TASMANIA WILL ALWAYS be a prisoner of its Vandiemonian past, hostage to its ugly penal and ethnocidal histories. It may be an exaggeration to say that you can see the blood running down Macquarie Street (no, Virginia, it’s just the log trucks), but the consensus is that there is a certain feel of dark, colonial gothic to the place. It is therefore all the more important that this history be perceived and understood accurately, empirically.
For example, in 2001 a raft of antiquated legislation was repealed, including the Tasmanian Police Offences Act 1935, Section 8 (l)(d), which made it illegal for a male person to dress in female attire between sunset and sunrise. To use a phrase much beloved of stand-up comedians in the 1990s, ‘what was that all about’? At the time, for the transvestite and trans-gender community, it was clearly ‘all about’ the denial of sexual and personal expression and of individual civil rights. But for the original framers of the legislation, it was probably more a matter of preventing drunken sailors being rolled by cross-dressing muggers, evidently a not uncommon offence within the rough-and-tumble pre-1853 Tasmanian convict community.
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