Tasmania

Before reading Richard Flanagan’s new book, Toxic: The rotting underbelly of the Tasmanian salmon industry, it is useful to remember that Australia’s southern isle was once the penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land. During the first fifty years of the colony’s existence, a small ruling élite achieved a near monopoly over the island’s most lucrative natural resources, the subservience of the majority convict population, and considerable profit from the public licences and patronage associated with political power. Far from these privileges ending with the cessation of transportation, self-government allowed the establishment to so entrench their interests that no substantial separation existed between the promotion of them and the functions of the state.

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Making the sea passage south to Flinders Island, I began reading this while off-watch, hoping book and destination might augment, but tough weather cancelled free time until after a landfall sleep. I’ve not much enjoyed histories which cast these manuka and granite islands in dismal role, they are shockingly beautiful, but the crowded cemetery wails, the old lath church is empty of joyful song, and the rule of Commandant Jeanneret recalls similar miseries of bonded Malay and Bantamese on Cocos.

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‘How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,’ writes Annie Dillard in The Writing Life, her timely appeal for presence over productivity in modern life. Turning the page on a new year reminds us of the seasonality of time, its familiar cycles of life, death, and rebirth. But flipping through the empty pages of a calendar can also remind us that time is a human construct designed to regulate our lives for maximum efficiency and output. In today’s attention economy, where time is treated as a currency by the technologies we use to satisfy our animal need for connection, how might we rediscover the joy of being present in a moment, a body, a community, a place? In other words, how are we to live?

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In this episode of Australian Book Review's States of Poetry podcast, Tim Thorne reads his poem 'Theft' which features in the

In this episode of Australian Book Review's States of Poetry podcast, Louise Oxley reads her poem 'Graces Road' which features in th ...

In this episode of Australian Book Review's States of Poetry podcast, Karen Knight reads her poem 'Atonement' which features in the

In this episode of Australian Book Review's States of Poetry podcast, Graeme Hetherington reads his poem 'Avila' which featu ...

In this episode of Australian Book Review's States of Poetry podcast, Adrienne Eberhard reads her poem 'Distance' which featu ...

In this episode of Australian Book Review's States of Poetry podcast, State Editor Sarah Day introduces the Tasmanian anthology.