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Tasmania’s Stories

Singing up a winter storm

Edition 193_FOV

Tasmanians are dusting off their puffer jackets and getting ready to sing up a storm with preparations in full swing for this year’s Festival of Voices.

This ‘celebration of singing’ is just one of the unique cultural events heating up Hobart’s chill and bringing on a winter tourism bonanza.

Along with Dark Mofo and The Hadley’s Art Prize, the Festival of Voices is embracing our long dark winter, drawing crowds on to previously empty streets.

“We are the original celebration of the puffer jacket, the pioneer of winter festivals if you like,” Festival of Voices Director, Peter Choraziak said.

“Back in 2004 someone had the bright idea to light a bonfire in the middle of the city and have a big sing-song, as a way to activate winter in Hobart.

“Well that proved rather popular.”

It certainly did.

What began as that bonfire sing-along 14 years ago has now morphed into Australia’s premier celebration of song attracting 26,000 people from every corner of the country and overseas.

“The Festival of Voices is happy and joyful – it is the light that follows Mofo’s dark,” Mr Choraziak explained.

“Our festival is all about participation, with the core belief that singing can change the world.

“Singing alters people’s moods and mental health, it can even change beliefs.”

This year’s Festival of Voices runs for 17 days from late June, kicking off with three days of celebrations on the stunning East Coast.

It opens with a large concert at Buckland, before heading north to Coles Bay for an East Coast finale.

The focus then switches to Hobart with 50 events over two weeks bringing together local, national and international artists – and participants.

Choirs will ‘pop-up’ in unexpected places, and four hundred young performers will join together for Tasmania Sings.

There will be educational workshops including a ‘sing-posium’, all culminating with the spectacular Finale Concert at Federation Hall.

However, it is undoubtedly the giant bonfire – which lights up Hobart’s historic Salamanca Place – that is the enduring image, and this year there are changes afoot.

The Big Sing Bonfire draws 5,000 revellers into the chilly night air, and this year it is leaving its traditional Friday time-slot, for a Sunday.

“We are doing this to create a more relaxed family friendly event by avoiding that frantic Friday after-school rush,” Mr Choraziak said.

“Everyone loves the Big Sing Bonfire. It gets them out of their homes and joined together as one community in song, while visitors experience what it is like to be a true Tasmanian for a few hours.”

However, the Festival of Voices is not the only event warding off Hobart’s mid-winter blues.

Dark Mofo will get the ball rolling in mid-June when it unleashes three weeks of winter solstice celebrations, including the highly controversial DDT (Dark and Dangerous Thoughts) talkfest.

A record 450,000 people attended last year’s event.

The newly installed Hadley’s Art Prize will then cap off winter festivities.

It is the world’s richest prize for landscape art – with a $100,000 purse – and will draw crowds to Hobart’s iconic Hadley’s Orient Hotel for a stunning exhibition of finalist’s work.

Together these winter celebrations are a ‘game changer’ putting an end to Hobart’s mid-year slump, and further re-branding the southern capital as a cultural hot-spot.

“Since the 1950s the ‘holy grail’ of Tasmanian tourism has been to promote the state as a winter destination,” Chief Executive of the Tourism Industry Council Tasmania, Luke Martin said.

“That has never worked, until the last few years.

“Now tourism activity in Hobart in June is equivalent to tourism activity at the height of summer – and that is unbelievable.

“Dark Mofo was the first event to really shine a light on Tasmania as a winter destination.”

While it may have been the advent of Dark Mofo in 2013 that triggered Hobart’s winter boom, Mr Martin has no doubts where it all began.

“As far as I am concerned, the Festival of Voices really is the unsung hero of winter tourism,” he said.

Winter Diary Dates:

  • Dark Mofo: 15 – 24 June
  • Festival of Voices: 29 June – 15 July
  • Hadley’s Art Prize: 20 July – 25 August

Image courtesy of Phil Kitt for Festival of Voices

11 April 2018, Edition 193

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Facts about Tasmania


Tasmania is the southernmost state of Australia, located at latitude 40° south and longitude 144° east and separated from the continent by Bass Strait. It is a group of 334 islands, with the main island being 315 km (180 miles) from west to east and 286 km (175 miles) north to south.


Tasmanians are resourceful and innovative people, committed to a continually expanding export sector. In 2012–13, international exports from the state totalled $3.04 billion. USA, China, Taiwan, India, Japan and other Asian countries account for the bulk of exports, with goods and services also exported to Europe and many other regions.


Tasmania is similar in size to the Republic of Ireland or Sri Lanka. The Tasmanian islands have a combined coastline of more than 3,000 km.


The main island has a land area of 62,409 sq km (24,096 sq miles) and the minor islands, taken together, total only 6 per cent of the main island’s land area. The biggest islands are Flinders (1,374 sq km/539 sq miles), King, Cape Barren, Bruny and Macquarie Islands.


About 250km (150 miles) separates Tasmania’s main island from continental Australia. The Kent Group of Islands, one of the most northerly parts of the state, is only 55km (34 miles) from the coast of the Australian continent.


Twice named ‘Best Temperate Island in the World’ by international travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler, Tasmania has a mild, temperate maritime climate, with four distinct seasons.


In summer (December to February) the average maximum temperature is 21° Celsius (70° Fahrenheit). In winter (June to August) the average maximum is 12° C (52° F) and the average minimum is 4° C (40° F). Snow often falls in the highlands, but is rarely experienced in more settled areas.

Annual Rainfall

Tasmania’s west coast is one of the wettest places in the world, but the eastern part of the State lives in a rain-shadow. Hobart, the second-driest capital city in Australia, receives about half as much rain as Sydney.

Annual Rainfall

Annual rainfall in the west is 2,400 mm (95 inches), but hardy locals insist there is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing. If you travel 120 km east to Hobart, you experience a much drier average of 626 mm (24 inches) a year.


The 512,875-strong community spreads itself across the land; less urbanised than the population of any other Australian state. Hobart, the capital city, is home to more than 212,000 people.

Capital City

Hobart nestles at the foot of kunanyi / Mount Wellington (1,270 m / 4,000 ft) and overlooks the Derwent Estuary, where pods of dolphins and migrating whales are sometimes seen from nearby beaches. Surrounded by thickly forested rolling hills, the city is home to the state parliament and the main campus of the University of Tasmania.

Capital City

Its historic centre features Georgian and Regency buildings from colonial times. Hobart is home port for coastal fishing boats, Antarctic expeditions and vessels that fish the Southern Ocean.

Land Formation

Mountain ranges in the south-west date back 1,000 million years. Ancient sediments were deeply buried, folded and heated under enormous pressure to form schists and glistening white quartzites.

Land Formation

In the south-west and central highlands, dolerite caps many mountains, including Precipitous Bluff and Tasmania’s highest peak, Mt Ossa (1617 m / 5300 ft). More than 42 per cent of Tasmania is World Heritage Area, national park and marine or forest reserves.


Vegetation is diverse, from alpine heathlands and tall open eucalypt forests to areas of temperate rainforests and moorlands, known as buttongrass plains. Many plants are unique to Tasmania and the ancestors of some species grew on the ancient super-continent, Gondwana, before it broke up 50 million years ago.


Unique native conifers include slow-growing Huon pines, with one specimen on Mt Read estimated to be up to 10,000 years old. Lomatia tasmanica, commonly known as King’s holly, is a self-cloning shrub that may well be the oldest living organism on earth. It was discovered in 1937.


Tasmania is the last refuge of several mammals that once roamed the Australian continent. It is the only place to see a Tasmanian devil or eastern quoll (native cat) in the wild and is the best place to see the spotted-tailed quoll (tiger cat), all carnivorous marsupials.


The eastern bettong and the Tasmanian pademelon, both now extinct on the Australian continent, may also be observed.


The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, was Australia’s largest surviving carnivorous marsupial and is a modern day mystery. The last documented thylacine died in captivity in 1936 and although the animal is considered extinct, unsubstantiated sightings persist.

History and Heritage

Aboriginal people have lived in Tasmania for about 35,000 years, since well before the last Ice Age. They were isolated from the Australian continent about 12,000 years ago, when the seas rose to flood low coastal plains and form Bass Strait.

History and Heritage

Descendants of the original people are part of modern Tasmania’s predominantly Anglo-Celtic population.

History and Heritage

Tasmania was originally named Van Dieman’s Land by the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman in 1642. The island was settled by the British as a penal colony in 1803 and the original name was associated with the convict era. It was changed to Tasmania when convict transportation stopped in 1853.


A resourceful island culture has generated leading-edge niche industries, from production of high-speed catamaran ferries and marine equipment to lightning-protection technology.


Tasmanians produce winches and windlasses for some of the world’s biggest ocean-going pleasure craft; large-scale inflatable evacuation systems and provide specialist outfit-accommodation services to the marine industry.


The Wooden Boat Centre at Shipwrights Point has re-established the skills and traditions of another age and attracts students from around the world.


Tasmania is a world leader in natural turf systems for major sporting arenas and in areas of mining technology and environmental management. Its aquaculture industry has developed ground-breaking fish-feeding technology and new packaging.


Tasmanians sell communications equipment to many navies and their world-class fine timber designers and craftsmen take orders internationally for furniture made from distinctive local timber.


The state is a natural larder with clean air, unpolluted water and rich soils inviting the production of 100 varieties of specialty cheeses, as well as other dairy products, mouth-watering rock lobsters, oysters, scallops and abalone, Atlantic salmon, beef, premium beers, leatherwood honey, mineral waters, fine chocolates, fresh berry fruits, apples and crisp vegetables.


Tasmania is a producer of award-winning cool-climate wines, beers, ciders and whiskies. Other export products include essential oils such as lavender, pharmaceutical products and premium wool sought after in Europe and Asia. Hobart is a vital gateway to the Antarctic and a centre for Southern Ocean and polar research.


The industries in Tasmania which made the greatest contribution to the State’s gross product in 2010–11 in volume terms were: Manufacturing (9.4%), Health care and social assistance (8.2%), Financial and insurance services (7.2%), Ownership of dwellings and Agriculture, forestry and fishing (each 7.1%).

Getting to Tasmania

Travel is easy, whether by air from Sydney or Melbourne, or by sea, with daily sailings of the twin ferries Spirit of Tasmania 1 and 2 each way between Melbourne and Devonport throughout the year.

This site has been produced by the Brand Tasmania Council © 2014

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