Asia Pacific

Tasmania Together: Impressive Project, Uncertain Future


March 06, 2012 22:18 EDT
An overview of Tasmania’s ambitious project to formulate and implement its goals for the future.

Ten years ago, Tasmania’s Labour Premier Jim Bacon came up with a vision to align priorities of politicians with economic and social priorities. In 1999, three political conflicts plagued Tasmania.  Parliamentary seats were reduced from 35 to 25, enraging the emerging Greens who were the primary losers.  Gambling in hotels and bars in the form of gaming machines divided Tasmanians.  Finally, the clear-cutting of rain forests was an emotive issue.  Mr. Bacon sought inspiration from the US where Governor Neil Goldschmidt had launched the project “Oregon shines” to develop common goals and resolve conflicts over clear-cutting of the rain forests.  Mr. Bacon then launched “Tasmania Together” to bring together Tasmanians and resolve issues that were deeply divisive.

Tasmania Together’s first vision for the year 2020 was formulated in  October 2000.

It was a grand declaration for the island state of 500,000 citizens, “Together we will make Tasmania an icon for the rest of the world by creating a proud and confident society, where our people live in harmony and prosperity”. The goal was to achieve for Tasmanians a  reasonable standard of living in a safe environment, where they feel encouraged to learn and develop new skills, maintain a healthy lifestyle and enjoy coordinated health services. A key goal was to acknowledge and respect Tasmania’s multicultural heritage, value its diversity and treat everyone including the Aboriginal Community with compassion and respect. The government welcomed people’s viewpoints and started using them in decision-making.

 A Community Leaders Group was created in May 1999 to develop a vision for Tasmania in 2020. This group represented social and regional groups of Tasmania. The project was financed through the state budget. The Community Leaders Group invited 60 individuals to a three-day conference in July 1999, where the first draft of “Our vision, our future” was compiled. At the end of 1999, the draft was sent to many citizens and organizations for feedback which was followed by many public meetings. Consultations with many organizations of the civil society ensued and feedback was gathered either through websites or through the postcards sent to each household. The general vision and the 24 goals backed by 212 indicators or benchmarks and corresponding targets for the year 2020 were first published in the year 2000. Since 2001, work on the vision, goals and indicators is coordinated and undertaken by nine members (appointed by the Premier) of a Progress Board, supported by a small secretariat who monitor Tasmania’s progress towards achieving the vision and report to the parliament every second year. Details are regulated by the Tasmania Together Progress Board Act 2001 wherein the vision must be reviewed every five years. The feedback from citizens regarding any changes in their priorities is taken into consideration. Other Australian federal states such as New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia have also launched similar projects.

In short, Tasmania Together is a remarkably open and consultative process, and a new form of democratic process.

However, even a project as transparent and indicator-based as “Tasmania Together” has opponents. Interest groups whose activities are restrained, such as operators of gaming machines, tobacco and the timber industries, are major opponents. The big test for “Tasmania Together” is yet to come when it ends in 2020. No one has any idea as to what will take its place. Will it be back to business as usual or will there be a renewed effort to come up with an alternative which incorporates the lessons of this impressive project?

*[This article is adapted from the report originally published by Center for Societal Progress.]


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