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The Franklin River. By Gracie Howe. History of the Franklin River. During 1966-1973 , a campaign was created to help save Lake Pedder. This became the genesis for the Franklin River campaign. The Tasmanian Wilderness Society was formed in 1976 to help support the campaign.

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By Gracie Howe

history of the franklin river
History of the Franklin River
  • During1966-1973, a campaign was created to help save Lake Pedder. This became the genesis for the Franklin River campaign.
  • The Tasmanian Wilderness Society was formed in 1976to help support the campaign.
  • Also in 1976, the Society aimed to increase the awareness of the beauty of the Franklin River and how important it is to conserve it. They invited people to come visit the river, including Bob Brown who then spread the word on just how beautiful the area was. A few year later Bob quit his practice as a GP and became a full time voluntary director of the Wilderness Society.

Between 1976-1980 more and more pressure was laid upon the state government to save the river as it was now heavily backed up with the help of celebrities, colour publications, slide shows, public meetings and guide books.

  • In 1980 the Labour Government of Doug Lowe decided to put the Franklin River into a Wild Rivers National Park which compromised the proposal to build another dam, on the Gordon River, just upstream from the Franklin. This scheme would have cause dramatic destruction to the natural environment and was known as the Gordan above Olga Scheme.
  • Tasmanian Legislative Council amended the Governments dam legislation b inserting the words ‘Gordon below Franklin’ instead of the ‘Gordan above Olga. This resulted in a standstill between houses of parliment.

During 1981 Aboriginal artefacts and sites had been discovered, dating back to 24,000-8,000 years BP, in the lower parts of the Franklin adding to the sites value.

  • During this time the State Government attempted to resolve the constitutional deadlock by holding a referendum.
  • Tasmanian Wilderness Society (TWS) ran strong NO DAMS campaign, but Gov. refused to include the option on the ballot paper
  • TWS conducted an informal vote by writing the words ‘NO DAMS’ on the ballot paper.

In 1982 Robin Gary won 19 of the 35 seats available and kept the procedure of damming the Franklin.

  • 1982, Bob Brown advertised the Franklin, using mass media, as a place to conserve.
  • Also in this year Bob Brown, in front of 14,000 strong willed protesters in Melbourne, annonced that the Franklin Blockade would commence on December 14 1982, the same day that the Australian Democrats World Heritage Protection Bill was passed in the Senate.
  • The protest went on with a total of 1400 people being arrested, including celebrities and Bob Brown himself.
  • Meanwhile in July/August the federal ALP had adopted a policy of saving the Franklin. This was strongly supported by Bob Hawk.

1983- Bob Hawk replaced Bill Hayden as leader of the ALP

  • TWS had 70 branches Australia wide. They ran a strong ‘vote for the Franklin’ campaign which included large, colourful advertisements in papers.
  • PM Elect Hawke announced that the dam would not proceed after realising his defeat.
  • However Premier Gray kept working on the dam during the night, unknown to the publics eye.
  • The high court heard the case in 1983 and announced its decision on July 1. It found by a majority of four votes to three that the Commonwealth Government had the power to stop the dam. Premier Gray accepted the decision and halted the work on the dam, saving the Franklin.
  • Later in the year, $270 million compromised package for Tasmania was agreed upon by PM Hawke and Premier Gray.

1984- TWS became The Wilderness Society and took on national wilderness conservation issues, including Kakadu and the Daintree rainforests.

  • Bob Brown resigned as director and later became the leader of the Green.