DEEP TIME - THE MUWININA
The land on which GASP is located was once part of the tribal country of the Muwinina people, whose country extended from the Huon River to the south, west as far as the upper reaches of the Huon, north to the upper Derwent River and east by the coastline between the Derwent River estuary and Huon River estuary. Their country also included nuenonne (Bruny Island), which was visited seasonally for muttonbirds and seals.
The original landscape in that time would have been an open (dry sclerophyll) forest dominated by eucalypts, with a great variety of plants including an understorey of sagg, native grasses and herbaceous plants, and would have been greatly modified by the practices of the Muwinina.
The use of fire created large open grassed areas within the landscape that were beneficial to macropods and other smaller marsupials resulting in greater numbers of these animals. The regular burning also created an intermediate area between forest and grassland that held a diversity of flora and fauna that would not have existed otherwise. It was this intermediate zone that provided the Muwinina with not only a diversity of food sources but also medicinal plants and natural resources for the creation of baskets, spears, digging sticks, etc.
The resultant landscape that was created by the Muwinina people is called an Aboriginal landscape.
The creation of an Aboriginal landscape was beneficial to the macropods and possums, the two main staples of protein in the Muwinina people’s diet. The macropods were hunted solely by the men with tea tree spears which had been straightened and hardened in camp fires. The spears were short compared to mainland tribes being approximately 2 - 2.3m long.
Possums were hunted by the women, who would climb trees with the aid of chock holes cut into the tree trunks and a rope of grass around the tree trunk and used to support the woman’s weight by being placed under one knee. The possum was flushed from its daytime sleeping hole and harassed to the ground where it was quickly dispatched by women waiting below.
The Derwent River also provided the Muwinina people with food resources such as mussel, whelk, mud oysters, warreners and seasonal bounties including water fowl, muttonbirds and their eggs. It was recorded in the journal of George Augustus Robinson of individuals eating upward of a hundred eggs in a day. So when the resource was available the people utilised it to maximum.
The location by the river would have provided the Muwinina people with numerous resources to live a comfortable existence.
Reference: An Aboriginal Heritage Values Survey of The Wilkinson Point & Elwick Bay Master Plan, Leigh Maynard, 2007
Image: Hunting Ground incorporating Barbecue Area, 2018, Julie Gough (photo by Daniele Hanifin)
COLONISATION AND BEYOND
With the arrival of Europeans the landscape changed significantly due to farming, industrial activity, building, transport infrastructure and land reclamation over 200 years of development.
From the 1820s, in the early years of colonial settlement, Glenorchy was dominated by farming estates and orchards. From the 1860s and 70s a diverse range of enterprises within the area had emerged including a tannery, a soap factory, a hat factory, fruit preserving factories, and even tourism with the area renowned for its scenic values (p.59, 66, Glenorchy 1804-1964, A. Alexander, GCC, 1986).
From the 1870s the site named ‘The Grove’ on the shores of Elwick Bay adjacent to Humphrey’s Rivulet, formed part of the largest Hop farm in Tasmania. Remnants of the are still visible from the Brooker Highway. The Tasmanian Race Course at Elwick opened for races in 1875 on land owned by pharmacist John Wilkinson, bringing members of the community together in a festive environment.
Across the road this atmosphere was complemented with the first Royal Agricultural Society of Tasmania show in 1904.
During this time growth in the migrant population significantly contributed to the diversity and prosperity of the area and Glenorchy continues to have a higher proportion of cultural diversity than Tasmania as a whole.
Elwick Bay, 1920s
Elwick Bay, 1957
By the 1930s less formal social activities on the foreshore evolved and ‘…the clear sparkling water of Montrose Bay was crowded with swimmers’. By that time the swimmers would have looked across the bay to Cadbury’s chocolate factory established on Dogsear Point at Claremont in 1923.
Water sports increased with the opening of the Montrose Bay Yacht Club in 1955 and continue today including the Montrose Bay Rowing Club and Hobart Outrigger Canoe Club.
Large, medium and small-scale industries are a feature of Glenorchy with industry and employment in the area marked by the opening of the Zinc refinery in 1916 just east of the GASP site. The refinery is prominent part of the Glenorchy landscape, as are the Brooker Highway and Bowen Bridge, which have rapidly increased the rate of commercial activity in the region. And while the Brooker Highway brings people to and through Glenorchy, it effectively dislocated the foreshore from the local population and interrupted casual social use.
Community activity grew at Elwick Bay when Rosetta High School (now Montrose Bay High School) opened in 1965, and in 1988 the Derwent Entertainment Centre was constructed as a bicentenary project. In the same year, just further east at Dowsing Point, the Technopark, a centre for hi-tech industries opened.
In early 2011, across the wider bay, the Museum of Old & New Art (MONA) opened, to international acclaim.
GASP was first conceived through conversations in 2006 between Mayor Adriana Taylor and advocates passionate about developing a unique public space for the community.
In 2008 a full time Project Development Officer and a committed group of eminent arts, civic and business leaders in consultation with the community advanced the vision.
As landowner and main stakeholder, the Glenorchy City Council continues to support and partner with GASP to promote its natural and cultural values, community amenity and develop its unique creative vision into a site of state and national significance.
Elwick Bay, 1975
We are imagining a future where there is clean swimmable water and extended wetland areas encourage diversity and habitat for bird life and ecology of the bay.
Enhancing the natural qualities around the foreshore and making small changes to improve water quality are important to GASP! and the local community. Thousands of native trees and grasses have been planted and a new wetland created to filter storm water run-off.
Protecting and enhancing the natural qualities at Elwick Bay is a key driver at GASP! The vision includes artworks that use data collected by community and our science leaders to articulate issues around water quality and climate change. From time to time we organise clean-ups, planting and weed management in partnership with the Glenorchy City Council.