Launceston is a small river port city located in the middle of the top half of the island state of Tasmania, south to the mainland of Australia. It sits over the meeting of three rivers, the South Esk River and the North Esk River, both of which fall into the valley that Launceston sits in from the rain catching plateaus of the Central Highlands atop the surrounding mountain ranges.

The South and North Esk Rivers feed the Tamar River which flows forty odd kilometers northward to its end and opening to Bass Strait. This river is very deep in parts and allows for the traffic of large vessels into the port. Its riverbanks and further landscapes of its way consists of green, gentle hills which hug the snakelike meandering directions of the river.

Back at its origin in Launceston it forms as a wide, circular port with the city at the south and east. The city, built over gentle hillocks, travels back through suburbs and then foothills before rising to the Ben Lommond mountain range which travels the eastern horizon.

To the west the port in met by suddenly broad, rising hills of trees and houses which enables an intimate, enclosed feel over the place. Especially at dawn or dusk, or during a dark rand rainy day. A marina is located within the port full of yachts, small fishing vessels, and odd boats which add their aesthetic qualities to the scene.

The city, was settled by British military and government types, whose Freemasonry is largely non-recorded by history, from Eighteen O-Four. With its deep river to the sea and good timber, agricultural and livestock land surrounding, it grew well with population and industry. The harsh labor done by the settler’s supply of unjust convicts exported from home. Many of who actually did contribute vitally to the growth, culture and history of Launceston and further onto Tasmania and beyond.

The city evolved through its time as a white, British, obviously English speaking, mini-culture. Yet isolated so much as to form its very own, original, characteristics. The city developed an intense localness. The world considered less. Suburbs polarized by degrees of class. Values and social status determined and measured by local criteria. By time the population diversified with the input of Australian immigration. And with the late Twentieth Century the onset of modernity, technology, mobility, global communication and new cultural information had definitely been established in Launceston.

In Nineteen Eighty One Launceston’s population was steady at just over sixty three thousand with an area of around fourteen hundred kilometers. At its outer country limit it increased to nearly ninety thousand persons out of a state population of four hundred thousand. The majority, of course, in the southern capital of Hobart. Major port and river facilities, such as bridges, ship building yards, dry docks and such industry now existed and operated in business on a worldly scale.

The city with hospitals, radio stations, two television stations, and interstate sports ground, cinemas, shopping centers with big chain supermarkets, schools and colleges. The central business district a healthy retail hub though with a modest tallest building of ten stories with most half the height and shorter. Add a main street mall, library, buses and glorious city parks, one with a monkey enclosure, and a general biography is achieved.

However this biography exists in a small world of time. In the locality of the years Eighteen O-Four to Nineteen Eighty One. For best possible consideration of the story of humanity in the place now known as Launceston it must include the time proceeding back to any known beginnings. Prior to the British and the world when the area and Tasmania was still fully forested and without its rivers polluted or obstructed. With all of its unique flora and fauna still living. No mining, no roads and no buildings. A journey known to travel into the archaic and back forty thousand years.

Most likely it is that even long before this date until recently there lived peoples indigenous to Tasmania of whom the Launceston geography held its local peoples. From where they ultimately originated is not known but as was their enormous length in time of residence here they developed into a lone race of people. A race entitled to be known as the aboriginals of Launceston and Tasmania. Only basic facts are known about them and their way of life. Considered hunters and gatherers amongst a plentiful land of wildlife, plant food, river life and abundant clean water they were, generally, dark skinned, muscular, tall with men at over six foot tall, with facial and other physical features unlike the mainland indigenous. Women playing a vital role in ceremonies and daily life. Their religion known only by them.

Classified academically and historical the Palawa people where Tasmania Aborigines with those who lived in the Launceston area known to have existed in three Palawa tribal clans. They were the Panninher, Leterremairrener and Tyerrenotepanner groups who would have eaten and lived well in their natural environment undisturbed for a very, very long time. They called the Tamar, Ponrabbel.

Unfortunately for the sake of the Launceston based Palawa people, along with their Tasmanian kin, their cool Eden along with their population was suddenly overwhelmed by the British colonization and then quickly destroyed by its early growth. The forests attacked and land violently transformed. The rivers mutilated for electricity.

The mountains opened for rocks of metal. The peoples, all indirectly or directed, murdered. Grand libraries of their unwritten knowledge, history, beliefs and culture gone. Now, with all true full blood Tasmanian Aborigines, long extinct, their part blood descendants hold their identity proudly and strongly and preserve data from the past. Their goal to continue still for forty thousand more years and again.

The primary geographical feature of Launceston, used in all levels of life by the local Palawa and today for recreation is the Cataract Gorge and The First Basin.

Ian S.