The Dominion of Van Diemen's Land, Van Diemen's Land, VDL, or occasionally known as Tasmania is a sovereign state located in the southern portion of the island of Van Diemen's Land. It also administers three external territories: Norfolk Island, Macquarie Island, and the Vandemonian Antarctic Dependency. The nation has a population of approximately 600,000 people, who live mostly in the capital Hobart and in Collinston.
The island was first settled by Europeans in 1803, as a part of the British colony of New South Wales. When that colony fell in a convict revolution, Van Diemen's Land remained a British colony. When Britain surrendered in 1813, VDL declared itself an independent nation, under the former British monarch. In recent years, VDL has earned a reputation as a green nation, with much of the country protected in national parks.
Van Diemen's Land was first settled by Indigenous Australians at least 35,000 years ago, when the island was still connected to mainland Australia. European settlement of the island began in 1803, when Governor King of NSW sent Lieutenant John Bowen to establish a colony on the Derwent River. He was in command of 24 convicts, a company of the New South Wales Corps and a few free settlers, the HMS Albion and the supply ship Lady Nelson. They arrived at Ridson's Cove on the 8th of September, 1803.
Colonel David Collins had been ordered to establish a colony in Port Phillip Bay in southern Australia. However, that settlement failed, so in February 1804 he moved his colony to Ridson's Cove, reinforcing the small settlement in Van Diemen's Land with over three hundred convicts, soldiers and settlers. Taking command of the settlement as Lieutenant-Governor, he moved it downriver to Sullivan's Cove, the present day site of Hobart.
When news of the revolution in Sydney reached Hobart town, the colony was thrown into uncertainty. Ships filled with settlers and soldiers fleeing Sydney arrived in Hobart in mid-March. The Lieutenant-Governor oversaw the building of infrastructure and housing for the new immigrants. He also strongly fortified the settlement, building forts bristling with ships' cannons.
In 1805, John Macarthur was dispatched with one hundred soldiers and settlers to establish a settlement on the North of the island. Collinston, named after David Collins.
In 1807, British troops, having failed to retake Sydney from the ex-convicts arrived in Hobart town. The next year, they received orders to remain in Van Diemen's Land in order to protect Britain's last Australasian colony from the French, and the convict republicans.
The French colonial authority in Terre Napoleon, although initially nurturing plans to take Hobart, decided that the costs of an assault on the heavily-fortified town would not be worth the gain.
In early 1814, news arrived in the colony that Britain had surrendered to the French and that the British monarch had taken up exile in Saint Helena. In order to stop his colony from falling into French hands, Governor Macquarie (who arrived in 1810) proclaimed the independence of the colony and declared the Dominion of Van Diemen's Land, in personal union with the British monarch. The move secured the former colony from any French claims to sovereignty, as Van Diemen's Land - no longer a British colony- could not be lawfully annexed by the French without war, which could not occur due to the previous agreement of neutrality. The Dominion gained recognition from the Britannic Crown in Saint Helena after Foreign Secretary John Macarthur's voyage to Jamestown. In 1830, relations were opened with the newly-created Empire of India, sowing the seeds of the Britannic Commonwealth and establishing the strong bond between the two nations that continues until today.
For the rest of the century, VDL became home to loyalist immigrants from Britain, with approximately 800,000 migrants arriving on Vandiemonian shores between 1814 and 1920. Immigrants settled all along the Van Diemonian coast, founding towns such as Collinston, Nottingham and Patersonia. The exponential increase in European settlers caused increased hostilities with the native Aborigines. In 1827, Governor Macarthur declared a state of emergency, precipitating the so-called "Black War" which would last until 1831. Many many Aborigines were killed or deported to the Bass Strait Islands, and many more succumbed to European diseases. Modern historians regard the war as effective genocide against the Aborigines.
In 1845, a brief and victorious war was fought against New South Wales over possession of Norfolk Island.
During the 19th century, the Van Diemonian economy was fueled by strong agricultural, whaling, sealing, and logging sectors. The twentieth century brought a lessening in demand for whale and seal oil, but growth in the tourism, service, agricultural and fishing sectors, as well as hydro-electricity schemes, helped Van Diemen's Land fare the Post Asia-Pacific War Depression fairly well.
Today, VDL is famed for its stunning protected wilderness, a favourite for hikers the world over. It is also well known for its green policies and, despite its past, strong anti-whaling doctrine.
GovernmentVan Diemen's Land uses the British system of government currently in use in India and Saint Helena. The Queen, in this case represented by a Governor, is the head of state, with executive powers. These include the ability to swear in governments, dissolve parliament, declare war, appoint officials and, most importantly, to sign bills from the parliament into law. The incumbent Governor is Sir Peter Cundall. While the length of their appointments is at the discretion of the Crown (on the advice of the Chief Minister), it has become common practice for governors to serve a five-year term. Cundall's appointment is set to end in 2016.
The Van Diemonian Parliament consists of the Crown, the House of Commons, and the House of Assembly. The House of Commons is the lower house, and is made up of thirty-one elected members (Members of Parliament; MPs), each representing an electorate. The Chief Minister is the head of government, and is the leader of the party in majority in the Commons. The current Chief Minister is Simon Baker, leader of the Christian Democrats, who hold 15 seats and share power with the Greens, who hold two seats. The Leader of the Opposition is Peter Gee, leader of the Tories, who hold the remaining 14 seats. The House of Commons proposes and debates bills which, if approved of by the majority of members, are sent to the Legislative Council for approval.
The Legislative Council is the upper house, and is modeled on the British House of Lords. It is made up of fifteen members, one third of whom are appointed by the Governor, who is meant to select representatives of a range of regional and economical interest groups. Such members serve "at Her Majesty's pleasure", which is generally the length of the Governor's own appointment. The remaining five members are "Representative Peers" (RPs); peers chosen from and by the Peerage of Van Diemen's Land. RPs, once selected, hold their positions for life. They must forfeit their seat in the House of Assembly if they wish to stand for election in the Commons. Prior 1950, there was also one "Lord Spiritual" who represented the interests of the established church: the Anglican Church of Van Diemen's Land. The position was abolished with the disestablishment of the church after years of Catholic, Jewish and "nonconformist Protestant" lobbying. Another reform passed in 1950 means that the legislative Council cannot block money bills -such as Budgets- which have already been approved of by the House of Commons. The Council retains the powers to block and amend other bills. Once a bill receives the support of the Legislative Council, it is sent to the governor for final approval.
Foreign Affairs and Military
Van Diemonian foreign policy centres on its membership of the Britannic Commonwealth (BC), and the Coalition alliance. It maintains exceptionally strong ties with its fellow BC-members; India stations a contingent of marines in Patersonia, and Van Diemen's Land takes an active part in the annual Commonwealth Maneuvers. The Dominion also has close economic ties to India, as well as its neighbours Terre Napoleon and New South Wales.
Van Diemen's Land maintains a moderate sized military for its population. The land arm, the Royal Van Diemen's Army, numbers around two thousand men, with 10,000 active reservists in the Loyal Militia. The navy is large for a country with such a small population, consisting of many coastal patrol boats, and five mid-sized frigates, supplied by India.
The country has no independent air force, the skies are protected by the Naval Air Arm.