Luke Byrne: Flinders Island

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Despite being a local Tasmanian photographer, Luke Byrne admits that he hadn’t heard of the small island off Tasmania’s North-East coast before traveling there for Broadsheet. “I had no idea about the place,” he says. Within hours of setting foot there, Byrne quickly developed an appreciation for both the incredible environment, and the island’s history. Sixty-nine wrecks have been recorded between mainland Australia and Tasmania, many a result of European traders’ and settlers’ fateful journeys across Bass Strait. “But most of them don’t exist anymore,” explains Byrne. “They’ve been washed away or eroded.”

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But there are exceptions. One of the most famous remains is The Farsund, a beautiful and eerie sight that is fully visible above the waters over the Vansittart Shoals. More than 100 years after running ashore, it’s a striking reminder of the colourful past that has washed over the island’s chalk white sands.

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These shipwrecks are just a small part of the island’s dark history. After its discovery by Europeans, the island became an exile ground for Aboriginals kidnapped from mainland tribes and forced to re-settle in what was called Wybalenna, meaning ‘black man’s house’. Of the original 135 Aboriginals who were sent here, only 47 survived before being uprooted again to Oyster Cove, south of Hobart, where there were more hospitable conditions. The homestead where these tribes were sent is still visible today, where it’s a historic landmark filled with the unmarked graves of these unwilling settlers.

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Today the island could be viewed as a beachside getaway, yet with the small, tight-knit community vibe and admittedly bleak past, you can’t help but feel Flinders Island is a purposely-secluded location that you were never meant to stumble upon.

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