Latitude 40: Redesigning tourism on a small island

The second best place to live! - Peter Rhodes

August 03, 2022 Dianne Dredge Season 1 Episode 2
Latitude 40: Redesigning tourism on a small island
The second best place to live! - Peter Rhodes
Show Notes Transcript

Self-proclaimed contrarian, Peter Rhodes, was born on Flinders Island and returned 40 years later to live. Peter claims it's only the second best place in the world to live - he's still looking for the 1st.
Peter talks with Debbie and Josie about growing up on Flinders Island, going mutton birding with his father and his purchase of the figurehead of the Farsund, shipwrecked in Bass Strait.
Peter's love of maritime history has led him to develop plans for a Furneaux Maritime History Centre to tell the stories of the region's rich maritime history.
Peter sees Flinders' ideal visitor as the sort of person you might want to invite to stay, not someone who wants to be entertained. They may even help with the washing up!

Show notes and links:
Peter Rhodes |
Mutton birding |
The Farsund shipwreck |Australasian Underwater Cultural Heritage Database:
Moonbird People by Patsy Adam-Smith |;
Latitude Forty: Reminiscences of Flinders Island by Jim Davie |
These days have gone forever: a narrative of the early days of the Furneaux Islands as I have known them by Stan Blyth |
Furneaux Maritime History Symposium |
Visit Northern Tasmania |
Forty South|
Islander Way project |

This podcast is created for Designing Tourism by Debbie Clarke and Josie Major from GOOD Awaits. Audio Production is by Clarrie Macklin. Check out their podcast:
Music by Judy Jacques, The Mesmerist; Wybalenna Prayer  from Making Wings  © 2002 with kind permission of the artist.
Extract from the Islander Way read by Jana Monnone co-created by the local community with Brand Tasmania as part of the Flinders Island brand story.
Original photography by Sammi Gowthorp.
The Islander Way project is funded by the Tasmanian Government. We also acknowledge our partners, Flinders Council, Visit Northern Tasmania and The Tourism CoLab and the support of Flinders Island 

If you'd like to provide feedback on this podcast, we'd welcome your comments at

Jana Monnone  00:14

Welcome to Latitude 40: Redesigning tourism on a small island. 

 In the spirit of reconciliation, we acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We acknowledge the palawa people of the trawulwai nation, and recognise their continuing connection to the land, waters and culture of the Islands. We pay our respect to their Elders past and present, and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today. 

The first thing you will notice on Flinders and the Furneaux group of islands is the breathtaking scenery. In every direction, what you see is like nothing else in the world, it's deeper than quiet beaches and coastlines, mountains and mist. These islands have a rich and dark history, and an intensely passionate community that wants to reckon with its past and build the right future together. No one is here because it is the easiest place to live. Everyone is here because it's different. When something works on these islands, it tends to be small and special. As the rest of the world chases growth, we chase meaning. We have a complex relationship with change, because we understand what it can bring. It's different here. And we make different invitations to visitors for an unforgettable time on Flinders Island. Learn to be one of us for a few days a week, or the rest of your life. Slow down, listen, get lost, contribute. Don't try to change this place. Let this place change you.

Josie Major  02:31

I'm Debbie Clarke, and I'm Josie major. We're honoured to be your hosts for this Latitude 40 series sharing the stories of the Flinders Island community and the Islander Way regenerative tourism Living Lab.

Peter Rhodes  02:55

My name is Peter Rhodes. I was born here in 1956. I did my primary education here went to high school in Launceston joined the public service and retired 12 years ago. I always knew I come back here. It's where I grew up. My brother says it's the second best place in the world to live. So here I am. Hopefully, the first best place in the world is he's still looking.

Josie Major  03:28

Oh, I see. That's wonderful. So, so tell us tell us about Flinders Island. Why, you know, why is it the second best place in the world to live? Why is it unique? And? And what do you love about it? 

Peter Rhodes  03:48

Why is it unique? All places are unique. But some places are less average. So I think we're not many places like this left in Australia, probably some remote country towns, but we're a remote community. And we're a diverse community. So time or change doesn't happen as quick here as it does in other places. And so that means I guess the time seems to go slower here. But we've got a long history. We were here. First settlement south of Sydney when the sealing started. And it's been an interesting history. I studied history, I guess. So I enjoy seeing how things have developed and understand why things develop that way and that's just my thing, I guess. What do I do here? I've been on the Council for 10 years, 11 years this year, I'm secretary/treasurer of the local Lions Club. And I'm actively involved with the Furneaux Maritime History Association. We're hoping to create a Maritime History Centre in Lady Barron, our second largest Township and tell our story, which is a very rich and diverse one.

Debbie Clarke  05:32

Yeah, so tell us more about that. Where did the idea come from for this project? And what is the story?

 Peter Rhodes  05:38

It's only a 20 minute interview! Where the idea came from a friend of mine, Gerry Willis, who went through much the same growing up as I did, both our fathers were dairy farmers. We both went mutton birding with the family every year. So we grew up steeped in that social history of the island. We both got elected to council on the same year. And he happened to say at his first meeting that the next day was 103 anniversary of the grounding of a boat called the Farsund. It's a still a visible wreck off the coast of Vansittart Island. And Council wasn't that interested. So I said I give him a hand and we put on a display on the centenary. We tracked down the figurehead and persuaded the owner to come over with it. He said he wouldn't let it out of his sight. And that was quite successful. And at the end of the display, he offered to sell it to us for $15,000. So we decided we'd do it. I got my hair cut, raise $6,000.  Seemed like a good cause, still is.

 Debbie Clarke  06:56

Nice. That's great. 

Josie Major  07:01

What are you when you kind of envision the future? And what that could look like in terms of holding on to those there's good parts of the island away and that way of life? What does that look like to you, or the island?

Peter Rhodes  07:14

It looks like a place where we have something for everyone. I mean, you think of a, we've got for example, scenery, we've got wildlife, we've got climate, good and bad, or rough and smooth. And we've got a very interesting history, which is sometimes it's the forefront of Australian history. We are a critical link between the mainland and Tasmania for things like radio and air travel. So, we've seen it all.

Debbie Clarke  07:55

So talk a bit more about your project, the Maritime Museum project and what you're hoping that's going to contribute to the community. 

Peter Rhodes  08:02

Firstly, it's a display, we do have a very good museum here. And I see ourselves as different in as much as we want to, I guess, tell the story. We do have artefacts and those things. But our primary focus is communicating our story to pique the interest and not just visitors, but to local people as well. People who come here, only get snippets of our history and don't, or it's different for them to see it holistically as other people who've been here longer might, if that makes sense? So having a centre like that will attract people who want to know about our history. We're holding a symposium, which is half booked out, which is good. It's good to attract people who have an interest in that, or it could be birdlife or bushwalking or anything. And the other thing is that as I said, it's a repository for locals and people who come here to learn more about, you know, we had steamships here, we had a bit of a display on them, you know, centre in our temporary display. And a lot of people didn't know that, but you lose that sight of how life was if you don't keep it or preserve it. The council has given us a building for temporary display. So our objective now is to raise funds for a permanent display. And one of them the fundraising ideas we stole was to let's have a history symposium and maritime history symposium, invite people invite tourists from Tasmania who may want to know about that and have a history weekend.  We've put together a package with the local accommodation and transport and travel people. Give everyone a 10% discount. We have Michael Adam Smith, who's a son of Patsy Adam-Smith, who wrote some books about us in the 50s, the “Moonbird People” and one called, “There was a Ship”. And he's coming as our guest of honour. Another lady who did a thesis on Australian women authors, including Patsy, is going to be our keynote speaker. And we're hoping that we will attract return visitors in future years. And we look forward to monitoring how successful we are in doing that, and also boosting the local economy and Lady Barron, which doesn't have very much to attract visitors and tell its story. It's our port and has been, and it's the closest stepping off point to our other islands. So it has a rich history as well. And we also have a digital museum where we're collecting all of our history in a digital format on a USB drive. We have a number of books written about the island, Jim Davie, who wrote Latitude Forty, Stan Blyth who wrote two books of reminiscences. And we've got the copyright or the permission to include those in the digital museum, as well as all the writings of previous explorers and historians which are out of copyright, together with whatever history we have in our display. So this will be an attempt to monetize our history or to produce a product, which is based on our history and will hopefully also attract people to come and see what we do with how we do it. 

Josie Major  

Where can people find out more about that, Peter, can they find out about the symposium online or? 

Peter Rhodes  

Yes, on the Council website, on the Flinders Council website, they're supporting us and doing an excellent assistance for us.  It's in August from the 12th to the 14th. So we have a Friday night photographic exhibition and a fundraising symposium dinner, which is going to be Thai. My wife is a Thai cook, so she's catering for that. And the community barbecue on Sunday afternoon. So we're putting together a visitor package like that, but also for locals and getting together. Interesting to see how it goes.

Debbie Clarke  12:03


Josie Major  12:05

Yeah, it sounds like such an interesting history, like being the sort of, like you said, a connector between the mainland and Tasmania. And in lots of ways, I think that there's, yeah, there's some really interesting history in there clearly. 

 Peter Rhodes  12:19

Because they're a small community. We know our history, or, we know of our history, there's still a lot to figure it out from historical research. And that's probably where we see ourselves growing. We want to not just show what we know, we want to also be proactive, fill in the blanks. 

 Debbie Clarke  12:40

You know, we talk a lot in regenerative tourism, about the importance of place and every place is so unique because of because of the history that shaped the people that are there. And that all informs how the community operates and how you move forward, right? 

Peter Rhodes  12:57

Yes, most definitely. 

Debbie Clarke  12:59

So what role do you see tourism playing in the future of a thriving Flinders? 

Peter Rhodes  13:05

Going back to my definition, no role at all. I would say is perhaps attracting visitors, visitors who aren’t expecting to be entertained or don't have expectations about the quality of service or the availability of a meal on a Sunday night, for example. These are things if you're visiting you take with the territory. Visitors are people, the same as you'd welcome people into your home. They are people who you converse with, you learn from, they learn from you, you get on, you welcome them back sometimes. So that recurring visitation that leads to people deciding that it's a second best place on the planet and live here. So it is important to sustain our population or to grow it to some degree, an undefined degree – it’s a community decision I’d say. But if we don't do that, we're going to need to attract people to live here, raise families here, retire here. Enjoy it. 

Debbie Clarke  

It's an interesting distinction you make between, you know, tourism or tourists and visitors. 

Peter Rhodes 

It's been a perennial debate in the local community going back 100 years. People who want to. There are people who see it for what it is. Some developers in our past attracted my grandparents included from Victoria to come here because it was, still pioneering in those those days. I’m only talking about 1910, when people would come here and live in tents, build houses, settle.

Debbie Clarke  15:01

It makes me think about the conversation around guests and hosts, you know, versus tourists and visitors and sort of that's what you were just speaking to, welcoming people into your home, right?

Peter Rhodes  15:14

If they're interesting enough or you get on, well, yes. The same as when you go somewhere, you may be welcome. Depends on how you travel and whatever how you engage with the place you going to. A lot of our visitors are relatives, friends, or whatever, as well. And that's good for our economy as well. The more people here, the more it generates an economic foundation for the general community. I mean, the island would be self-sustaining, just growing cattle. I think we produce a significant amount of Tasmania’s livestock at the moment. But that's not your whole community. And you've got to have diversity in services, I guess, to keep that going.


Josie Major  

How do you see that been? How do you communicate that to potential visitors like if you're going to tell visitors about how, what it means to visit Flinders and to be a be a visitor in the true sense that you're talking about? How would you kind of communicate that to them


Peter Rhodes 

I think is inherent in understanding what the Islander Way is, in terms of well, I mean, visitors, but that doesn't mean to say you welcome people who … visitors have a degree of respect for you and your place, they don't come in and trash it or whatever. They may offer to help with the washing up, as I've said before, but people who just want to be entertained and whatever, are going to be your most critical people when they leave because you didn't live up to their expectations. And I don't think anybody wants to live up to anybody else's expectations but their own. 

Debbie Clarke  

Love that.

Peter Rhodes 

Yes, we're proud of the place, etc. The contrarian part of me says the banning tourists is a very good marketing ploy. But I'm not talking about it in terms of that.

 Debbie Clarke  17:16

Wow, what's there? Why won’t they let us go? Now we need to go!

Peter Rhodes  17:23

You must, in the same breath, say we welcome visitors. And if we're defining what we consider our Islander Way to be, we can define what we think visitors are. And we can also define what the type of tourists, the ugly Australian, or whatever it is, I don't know, doesn’t come here. People don't like being gawked at. And some people see us as a curiosity, perhaps they come here because of that. Whereas other people are, I guess, more genuine in the desire to see something different. And happy to engage with the community at whatever level that may be, it may just be with the host of their accommodation, or something like that. But the community is, is what it is and doesn't really want to change.


Josie Major  18:14

Now that we often talk about that sort of shift of away from just serving exactly what the traveller or the visitor wants, and focusing more on what are the hosts need? And how can tourism help to serve that? What does the community, the host community actually want from their, from the visitors and from that visitor host experience? 


Peter Rhodes  

I think, as I said at the outset, this is quite a novel programme. And the community hasn't really been asked that before, or given an opportunity. So the level of uptake, or as the consultants say, “leaning into this” we're learning the other way of the wing, perhaps. It's a novel idea and I'm all in favour of community engagement, community decision making. So from a personal view, my hope is that this will encourage the community to have its say and get engaged in the discussion, in the debate and at the same time protect the Islander Way. 

Debbie Clarke  17:16

Yeah, absolutely. And it's a two way street, right. Like you say the programme or the people coming in to try and work with you in this way also need the community to be able to or willing to step up and say, “Okay, we're going to trust that you're actually going to listen to us and here's what we think and to work through that process together to collaborate collaboratively. 

 Peter Rhodes  

It's got to be more positive than what's happened in the past, which is probably not a lot of involving people seriously. Yes. You've got local government and that when you're talking about way of life, seven people out of the 1000 shouldn't be determining in some ways. I mean, you want your community, I mean, everybody's got an opinion, of course, and you've got to have a mechanism just for synthesising all those opinions and coming to some form of community consensus, particularly about critical issues such as tourism, visitation, whatever. 

 Josie Major  

So, to some of your fellow community members listening, Peter, what would you say to them? I mean, one of the one of the hopes with this podcast is that community members who are listening will, you know, who maybe who haven't come forward and been part of the process might do so. 


Peter Rhodes  

Look, have your say. Get involved, because it's the community that really should be shaping this project, and getting the outcomes it wants. And if it doesn't, it's just another sitting back on the fence exercise and being negative. You know, it's a chance we have, let's make the most of it. I've always been a supporter of this project, because it does give that sort of opportunity. And we don't want to become just a marketing narrative. The Islander Way, I’m talking about. It's more than that. It's a way of life and it's something we're happy to share.

Debbie Clarke  21:25

Thank you for listening to Latitude 40: Redesigning tourism on a small island. 

This podcast is part of the Islander Way project, which is being undertaken on Flinders Island by designing tourism. The project is funded by the Tasmanian Government.

Josie Major  21:41

We also acknowledge Designing Tourism partners Flinders Council, Visit Northern Tasmania and The Tourism CoLab. The music is by Judy Jacques and the introduction read by Jana Monnone is an extract from the Flinders Island brand story, The Islander Way. This podcast has been hosted and produced by GOOD Awaits’ Debbie Clarke and Josie Major with audio production by Clarrie Macklin.