Actress Essie Davis, who plays Phryne Fisher in the ABC television series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, is lending her voice to a campaign to protect a remote Tasmania wilderness that has the largest number of ancient Aboriginal hut depressions in Australia.
The second phase of a television advertising campaign aimed at protecting the takayna or Tarkine region in north-west Tasmania will begin this week — with Hobart-born Davis’s distinctive voice telling the story.
The Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation and Wilderness Society have joined forces for the campaign, which is running in the lead-up to the Tasmanian state election on March 3.
Both TAC and the Greens want to stop the Tasmanian Liberal Government from allowing 4WD vehicles back into takayna.
For several weeks, advertisements have been airing on Tasmanian television, spoken in the palawa kani language with English subtitles, accusing Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman of betraying reconciliation and also showcasing the beauty of the takayna coast.
Non-Indigenous Australians will feature in the second series of advertisements which will begin airing this week.
TAC chief executive officer Heather Sculthorpe said the group wouldn’t be stopping there.
“We’ve got the advertising campaign, we’ve got art exhibitions, photo exhibitions, rallies and marches,” she said. “Is it going to work? Who knows?”
Even after the election, Ms Sculthorpe said she expected the campaign would have to continue, with the Labor Party still non-committal on whether it would allow 4WD-ing in the area.
At the centre of the battle is takayna, an area of about 439,000 hectares that the Australian Heritage Council has found to be of “outstanding” national heritage significance.
Tasmania’s main 4WD club believes its members should be able to access the region.
4WD Tasmania says the area has been used as a recreation place for non-Indigenous people for hundreds of years and is good for 4WD-ing.
But its president Brian Hevey, who is also president of 4WD Australia, said the area did need to be better managed by the Tasmanian Government.
“Our view has always been that we are respectful users of any areas we use,” Mr Hevey said.
About 90km of old 4WD tracks were closed in July 2012 after an official report found they were causing extensive damage to archaeological sites.
The Hodgman Government has been trying to reopen the tracks but was stalled by court action by TAC.
The matter is now with Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg.
Wilderness Society Tasmania campaign manager Vica Bayley said takayna was irreplaceable.
“There is irrefutable evidence of damage being done by 4WD vehicles,” Mr Bayley said. “One 4WD is enough to do damage.”
The Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation was also contacted for comment.
Meanwhile, a Jacqui Lambie Network candidate in the Tasmanian election is due in court on February 28 to face charges for allegedly riding a quad bike in an area closed to protect Aboriginal heritage.
The ABC reports Rodney Flowers is pleading not guilty to the charges.