Audio Chris Arthur recalls the Franklin River campaign, 2008

TLF ID R9382

This is an edited sound recording of an interview with Chris Arthur, a Tasmanian environmentalist, who describes being arrested and imprisoned in December 1982 after participating in a blockade of a site linked to a proposed project to dam the Franklin River in south-western Tasmania. He also talks about how he has gone from being a jailed activist to later becoming the Tasmanian Government ranger in charge of the national park area that includes the Franklin - without a dam. The recording was made in June 2008.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This is a first-hand account of a pivotal moment in one of the most dramatic environmental protests in Australian history. Arthur and other members of the Tasmanian Wilderness Society blocked access to the dam site by putting tents across the intended road at Mount McCall on 14 December 1982 after the Tasmanian Government had announced that it would dam the Franklin River in spite of federal opposition and divided public opinion.
  • Arthur emphasises the commitment needed for environmental activism, especially when arrest and imprisonment are likely. He was arrested on trespassing and obstruction charges and taken to Risdon Prison in Hobart, where he spent almost a month on remand. In his first court appearance Arthur argued with the magistrate about whether the blockade had been set up on a 'reserved road' or public land. In his next appearance he was released on conditional bail.
  • Tasmania's Hydro-Electric Commission (HEC) and its supporters argued that the state needed the Gordon-below-Franklin Dam for future economic development. Both major political parties in Tasmania had supported a dam, but the voters had elected the hardline Liberal government of Robin Gray (1940-) after Labor had suggested a compromise site, leading to the blockade.
  • The 'Save the Franklin' campaign became a landmark event in citizen action - it promoted the rise of the Australian conservation movement and set an example for future environmental campaigns in Australia. The Franklin River was eventually saved after a High Court ruling in 1983 that the recent inclusion of the area on the World Heritage List had given the federal government an obligation under an international treaty to protect it.
  • Arthur outlines how 'the circle has turned', how he has shifted from being an environmental activist to being the Parks and Reserves Manager of the West Coast for the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service, with responsibility for the Franklin River. Tourism to the area by people wanting to experience the natural beauty has become an important local industry.
Year level

7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

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  • Person: Chris Arthur
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