TASMANIANS BANG ON about ‘place’ a lot – at least some of us do. Maybe because Tasmania can be so affecting and beautiful, as a place. Certainly it was the resonance of one of Tasmania’s significant sites that drew me back here in 2006. The lure was the remarkable tale of Lake Pedder in Tasmania’s untamed southwest wilderness, flooded in 1972 to build a dam for a hydroelectric scheme – and of the efforts by post-World War II Lithuanian émigré and photographer Olegas Truchanas to save it, working with a circle of Tasmanian landscape painters, including Max Angus, Elspeth Vaughan and Patricia Giles. Their campaign paved the way for later conservation successes, and led to the formation of the world’s first greens party. One result of my relocation was my book Pedder Dreaming: Olegas Truchanas and a Lost Tasmanian Wilderness (UQP, 2011). Another was a re-emplacement of my own professional and personal life in Tasmania, after twenty years in places like Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, London and Cambridge.
‘OMG??! You need care packages?’ came one text message. Perfumed parcels still arrive in the mail; keep them coming, there’s still no David Jones in Tasmania, never mind Shanghai Tang. Other feedback was more categorical: ‘You have committed absolute professional suicide.’ Certainly there have been times in recent years when I’ve contemplated turning tail. Remember, too, that David Walsh’s spectacular Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), now widely viewed as Tasmania’s existential if not economic salvation[i], wasn’t even a hole in his Berriedale sandstone back then.
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