Tasmanian National Anthem (Frankie – 2008)
Australian’s please let us rejoin,
For it is one degree.
With oldies loyal and health in turmoil
Our shops are shut by three.
Our land is ground into nature’s chips
Forestry’s stripped us bare
It’s a mystery gays were allowed to stay
Advance Tasmania where?
With employment strained the young jump ship
Advance Tasmania where?
In the high school of Australia, Tasmania lurks down by the bins, watching beautiful Melbourne and Sydney laugh and frolic, hoping that even the weird kid Adelaide will sit next to it at lunchtime. As a Tasmanian, you can’t help but be aware of your lot in the geographical playground, as the cruel jibes and patronising remarks ring in your ears. I’ve been on the receiving end most of my life, even within the troubled ranks of Van Diemen’s Land. In the High School of Tasmania, it was my home town that sat alone in the grass waiting to be picked near-last for basketball by captains Launceston and Hobart? “Shit Burnie you cost us the game again!”
I left the coastal village of Burnie – a cross between Summer Bay and Chernobyl (with respect) – in 1999 to attend Uni in the A.C.T. Even in Canberra, described by Paul McDermott as “the place people go to die,” I was a constant source of side show amusement. One night on Ressies I was browning some mince when a girl wandered over.
“Where are you from?”
(Cue tone usually reserved for a child with damp shorts.)
“Oh, you poor thing.”
This naïve arrogance matched an earlier image I had of mainlanders, occurring while walking the Overland Track with my Nan, a popular five day bushwalk near Cradle Mountain. It was day three and a Sydney family were staying in the same hut as us. To my amazement the Father, some kind of high flying exec had managed to smuggle a newspaper along and was headfirst into the financial section. When asked if he was looking forward to the day’s walking he shrugged. “Seen one mountain, seen them all.” I nibbled my trail mix, horrified. Who was this desensitised freak in chinos?
Growing up in Tasmania meant you couldn’t take anything for granted. It was the little things in life that brought the most joy, like a spectacular sunset, or a third TV channel. I remember when Silverchair bothered to make the trip over the bass strait in 1996. I was so excited I lost my virginity.
I think being Tasmanian gives you an innate ability to laugh at yourself. There’s a kind of bemused ruffian pride among adults, a quiet air of ‘we know we’ve got problems, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything and plus, Australia loves an underdog.’ This is expressed less wittily by teenagers who are more likely to spray paint ‘HOLE’ on the surf club.
(Think of the ‘Landcare’ logo, with the cupped hands forming Australia. They can’t do Tasmania so it’s literally a hole.)
By the same token, sometimes the Tasmanian apple can fall far from the tree. There are those who escape to the mainland only to either deny their former heritage, or form a loner superiority. “Yeah there’s a time difference on the mainland, Tassie’s ten years behind.” These are the kind of ex-pats most likely to make a two headed or incest joke, the two faced motherfuckers!
The twist is that the isolation of Tasmania is a trait that unites us all. Ever had a look around at our place in the high school of the world? Hey, check out the cool kids hanging behind the gym – London, New York, Berlin. And where’s Australia? With New Zealand playing squatter in the library…again.
In conclusion, in the words of my Nan: “you can take the man out of Tasmania, and then it’s just ‘Tasia,’ which sounds like a small Asian electronics company.”