Tasmania is already renowned for its rich cultural heritage, especially that associated with Australia’s origins as a prison colony of the British Empire. Its most famous and visited attraction is the Port Arthur Historic Site.
Both the Port Arthur Historic Site and Tasmania’s convict heritage as a whole have been given a huge boost, with five sites given World Heritage status as part of the Australian Convict Sites serial inscription of eleven sites around the nation. In Tasmania, New South Wales, Western Australia and on Norfolk Island, the sites combine to tell the epic story of Australia’s convict heritage. Each site in the listing represents a different aspect of the convict system. They have been selected as the most significant examples in Australia’s history of forced migration.
The new Tasmanian World Heritage sites include the Port Arthur and Coal Mines Historic Sites on the Tasman Peninsula; Cascades Female Factory in Hobart; Darlington Probation Station on Maria Island off Tasmania’s East Coast; and Woolmers and Brickendon Estates, near Launceston in Northern Tasmania. Although Woolmers and Brickendon Estates are included as a single site, in reality they are two separate properties, which although adjacent, each offer their own unique visitor experience.
The other sites that make up Australia’s 18th World Heritage listing are:
- Old Government House and Domain, Hyde Park Barracks, Cockatoo Island Convict Site and Old Great North Road in New South Wales.
- Fremantle Prison in Western Australia.
- Kingston and Arthur’s Vale Historic Area in Norfolk Island
The Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority (PAHSMA) manages both the Port Arthur and Coal Mines Historic Sites.
PAHSMA Chairman, Dr Barry Jones took part in the World Heritage Committee meeting in Brasilia as a member of the Australian Delegation. He was a driving force behind the nomination process that involved four states and territories and lasted several years. The announcement that the Sites had been inscribed came almost two decades after seeking World Heritage listing for Port Arthur was first mooted.
“Combined, the Australian Convict Sites tell a story that is central to the development of modern Australia,” he said.
“It is the story of how people were transported in exile from one side of the world to the other and of how a new nation was formed out of hardship, inequality and adversity.”
The Tasmanian sites are all working closely with Tasmania to ensure maximum tourism potential is realised.
“Heritage and history are among Tasmania’s key appeals, and now we can offer visitors the opportunity to visit six World Heritage sites here, in as little as a single week,” said Dr Jones.
“The Port Arthur Historic Site is already recognised and awarded for the quality of the heritage tourism experiences it offers. We are working to develop some new and exciting experiences at both Port Arthur and the Coal Mines sites.”
“Visiting Port Arthur and all, or even some, of the other Sites will give visitors an incredible experience and a real understanding of how the convict system worked, and its role in the foundations of the Tasmania and Australia of today.”
“If there was ever a great reason and time to visit Tasmania, this surely is it.”