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takayna / Tarkine

A vast mosaic of ecosystems covering 450 000 hectares in north west Tasmania. At its heart is Australia’s largest tract of cool temperate rainforest, a relic of Gondwana and related to the forests of Patagonia and New Zealand. The ancient rainforests are threaded with wild rivers, flowing through expansive button grass plains and flowering coastal heaths to a rugged coastline of windswept beaches. The natural and cultural values are under threat from a string of proposed mines, logging and unrestricted access by off-road vehicles. Since 1989 the International Union for Conservation of Nature has recommended takayna / Tarkine for World Heritage listing.  

Australian Heritage List

The Australian Heritage Council recommended that 439 000 hectares in the takayna / Tarkine be entered in the National Heritage List. The Australian Government failed to list the full recommended 439 000 hectares. In 2013 the Government listed 21 000 hectares, as the Western Tasmania Aboriginal Cultural Landscape. The Heritage Council assessment found that the remote coast has the greatest number, diversity and density of Aboriginal hut sites in Australia. Dotted along the wind-swept coastline are the remnants of an unusual, specialised and more sedentary Aboriginal way of life which was based on hunting seals and land mammals, and the gathering of shellfish. The Western Tasmania Aboriginal Cultural Landscape Area is protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The four-wheel drive tracks were closed in 2012 after reports suggested that protected heritage areas had suffered ‘considerable permanent damage’ from use by off-road vehicle users.

Aboriginal Heritage

takayna /Tarkine showcases tens of thousands of years of Aboriginal heritage, representing an unbroken cultural connection. Aboriginal sites on the takayna / Tarkine coast include petroglyphs’ (rock engravings), hut mounds (former Aboriginal village sites), stone pathways, stone depressions (former seal hides), very large middens and specialist middens. Additionally many sites contain implements and human remains. Sites within the Western Tasmania Aboriginal Cultural Landscape include some of the best evidence of the lifestyle of Aboriginal people in the area, showing how groups moved seasonally up and down the west coast of Tasmania and their subsequent economic development around the products of hunting. In particular, the apparent absence of fish bones and the presence of marine and terrestrial animal bones in some middens, when taken in conjunction with the hut sites, are an important expression of this specialised way of life.  

Middens

'Our middens are an incredible gift, telling us much more than just what people ate, but showcasing an amazing array of information about time, place and of how people lived. Layers of shells representing generations of knowledge left for us all to learn from. When these middens are crushed by the force of vehicles being driven over them it destroys this information, it changes the story. The damage is irreparable and irreversible –the story is lost forever.' Sharnie Everett. 

Access For All With Care

We don’t want to lock the landscape up. This is beautiful country and we want people to come here to value it, to enjoy it, and to immerse themselves in the history of our Island. What we don’t want is people to come here and destroy what is so valuable and important about this place. So we encourage people to come and share in this magical land and seascape. We just don’t want you to bring tools of destruction.

Taking Court Action

Tasmania's Government is pushing to reopen 90km of off-road vehicle tracks across the dunes and middens of the remote takayna/Tarkine coastline, between Sandy Cape and Pieman Heads.   In 2014, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, with legal assistance from EDO Tasmania, took the Tasmanian Government to court and won. Yet illegal vehicle access to this sensitive area continues, despite being ruled illegal by the Federal Court.   In December 2014, on application from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, the Federal Court of Australia issued an interim injunction under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to stop the Tasmanian Government from opening up four-wheel drive tracks on the takayna coast. The interim injunction means that the Tasmanian Government cannot allow access to off-road drivers until the issue of whether track access could comply with heritage protection laws is fully considered by the Court.   On 1 March 2016, the Federal Court ruled in favour of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, finding that opening the three 4WD tracks would be a controlled action under the EPBC Act, and would have a significant impact on indigenous heritage values (even with the mitigation measures proposed by the government).   The Tasmanian & Australian Governments are now appealing that decision.  

Acknowledgement to Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) Tasmania

Federal Court Ruling

The Federal Court ruling delivered a strong statement about both indigenous connection to country and the importance of protecting indigenous heritage values for all Australians. Justice Mortimer ruled that the Tasmanian Government’s action in opening the tracks and facilitating their use would have a significant impact on the National Heritage values of the area. ‘The impact would not be restricted to physical damage caused by the intended protective measures or the off-road vehicles themselves; it would also include damage and harm to the integrity and character of the Western Tasmania Aboriginal Cultural landscape as a whole and therefore to its significance to Aboriginal people.’ ‘The strong and enduring sense of connection and continuity that Tasmanian Aboriginal people have to a landscape in which their ancestors lived a particular and unique way of life will be adversely affected by the alteration of the landscape and the intrusion into it of things foreign to its natural condition, and the characteristics it possessed when, for thousands of years, Aboriginal people lived in and from that landscape. By this,the outstanding heritage value of the area to the Australian nation as a whole is also damaged,’ Justice Mortimer, 1 March 2016. Federal Court of Australia.

Take Action

Buy the book: country, culture, spirit; Donate to the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre if they are required to pay legal costs; Lobby Federal and State MPs to provide secure protection for takayna and globally significant Aboriginal heritage values; Write a letter to the newspaper calling for secure protection of takayna / Tarkine; Broadcast the problems faced in takayna. You can host a film event, art exhibition, share on your social media networks.   

takayna - country, culture, spirit

Our new book, takayna - country, culture, spirit, portrays the deep living cultural relationship of Tasmanian Aborigines to takayna / Tarkine. Nearly 200 years after forced dispossession, their unbroken cultural connection to country is shared in this unique book. With compelling stories by Tasmanian Aborigines, stunning and shocking photographs and an urgent call to action. Buy your copy here.