It’s no secret that I love Tasmania.
The tourism images of great food, wine, wild places, strong communities and incredible bushwalking and hiking opportunities, along with thriving arts vibe seem to call to me constantly on social media.
When (mainlander) bushwalkers and adventurers think of Tassie the first spots that pop to mind are The Overland Track and Cradle Mountain, The South Coast Track, The Arthurs (pick your compass bearing), Walls of Jerusalem, Fedders or PB and more recently, The Three Capes, Maria and Flinders Islands or the Bay of Fires.
In my mind’s Google map, the whole chunk of northwest Tasmania has always been a bit of a mystery. I knew about towns like Wynyard, Queenstown, and Strahan (and of course, Cradle Mountain to their east), but the big green chunk between them all was a complete mystery.
It was then about five years ago I started to hear about a place called The Tarkine and the gaping hole in my knowledge started to close, slowly.
Then over the last month or so – as though the social media dark arts realised the gap in my mind’s Google map – my Facebook feed has constantly been asking me the question, ‘What if running could save a rainforest?’ I was curious and thanks to Patagonia (a company with a long history of environmental activism) I caught an early preview of their latest film, ‘Takayna’ and the gap closed some more.
Over 35 minutes, filled with a mix of both stunning and startling images from Tasmania’s northwest region, the intricacies, beauty and challenges in its future are presented through human story and their connection with this wild place. The place whose name is drawn from the traditional owners/First Nations name for this Country, Takayna.
Rural GP, Nicole Anderson, from Smithton (population 8000), is a passionate and honest trail runner, who leads us into this place:
“Running is a great way to learn about a place for me because I don’t have much time and I love to cover big distances. I’m certainly not an advanced athlete, I’m slow as anything. I wouldn’t say I’m lazy up hills, but I pace myself. My biomechanics are pretty shot, so my strengths lay in my ability to handle discomfort and exhaustion. To stay the distance and to keep going no matter what.”
Her self-deprecating, nature-embracing manner, broke the ice for me in this Patagonia documentary. For a brand such as them, I expected that their athlete talent would be at the pinnacle of the sport and although it was great to see a brief appearance from pro Hanny Allston (girl crush), Nicole made the story and content accessible and ushered me in.
From one GP to another, with the baton passing between new and old, we meet Bob Brown and learn a little of his history as one of Australia’s best known environmental activists and father of the Greens Party. As a child born in 1972, the memories of the Franklin Dam campaign are resigned to ABC news reports watched around the dinner table and comments about ‘those greenies’ from my family. To learn a little about what brought him to this point was an eye opener.
Something that surprises me every time I visit Tasmania, is what I perceive as the great divide between some parts of the primary industry community, (who for decades have had fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters and whole communities supported through forestry and mining) and other Taswegians who’d like to see a more sustainable approach to life’s essentials such as timber. As an outsider, I can’t help but think that fear is a powerful motivator for everyone, regardless of political persuasion. Fear of having no job or financial security versus fear of forever losing parts of our planet that help inform who we are.
“We are still part of forests. Genetically, physically, biochemically, physically and spiritually, we are connected to natural landscapes.” Dr Nicole Anderson.
A connection felt no deeper than in the heart of proud Aboriginal Takayna peoples, who’ve survived to tell their story of genocide and strength, mirroring the tale of a forest fighting to survive from politics and industry.
The encouraging thing about this film, is that it does touch on (although I’d like to have heard more) the viable alternatives to clear felling old growth rainforest in the Tarkine. We are introduced to a sawmiller who works with only sustainable, plantation forests, who not only presents what appears to be the financial insanity represented by the old methods, but gives us a glimpse into a potentially much brighter future.
In the efforts of balance, the Patagonia film makers appear to seek out locals (as well as asking for interviews with forestry officials) so we can hear something of how the people at the other side of this wild and wonderful landscape feel. Families who’ve worked the land, relied upon it and feel a different connection to the place. Without knowing what went on in the process, the reluctance of this long-held, deep divide reveals itself in some, whilst we see a glimmer of hope in others.
If the great, green vastness of the north west region of Tasmania is a mystery to you, or stories of connection to natural places and ancient forests resonate for you, I encourage you to see this film. Watch it here!