In the beginning

Current research indicates Trouwunna (Tasmania) has been occupied for over 40000 years. Occupation patterns over this long period were governed by huge changes in climate and topography. Some 10,000 years ago the sea rose to form Bass Strait and Tasmanian aborigines were separated from aboriginal groups on the mainland.

The traditional owners of the land through which the railway runs were the Lyluequonny people. This clan, one of at least seven of the South East nation occupied an area centred on what is now called Recherche Bay.

The territory of the South East nation covered 3500 square kilometres with 555 kilometres of coastline. The border ran from the west bank of the River Derwent from New Norfolk to Storm Bay. It included the Channel and Bruny Island and extended inland to the Huon Valley and New Norfolk. Clans operated in large groups along a coastline rich in shellfish, with ready access to birds, kangaroos and wallabies.

The Lyluequonny were the most maritime of all the clans and used bark canoes in the Channel in all seasons. Trips to Bruny Island, base of the Nuenonne clan, were frequent.

Seasonal movement within the nation and to clans of other nations was common. In summer, clans concentrated at Recherche Bay to hunt seals, seabirds, kangaroos and possums, to gather shellfish, marine and land vegetable foods and to conduct shallow-water scale fishing at night with lighted torches.

The Lyluequonny constructed semicircular bark huts or windbreaks and used fire to manage hunting grounds and keep routes open.

Truganini, who became the best known aboriginal woman in colonial Tasmania, was born in 1812 at Recherche Bay. Her father, Mangerner, was the chief of the Lyluequonny clan.

Acknowledgement and recommended for further reading: Lyndall Ryan, Tasmanian Aborigines: Allen and Unwin 2012.

In 1793, French scientists on the d’Entrecasteaux expedition encountered the Lyluequonny. For a period in January 1793, with apparent goodwill and mutual respect, the two groups interacted and bemused each other. Because of the French journals kept at the time, more is known about the Lyluequonny clan than any other in pre-European Tasmania.

Following on from the arrival of the British in Tasmania in 1803, whalers, sealers and convicts were the first non-aboriginal inhabitants of the Far South. By 1822, the first land grant was made at Hythe (now Southport). All blue gum forests south of Dover were declared an Admiralty Reserve. Convict probation stations were established at Dover and Hythe in the 1840s.

By the early 1850s, timber leases were made available and mill towns emerged, including at Lune River, Ramsgate (now Cockle Creek), Hastings and Leprena. This was the start of tramways in the area, initially with timber rails and horse power.