Tasmania

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An island, an Australian state, located 240 km (150 miles) south of the eastern portion of the continent. Tasmania has a population of approximately 400 000 and an area of 68,332 square kms (26,383 sq miles).

The capital and largest city is Hobart, and other major population centres include Launceston, Devonport and Burnie.

The first reported sighting of Tasmania by a European was in 1642 by the Dutch explorer Abel_Tasman who named the island Van_Diemens_Land. Captain James_Cook also sighted the island in 1777. A British settlement was established at Hobart Cove in 1803, and shortly afterwards a harsh penal colony was established at Port_Arthur.

Tasmania once possessed an indigenous population, the Tasmanian Aborigines and evidence indicates their presence on the island at least 35,000 years ago. At the time of British settlement the indigenous population has been estimated at 5000, but through persecution and disease the population was eliminated (some mixed blood descendants still survive). The last full-blooded Tasmanian aborigine was Truganini who died in 1872.

Tasmania's main industries are mining, including copper, zinc, tin and iron, as well as agriculture, forestry, and tourism. There has been a significant decline in manufacturing in recent years, leading to a substantial drain of its young adult population to the major urban centres such as Melbourne and Sydney.

Although seldom in the news, world attention turned to Tasmania on April 29, 1996. A lone gunman opened fire, killing 35 tourists and residents and injuring 37 others in an incident now known as the Port_Arthur_Massacre.