IN 2013 GRIFFITH Review published an issue focused on Tasmania, which I co-edited with founding editor Julianne Schultz. We sensed that a big wave of attention was about to break in relation to Australia’s smallest and most southerly state. My own curiosity around this was grounded in my role as founding director of the Inglis Clark Centre at the University of Tasmania, established to enhance public dialogue and build engagement across sectors in Tasmania’s interest.
I was keen to advance the neglected legacy of nineteenth-century Tasmanian jurist Andrew Inglis Clark. Born in Hobart in 1848 to Scottish immigrants, just up the road from where I’m writing this, Clark built an eclectic career based on the pursuit of justice, and especially enjoyed challenging discussion. He was a modernising parliamentarian, one of the drafters of the Australian Constitution, an advocate of Tasmania’s quirky Hare-Clark electoral system that is grounded in proportional representation, and attracted to the ideals of American and Italian republicanism. Clark was unusually good for his time on gender, supporting universal suffrage. He was more questionable on race – and not unusual for his time. Despite objecting to slavery, not least because of the influence of American political lessons on his thinking, Clark supported what we now call White Australia in relation to restricting Chinese immigration. His views on the way Aboriginal Tasmanians had been treated since British colonisation haven’t yet received much attention.
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