed the tactic’s obstructive and media potential they would return to the tactic regularly in the decades to come. Miranda Gibson set a national record by remaining in a tree for 449 days from 2011 to 2013 as part of a campaign to protect Tasmania’s Styx Valley which eventuated in 170,000 hectares being added to the state’s World Heritage area.
The Longest Tree-Sit: Miranda Gibson, 2012
- Still Falling – Documentary
This inspiring short takes you on a journey as a young woman tries to save the forest, risking it all for the place she loves the most. Although she struggles, she comes out a legend. “The ObserverTree is a platform situated 60m above the ground in an old-growth Eucalyptus tree, in the heart of Tasmania’s southern forests. On the 14th of December 2011 conservationist Miranda Gibson climbed a rope to the top of the tree and vowed to stay until the forest is protected. Miranda’s upper canopy home is a tree under imminent threat, in a forest due to be logged any day now…”
- Meet the woman who lived in a tree for 449 days to help save a Tassie forest, ABC News, 2018
Other Forest Activism
- Protecting Native Forests, Bob Brown Foundation
- Styx campaign, The Wilderness Society, pg. 5
- takayna / Tarkine campaign, Bob Brown Foundation
- Bob Brown: the next big battle for Tasmania is The Tarkine, The Fifth Estate, 2018
Bass Strait Anti-Gas Campaign
No Gas Across the Bass was formed in 2020 when American company Conocophillips put in an application to seismic blast Tasmania’s North West coast just 27km from the iconic King Island. Additionally the Australian Governments 2020 Oil and Gas acreage release opened up a large area of Tasmania’s pristine oceans for exploration. This prompted concerned Tasmanians to start No Gas Across the Bass. In 2021 Surfrider Foundation Tasmania was formed to provide support for No Gas Across the Bass in addition to other campaigns impacting our coastline.
- Toxic: The Rotting Underbelly of the Tasmanian Salmon Industry, Richard Flanagan, Penguin Australia, 2021
- Defending our Waterways, Neighbours of Fish Farming NOFF
- Opponents, defenders of Tasmania’s salmon industry as entrenched as ever as fish farming continues to grow, ABC, 2023
- Campaigns that changed the Northern Territory
- Campaigns that changed South Australia
- Campaigns that changed Western Australia