Aboriginal people have lived in Tasmania for at least 35,000 years – and possibly as long as 70,000 years. Scientific studies have revealed rich archaeological deposits that have been firmly dated to between 35,000 years ago and the present. This confirms that Aboriginal people in Tasmania survived the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) around 21,000 years ago which would have caused cooler, harsher and drier environmental conditions. At the end of the LGM around 12,000 years ago, the sea level rose and Tasmania became isolated from the mainland of Australia.
Survival in this changing landscape was dependent upon the ability to harvest both aquatic resources, such as seals and shell fish, and terrestrial flora and fauna, such as fern roots and wallabies, which Tasmanian Aboriginal people did skillfully; using animal meat for food, bones for tools and skins as protective coverings or to build shelter. Aboriginal people developed water crafts and a rich and dynamic culture continued despite the adverse climatic conditions.
In the early 1800s Europeans colonised Tasmania and rapidly expanded further onto Aboriginal land. Europeans and Aboriginal people began competing for the same resources causing wide spread conflict between the parties. As a result the government introduced policies to try to eliminate the 'Aboriginal problem'.
In 1829 the majority of the Aboriginal population was removed to a mission on Bruny Island under the direction of the Protector of Aborigines, George Augustus Robinson. The mission was a failure, due largely to the impacts of the introduced diseases which plagued it, such as pneumonia and tuberculosis, and was abandoned before its first year. Three further mission sites were subsequently trialed, including those on Flinders Island, and again, each was a failure. Finally, in 1847 the surviving Aboriginal people were brought to Oyster Cove, to an abandoned convict penal station, where they were largely ignored and left alone.
Today, Tasmanian Aboriginal community members continue cultural practices such as the crafting of shell necklaces, basket weaving and mutton birding.