Tasmanian Aboriginal History in the Furneaux Region
35,000 years ago The Ice Age. Sea level falls, a land bridge forms allowing Aboriginal people to move south into Tasmania.
15,000 – 10,000 years ago Climate warms, ice melts, sea level rises, and the land bridge is submerged. Tasmanian Aboriginals are isolated.
6,000 – 4,000 years ago Archaeological evidence of Aboriginal occupation of the Furneaux Group.
1797 Wrecking of the vessel Sydney Cove on Preservation Island. On a rescue mission, Matthew Flinders reports seals in Bass Strait.
1798 Sealing commences in Kent Bay, Cape Barren Island – the first European settlement south of Sydney. By 1803, 200 sealers are working on Bass Strait islands. Some kidnap Aboriginal women.
1824-1831 “The Black Wars” in Tasmania – seven years of clashes between Tasmanian Aboriginals and European settlers.
1830-1834 George A Robinson’s “Friendly Missions” persuade Aboriginal people to move to settlements. A small group is taken to Swan Island, then to Gun Carriage Island. The first settlement on Flinders Island is at The Lagoons, near Whitemark.
1833 Wybalenna opens.
1834-1847 European diseases, homesickness and the trauma of dislocation decimate Wybalenna’s population.
1847 Wybalenna closes. The 46 survivors are moved to Oyster Cove, south of Hobart. About 10 Aboriginal women remain with sealers.
1878 Aboriginal people from the Bass Strait islands petition the Tasmanian Governor to reserve Flinders Island for the Aboriginal community.
1881 4000 acres on Cape Barren Island reserved for the Aboriginal community.
1890 A school opens on Cape Barren Island Reserve with 55 children. Islanders seek rights to muttonbird islands.
1891 Census shows 139 people of Aboriginal descent in Tasmania; most live on Cape Barren Island.
1897 Islander Association is formed.
1900 Exports from Cape Barren Island include seal skins, seal and sea-elephant oil. Muttonbirding thrives.
1910 Grave robbers visit Vansittart and Tin Kettle Islands. Community moves bodies of ancestors to other islands.
1912 Cape Barren Reserve Act recognises the Aboriginal community through the creation of an Aboriginal Reserve.
1914 Seal skin markets decline and incomes reduce. Many Islanders serve in World War I.
1930-1940 Cape Barren population declines as families move to Tasmania for employment. Islanders serve in World War II.
1945 Cape Barren Reserve Act phases out reserves. Conditions are imposed to earn 99-year leases and only one is granted.
1951-1958 Tasmanian Government closes Cape Barren Island Aboriginal Reserve. Some people are forced to move.
1971 Cape Barren community asks for title to Reserve.
1973 Flinders Island Community Association is formed.
1977 Tasmanian Aboriginals petition Crown for Land Rights.
1979 Aboriginal housing project begins on Cape Barren Island.
1981 Cape Barren community granted 0.6 hectares of land.
1986 Unmarked graves of 100 Tasmanian Aboriginals located at Wybalenna.
1995 Flinders community vote to fly Aboriginal flag.
1995 Tasmanian Government returns 12 cultural sites to the Furneaux Aboriginal community, including: land on Mount Chappell, Babel, Badger, Greta (Big) Dog and Cape Barren Islands.
1996 Aboriginal community reclaims Wybalenna.
1999 Wybalenna is officially returned to Aboriginal community.
2005 Handover of Cape Barren and Clarke Islands to the Aboriginal community.
2006 Cape Barren Secondary School opens.
2006 Lobbying by the Flinders Island Aboriginal Community leads the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) to grant title to the Flinders Island Aboriginal Association. This is the first Indigenous land ownership on Flinders Island other than housing allotments.
Produced by the Furneaux Historical Research Association inc. with assistance from the Minister for the Arts, Arts Tasmania.