Investigation 2

What were Tasmanians like in the late 1800s?

Each colony had its own unique identity, which was shaped by its past. The backgrounds of its settlers and the developments that had occurred over the years influenced people’s values and beliefs. Common interests and concerns made people of the colony feel connected to one another.

Tasmania’s history included its beginnings as a British penal settlement, which many wanted to forget, as well as its achievements since transportation of convicts to the island ended. It also included all the work of establishing towns, farms and businesses in an isolated land, and becoming a self-governing British colony. How do you think this would have influenced Tasmanian identity at the time of Federation?

Your Task

Explore Tasmania’s convict history and the values and beliefs of Tasmanians in the early days of the colony.


  1. As a class, read the newspaper extracts from Launceston’s Daily Telegraph and Hobart’s Tasmanian Mail. Discuss or use a dictionary to find out the meaning of words you don’t know.
  2. Divide the class into two groups and complete the following activities.
    Group 1
    With a partner, discuss the following questions and record your answers regarding Tasmania’s convict history.
    • Where did the convicts come from?
    • What evidence is there in the extracts that Tasmania had a convict past?
    • Make a list of the contributions made by Tasmania’s convicts.
    • Which words suggest that the writer believes Tasmania’s convict past is important?
    • What evidence still exists today of Tasmania’s convict history?
    Group 2
    With a partner, discuss the following questions and record your answers.
    • What evidence is there that Tasmanians embraced their British heritage?
    • Why might the writer be making a link between the early settlers and British heroes? What kinds of qualities do heroes possess?
    • How did the people of Ulverstone show their respect for British royalty? Do you think this is an isolated example or common practice? Provide reasons for your thinking.
    • What evidence still exists today of Tasmanians being proud of their British heritage?
  3. Share your responses with the rest of your group. Combine your group’s responses and share them with the other half of the class.
  4. As a class, examine the birthplace and religion census data. Make a list of the most striking or surprising things that you notice when you look at the graphs. Discuss the following questions.
    • Would communication among people living in Tasmania have been easy? Consider the language spoken by people born in the different places.
    • Would the people of Tasmania have shared similar values and beliefs?
  5. With a partner, design an ‘I am Tasmanian’ poster. On one side of the poster write or draw the things that were important and valued by the people of Tasmania in the past. On the other side of the poster, record the things that you think are important and valued by the people of Tasmania today. Share your poster with your classmates. Provide reasons for the things that you have listed. Discuss what has stayed the same and what has changed over time.