Why I'm proud to be Tasmanian
Tasmania is fast becoming the most progressive state when it comes to same sex marriage rights. Photo: Getty images
There are several responses one usually gets upon telling someone that you are from Tasmania. They might include “cute!” “where’s your second head?” and “you might know my cousin, John Smith?” For being Tasmanian has long meant being the punch line of any jokes that are of the in-bred, map of Tassie or semi-unsavoury variety.
Tasmanians have suffered the ignobility of being left off maps of Australia and indeed I’m sure I wouldn’t be the first Tasmanian to be asked if Tasmania was, in fact, part of Australia. Something that Tasmanians themselves subscribe too when we refer to the rest of Australia as “the mainland.” Which reminds me of a concert I attended while still in high school on the apple isle, where the lead singer enthusiastically questioned this deference saying that we should call ourselves the mainland. “Yeah!” everybody cheered, and then we all felt a bit embarrassed and resumed our own interpretations of the “Tassie two-step”. In the not too distant past Tasmanians deflected these insults with vague reference to our abundance of apples, cheese, and er world champion wood chopper David Foster.
But now, oh yes glory be, Tasmania is finally having its moment in the sun. Even out shining the time that “Our Mary” snaffled up one of the remaining non- slightly decaying minor royals. This weekend the premier of Tasmania – a woman, I might add with a note of glee – Lara Giddings, announced a bid to legalise same sex marriage in Tasmania. A decision that is not only exciting and truly progressive, but also, as activist Rodney Croome pointed out in a recent op-ed, logical. Tasmania has a chequered past when it comes to the treatment of gay people. It was the last state to decriminalise homosexuality, in 1997, which is frighteningly not that long ago. Since then, happily, Tasmania has become something of a pink state. As Croome pointed out, “Tasmania was the first to enact a scheme for formally recognising same-sex relationships, the second to allow same-sex couples official ceremonies and the first to recognise overseas same-sex marriages. The Tasmanian Labor party was the first to formally endorse the principle of marriage equality.” For the changes to actually happen the bid must get through the Legislative Council (Tasmania's upper house) before reaching the high court. The sentiment among constituents, as Andrew Darby pointed out, is, sometimes surprisingly, positive. Always though, the note of jubilation must be tempered with the fact of Tasmania's abomininable history when it comes to the treatment of its first people, its trees and the state's pockmarked convict history which is riddled with gruesomeness.
But the progress we're seeing now makes me proud to be a Tasmanian. And indeed, it adds to my burgeoning theory that Tasmania is fast becoming the coolest state in Australia. I mean, in addition to valuing equality and decency for all, it houses the Mona Gallery, the world famous art gallery that features a wall of vaginas among other terribly interesting artefacts, we're totally owning that hot new thing of eco-friendly luxe and come on, Bob Brown, undoubtedly the ultimate gentleman. That’s not to mention the excellent cheese, bubbles and chocolates. Because for Tasmanians, current trendy things sweeping the globe like farmers markets, the slow food revolution and the mere fact of being a ‘foodie’ are second nature. We just don’t get all braggy about it. Which is cool.
So, mainlanders, enjoy the last days of the second head jokes. Everybody else will be getting ready for the best kind of knees-up. Because it is an undeniable fact that Tasmania is a lovely setting for a wedding, any kind of wedding at all. What with all that nice cheese and wine and such.