Tasmania may be Australia’s smallest state, but it is also arguably the most complex.

The island state is a place of dichotomies; where nothing is as simple as it seems. It’s a place where every tale has an equally intriguing back story; where the seemingly simplest of debates is countered by opposition from the most unlikely quarters.

Since arriving in Tasmania just over three years ago, I’ve discovered the many layers to this stunning place; where heroes can also be villains; beauty can be found in ugliness.

Nowhere are the stories of Tasmania and its often contradictory people found laid bare; full of sometimes uncomfortable honesty, than in Griffith REVIEW 39: Tasmania: The Tipping Point?, with contributions from figures as diverse as David Walsh, the gambling billionaire and founder of the iconic Museum of Old and New Art, to food writer Matthew Evans, both, incongruously, leaders of the re-shaped, re-imagined Tasmania.

Walsh’s MONA – its art, markets, festivals, wine bar and restaurant, has helped revitalise the Tasmanian tourism industry while Evans’ three series of Gourmet Farmer television programs have helped awaken national interest in Tasmanian produce and cool-climate wines.

Coincidentally, the timing of the release of the book was almost identical to the launch of a new Tourism Tasmania campaign “Go Behind the Scenery” – which delves below the superficial beauty of the island state and uncovers historical, political and intriguing stories about Tasmania – from its proud convict roots to moments that seemed less than glorious at the time, such as the campaign to save the Gordon-Franklin wilderness from the planned Gordon Dam.

Both Tasmania: The Tipping Point? and Go Behind The Scenery” focus on the real stories and the intriguing people who have helped to create a state that is about much more than dramatic landscapes and fine food and wine – the qualities for which Tasmania is now probably best known.

Tasmania: The Tipping Point? is a result of collaboration between Griffith REVIEW and the University of Tasmania. The Griffith REVIEW is a leading journal of ideas and analysis, and, as you’d expect co-editors Julianne Schultz and Natasha Cica have honed in on the work of writers who scratch below the surface to unearth the stories behind not only Tasmania’s past, but also its transition.

The main question posed is can the state overcome a fractious past (think forestry disputes and political upheaval), and work towards what would appear to be a brilliant future.

Contributors including Peter Timms, Cassandra Pybus, Rodney Croome and Kathy Marks join Walsh and Evans in discussing – from myriad viewpoints – the challenges and opportunities that confront the state and Tasmanians both old and new.

The contributions range from essays to memoirs, fiction and a picture gallery; which seems fitting given the many facets of the state right now. The cover, an image of the state upside down, is emblematic of the current state of uncertainty.

A theme much considered is that outsiders see Tasmania as a place of pristine wilderness, deserted beaches, culinary excellence and abundant wildlife and are drawn to the state by those factors.

Many Tasmanians, however, struggle with daily issues and the truth is that Tasmania ranks at or near the bottom among Australian states on virtually every indicator of socio-economic performance – including levels of employment, income, investment, education and health.

But do these factors make an impact on happiness? Stroll around any Tasmanian town or village and you’ll find people happy with their circumstances; no matter how humble.

And as Cica points out: “There is still no David Jones in Tasmania, never mind Shanghai Tang.”

Here Cica asks: Does Tasmania need an intervention?; Timms looks at Lady Franklin’s heirs and successors;  Jonathan West asks what’s wrong with the state while Jo Chandler tells how from little things, big things grow and Marks muses on surviving, belonging, challenging and enduring.

Evans ponders on how smaller-scale farming can produce food of real quality.

Schultz states in her introduction that: “Tasmania enjoys a unique place in the national imagination. It is different in so many ways to the vast, dry expanses of the continent that it has acquired an almost mythic status – a magical place where nature’s power and beauty combine with the people who live there to test the limits of good and evil.

”There is something about Tasmania that gets under your skin; that makes you want to understand more, to feel the stories of its past, its joys, its anguish.”

West’s essay Obstacles to Progress attracted much interest on publication with its stern criticisms of what he sees as a mendicant mentality and an attitude that Tasmanians ”don’t need to change because their way of life is mainly financed by the mainland.

“One-third of the population belongs to an underclass that has lived on welfare for generations and is antipathetic to the education that might liberate it.”

Moya Fyfe, in contrast, sees the Apple Isle as a place that “remains on the cusp of heading somewhere good and achieving something new”. It is certainly an environment that entices artists, writers and artisans.

Eccentric millionaire and benefactor Walsh also argues there are “reasons to be cheerful” and talks of how he was taught by his community not to respect boundaries and how, as a boy, he often walked past the peninsula on which he now resides but who “never ventured in, because he didn’t understand it was OK to have a look.”

There is no doubt that Tasmania remains an intriguing place; a great place to visit and a superb place to live. But it is, more than anything, a state of contrasts as is underlined most eloquently by Walsh’s MONA, a world-class museum that has attracted global interest, set smack in the middle of the drab ordinariness of Hobart’s working class northern suburbs.

Does, as West postulates, “a darker reality lie behind the seductive tourism brochures?” Why not visit and find out for yourself?

Tasmania: The Tipping Point. Edited by Julianne Schultz and Natasha Cica
Griffith University/Text, $27.95

Reviewed by Winsor Dobbin

Winsor Dobbin is a Tasmanian-based journalist with over 30 years’ experience, during which he has been based in cities as diverse as London, Paris, Johannesburg and Sydney. Winsor writes about his greatest passions; food, wine and travel and is most often found where there’s a cellar door and good restaurant.

Follow Winsor on twitter @winsordobbin

The Griffith REVIEW Issue 39 - The Tipping Point

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Brush up on your culinary skills with a fun and informative lesson at Sally Wise Cooking School, located in the picturesque Derwent Valley.

Sally is a bestselling author of several books and is a regular guest on ABC Local Radio in Tasmania for a Jams and Preserves talkback segment.

The cooking school operator has also been a presenter at events such as the Gardening Australia Expos, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Open Gardens Australia and more.

The Derwent Valley, in which the cooking classes are based, is known for its abundance of high quality, fresh produce from local growers, with Sally demonstrating how you can prepare tasty meals and preserves.

Classes focus on 'cooking naturally' without the use of artificial additives for a unique food experience.

All attendees will enjoy tastings as the class progresses with a generous morning tea also provided.

Food samples will also be provided for each participant, as well as an embroidered apron.

There are discounts made for group bookings, with extra classes able to be organised by request.

The cooking classes for May include preserving (jams, chutneys and cordials) on May 8, mother and daughter lessons on May 11, slow cooking on May 15, making and baking yeast doughs on May 22 and budget cooking on May 29.

The cost for each class is now $150 per person – so get to booking your lesson now!

More cooking classes that are coming up this year include sweet treats from the kitchen, convict and colonial cooking, leftover makeovers and gluten-free cooking.

Make sure to also check out Sally's recipes that include lemon curd, pineapple relish, kangaroo patties, colonial lamb with redcurrant sauce and rhubarb swirl cheesecake.

Visit Sally Wise's website for more information on cooking classes, recipes and the latest in food on her blog.

Sally Wise Cooking School Sign

Sally Wise Cooking School .. Cooling Down - Image Credit: ABC Australia

Fresh Ingredients from Sally Wise's lush garden in a country location

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Encounter the beautiful Tasmanian location that's thought to contain some of the freshest air on earth, the Arthur River!

Situated on Tasmania's wild west coast, the Arthur River weaves through towering eucalypt forests out to the sea, with visitors able to enjoy this special area with a spot of fishing, canoeing or an enjoyable cruise.

The river was recently named in Australian Traveller magazine's 100 Incredible Travel Secrets, coming in at number 64, with the north-west location getting a special mention for its "pristine and untouched landscapes".

If you're making a visit to the island sometime this year, make sure to jump on board with Arthur River Cruises for a wonderful experience of the area like no other.

Take to the river on the 52-seat George Robinson, with kingfishers, platypus and a host of other Tasmanian wildlife spotted on the cruise.

Cruises depart daily from the Arthur River Township at 10:00, with guests also able to explore on foot, discovering the wonders of the ancient Tarkine rainforest.

Travel up to the junction of the Arthur and Frankland Rivers while enjoying morning tea, before making a two-hour stop at Turk's Landing.

Enjoy an easy guided walk through the Tarkine rainforests with your tour guide, before returning for a lip-smacking barbecue lunch complete with bread rolls, fresh salads and wine.

After you've filled your belly, you'll climb aboard the George Robinson again to make your way home after five hours of sights and discoveries.

Guests are required to bring sensible footwear for the long guided walk (such as boots or shoes with strong grip soles), while flat-heeled shoes are suitable for shorter walks. A warm jacket is also highly recommended, and remember to dress for the conditions!

Take note that Arthur River Cruises are closed from June to August, so book your cruise for May or the sunnier spring months.

The rates for adults and seniors are $90-95 per person, children (aged five to 15) are $35 per person and children under five are free.

The Arthur River - serenity in a wilderness area

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Consider yourself a cheese fiend? Then try something "ewe-nique" at Tasmania's Grandvewe Cheeses in Birchs Bay!

Grandvewe Cheeses are only one of four cheese makers in Australia that use sheep's milk to make their cheese.

If you need even more reason to visit and try out their tasty products, Grandvewe Cheeses are also the only certified organic farm in Australia producing sheep's milk cheese!

Grandvewe Cheeses was the winner of Champion Cheese of the Show at the RAS Awards 2012, and was voted one of six finalists out of 6,000 Fine Food Producers of Australia 2012.

Tour the Cheesery, open seven days a week from 10:00 to 17:00 (September to May), for sheep milking demonstrations, sheep cheese tasting, cellar door wine tasting, viewing windows of the cheese factory and ageing room, gourmet products and various other local products.

Don't forget to also pick up some cheese goodies to take home, with the company's signature Sapphire Blue, smooth natural rind Cannonball and light fresh style Birchs Bay Blonde some fantastic cheese picks!

Grandvewe also offer other gourmet food such as pinot paste, sheep ice cream – only available from the Cheesery! – vanilla whey liqueur, wild pear chutney, verjuice and chardonnay vinegar.

Prize Winning Cheese

Sheep and Goat Cheesery at Grandvewe - Image Credit: BrandTasmania

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If you fancy yourself as a bit of a trout fishing enthusiast, you're going to love what's in store in Tasmania this May.

Make sure your calendar's free from May 18 – May 19, because these are the annual dates set aside for the legendary Liawenee Trout Weekend.

During this special free event, you can come and see hundreds of wild brown trout as they make their annual spawning run at Liawenee, Great Lake.

A fishery management activity that's been carried out for nearly 150 years, the Liawenee Trout Weekend is a special part of Tasmania's angling heritage and has become a much-loved event that fishing enthusiasts look forward to each year.

During this event, experienced staff members from the Inland Fisheries Service trap the trout and strip them of their eggs, which then go towards re-stocking Tasmania's wild trout fishery.

With trade exhibits, entertainment and competitions, live freshwater fish aquariums and even a free kid's fish-out pond all on hand during the event, you can definitely make a weekend of it in Tasmania with the Liawenee Trout Weekend.

For even more sightseeing, there are helicopter rides over the Great Lake and bus rides along the canal available for intrepid visitors, and there are refreshments available for when you get hungry.

Trout Run at Laiwenee from 2012 event - image credit: Inland Fisheries Tasmania

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Help break the cycle of poverty in the Battambang region of Cambodia by lacing up your running shoes and signing your name up for the Cambodian Children's Trust Challenge on May 19.

The event will be held in the New Norfolk Wetlands area, southeast of Tasmania, with participants to take part in a 12km run, 10km kayak and 18km mountain bike!

The Cambodian Children's Trust is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation that aims to create lasting change in the lives of Cambodian people by helping to stop the poverty cycle.

Get your group of three sorted for the event, with the proceeds to benefit the Cambodian Children's Trust.

The runners will kickstart the multi-sport event, taking a picturesque route that begins from the caravan park on the Esplanade to weave through locations such as the scenic tourist walking track and past the wetlands.

Kayakers will work their arms on the waters of the River Derwent, paddling upstream to the New Norfolk bridge, around footings, downstream to a boy near the Norske Skog Newsprint Mill and then paddling back upstream to return to the start.

The mountain biker will then complete the final leg of the event, doing three loops of the run track and then running down the steps to the Esplanade finish line.

For more race info and to enter the event – visit the Cambodian Children's Trust Challenge website!

CCT Fundraising at New Norfolk - Image Credit: Hobart Mercury 2012

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If you're looking for a divine place to eat in Tasmania, look no further than North Hobart, which is fast becoming a hotspot for good eats.

The area is the home to a number of new restaurants including Chinese restaurant Mulan, the Midori Japanese Kitchen, and Winstons Alehouse and Eatery, as well as well established Fish 349.

Mulan has delicious offerings such as chicken and peach in lemon sauce, and eye fillets with golden mushroom in coconut satay sauce on their delectable menu, with some of Tasmania's signature wines also on offer.

The Mercury labelled the North Hobart area as 'No-Ho' – a take on New York's trendy SoHo – with the growth of stylish new venues opening up on Elizabeth Street.

Marti Zucco opened North Hobart's first restaurant almost 40 years ago, where he dished up Italian food, telling the Mercury that it was a "pretty derelict spot back then". Another food identity Karen Goodwin-Roberts will be opening up a third café in North Hobart, Elizabeth St Food and Wine (ESFW), soon (on the site of the former BP service station just down from the live music venue and bar The Republic).

Attractions such as Louisa's Walk, Mount Wellington and the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens are located in Hobart, with the new bars and restaurants lining up on Elizabeth Street the perfect spot to whet your appetite!

Fish 349 - Image Credit:

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Tasmania's newest winter attraction Dark MOFO has announced folk-rock singer Martha Wainwright as its first music artist for the festival, taking place June 13 to 23.

Wainwright is the younger sister of fellow singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, releasing three studio albums, the most recent 2012's Come Home to Mama.

The album was recorded at the home of Sean Lennon, featuring appearances from Dirty Three drummer Jim White, Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, Yuka Honda and Lennon himself.

Come Home to Mama garnered generally favourable reviews, with Paste reviewer Beca Grimm remarking that the album is one that "drops and soars" emotionally, and pointing out that Wainwright is an artist who can write.

"At the end of Come Home To Mama, I find myself most appreciative of Wainwright’s confessional style of writing, how she reveals her main characters’ flaws without shame," Grimm writes in Paste.

"She carries the Wainwright musical torch on, keeping the flame blazing." 

Wainwright will play the Theatre Royal Hobart on Thursday June 13, with tickets going on sale today (April 8) from $59.50 to $80.

The rest of the lineup will be revealed on Friday April 19, so sign up to the Dark MOFO mailing list to receive the latest updates, or visit the Dark MOFO Facebook and Twitter pages!

Head down to Tasmania in June to "celebrate the dark" with music, large-scale public art, food, light and noise.

Tasmania is proud to be known for its dark and cold winters, with the inaugural festival exploring ancient and contemporary mythologies, destruction and renewal, and more.

If you have an interest in all things on the darker side, then you may also want to embark on a paranormal investigation at the Port Arthur historic site!

This adults-only, late night experience allows you to use the latest scientific techniques and equipment to test for evidence of paranormal activity in some of Australia's most haunted buildings at the Port Arthur historic site.

So book in your Tasmanian break for June for over a week of 'dark' activities!

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Seeking thrills in your visit to Tasmania? Get your adrenaline fix with Rock Climbing Adventures Tasmania!

Established by Garry Phillips to bring his passion for climbing and the Tasmanian wilderness to a wider audience, Rock Climbing Adventures Tasmania features a number of adventure activities including an introduction to sport climbing, ascending the stunning white granite cliffs of Freycinet National Park and abseiling Hobart's iconic Mt Wellington.

The Tasmanian tour operator will also soon offer expedition climbs for those who thrive on challenges and adventure.

If you're new to the activity, you can take part in the introductory rock climbing class where you'll learn about equipment selection, personal safety, tying knots, climbing skills and site selection.

Tasmanian local Garry Phillips has well over 20 years of climbing experience, so rest assured that you're in good hands!

Phillips is an accomplished sport climber, competing internationally indoors, but has a "true love" for alpine climbing, ascending cold and dangerous peaks worldwide.

Private instruction courses are also available all year round, giving you the opportunity to create your own content and itinerary!

Book your adventure today with Rock Climbing Adventures Tasmania!

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The historic capital of Tasmania is gearing up for the inaugural Hobart Baroque from April 12 to 20, for a week of operatic performances, fabulous instrumental recitals and even an opulent baroque banquet!

Hobart Baroque is a brand new event celebrating music of the 17th and 18th centuries featuring leading international and Australian performers, as well as showcasing some of the city's finest heritage buildings such as the "jewel-like" Theatre Royal.

This theatre is Australia's "only surviving" Georgian theatre and one with an "unbroken record of performance" since it first opened almost 190 years ago (March 1827), making it therefore a fitting venue to host performances of such a festival.

Festival director Leo Schofield said: "Back in 1988 I attended my first event at Hobart’s historic Theatre Royal. I was struck by the charm, intimacy and superb acoustic of this gem of Georgian architecture and ever since I have dreamed of directing a small specialist music festival with this unique building at its heart."

"Over the past eight years I have lobbied, albeit intermittently and subtly, for such a festival and now, with my co-producer Jarrod Carland, the dream is about to become a reality."

The Royal Opera House will be headlining the festival with its first ever opera presentation in Australia, Haydn's L'isola disabitata.

"Rapturously received by critics and public alike when it premiered at London’s Covent Garden in 2010, this striking production has been re-created exclusively to inaugurate Hobart Baroque," Events Tasmania states.

Opera star David Hansen is also set to take the stage in his only Australian recital in 2013, with performances from Jane Edwards, Latitude 47 and more!

MONAORGANISM, a Baroque banquet, will be held to mark Australia's first and only annual festival dedicated primarily to music of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries,
with dishes such as whole baked salmon, white wine and truffle sauce; rabbit with Beaumes de Venise and raisins; and chicken and foie gras parfait on the menu.

You can purchase your tickets to Hobart Baroque now from the website – get in quick, because they're said to be selling fast!

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