Latitude 40: Redesigning tourism on a small island

Don't try to change this place, let it change you - Annie Revie

August 15, 2022 Season 1 Episode 3
Latitude 40: Redesigning tourism on a small island
Don't try to change this place, let it change you - Annie Revie
Show Notes Transcript

Former Mayor of Flinders Council, educator and always the Scot, Annie Revie talks about the dark history of Flinders Island and her decision to make the beautiful small island her home.

Annie talks about what a thriving Flinders Island would look like: "we're kind of living on the edge of sustainability.  We're almost close to the stage where we may not have enough people to take us forward in a sustainable way."

"The people here have a strong sense of belonging. And what I would really want is that the people feel they are being listened to. And because of being listened to, that they'll kind of take up the reins. And from doing that they'll accept ownership of this place in a way that makes it more than the place it is now ...  I'd like the community to value, its own values, to understand what their values are. And to value this place themselves, as well as any visitors. I'd like there to be a kind of a host/guest relationship between visitors and the community. Because when you have a host/guest relationship, it's like you're inviting people into your home. You know that they will value it, you know, that they will not trash it, you know, that they'll offer to do the dishes and that kind of thing. And we need people to participate in our island like that."

Show note and links
Annie Revie |
Mt Strzelecki |
Wybalenna |

The Flinders Story, the "Islander Way"|
Dianne Dredge and Sarah Lebski are Designing Tourism | and
Art Gallery response to consultation on Flinders Is:

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 Business Inc.

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.

Annie Revie  00:00

My name is Annie Revie. And I’m originally Scottish, the accent stays forever and ever. We came to Australia in 1974. So we've been here for, you know, 47 or so years. And it was a big thing for me. I didn't really want to come. It was my husband who really wanted to come to Australia. I was quite happy in Scotland. But Australia has been good to me. I am an educator. That has been my love and my profession. I'm 76 years old. I came here when I was 28. It's a long time ago. Yeah, I mostly have lived in Tasmania, and I ended up on Flinders Island, because my daughter has a house here. And because her work brought her over here a lot so she bought a little house. And my daughter didn't come to Flinders so much. So I ended up living in her little house, which was very lucky. So I'm living in this very special place.

Josie Major  00:56

Yeah. So tell us about life on Flinders, what's unique about it? And what do you love about it?

Annie Revie  01:02

You know, this is an interesting answer. But the first thing about Flinders is really that it really is unique, in my opinion, almost everybody who comes to Flinders somehow, unless the real townie types and that's the kind of life they just can't be without. They just believe that Flinders is really unique. It's history is unique, its beauty is unique. Its people are different. They're very friendly, and so on. So we're in the middle of the Bass Strait. And, you know what some people don't know, is that the Flinders group of islands, the Furneaux group of islands, going back 8 to 12,000 years ago, they were a land bridge that joined the mainland of Victoria to mainland Tasmania. And between 12,000 and 8000 years ago, the ocean began to rise. And, Flinders, the Flinders group, is really what remains of that landbridge. It's got beautiful mountains, and it's got peaks that are really different, you know, it's got rounded ones and rugged ones and tall, thin ones, as well as plenty of lovely beaches as well. Like, I once read a visitor comment on the island and he said, there's a painting around every corner. And it is true. It's a physically beautiful place. Nowadays it's, I guess, it has been but since you know it's an island, it's an island of about 75 kilometres by 40 or there abouts, or 70 by 45, one or the other. And so it's not big. It's only got a population of around about 1000. And some of these don't live here all the time. Some of these are people from elsewhere. It's got beaches, coastal scrub, farmland, not so much cultivating farmland.  The main things that the farmer grows here is grass because it's about cattle and some sheep. So the cattle and the livestock industry and the beef and lamb industries are the main things that keep the farmers going. It's got four small population centres, you know, each with maybe, I don't know 200 or, you know, up to 200 people or thereabouts in Whitemark, which is the main one. And then there's farms and houses in the more remote parts all over the place. Even though I only live about 200 metres or so from a beach, but I don't see the beach from my house. But I see the main mountain which is Mt Strzeleki, and almost everybody then has the view of some kind that is beautiful. It's got a very diverse population. And 17% of our people are Aboriginal of Aboriginal heritage. It's got way above its average, of older all people way above the average in Tasmania even and in general. It's got people who, who are Aboriginal, it's got people who were sealers or come from sealer stock from convict stock from Straits people and stock. It's it became a place for Soldier Settlement after the two World Wars. And it's, you know, when when the land bridge was there, the Aboriginal people would have travelled back and forward between mainland Australia and what is now Victoria and mainland Tasmania. It's got a very, very dark history. I mean, it's got some nice things to do, obviously, but it's got a very dark history as regards to Aboriginal people. And Tasmania was quite an early part of European settlement here. But mainly because it was used as a convict settlement. And some people of course, we call it settlement, the Aboriginal people, and I would probably agree with them, we'd call it invasion. There were wars, there were massacres. And what were left of the Aboriginal people were rounded up, and there wasn't that many of them, and they were rounded up and they were brought to the islands and they were promised that they would have a good future and that they could still hunt as usual and this would just be like there own land in Tasmania. They were brought eventually after stopping off at various islands they were brought to a place called referred to Wybalenna that is just outside of white markets, and there was a chapel built there. And that is still there, there was a commandant's house. And there were Aboriginal houses. Wybalenna means black man's houses, but they were very poor in terms of their, the air that people believed living in those houses, the dampness, the white man's diseases, all of which attacked these people. And one by one they died, you know, it makes you weep, just to think about it's, and frankly, that kind of feeling went on because Aboriginal people were absolutely discriminated against in Tasmania terribly. And it's only now that it's being recognised if you know what I mean. It's a very, in spite of all that, it's a very, very safe place, people are friendly, they're cared for one another, you know, if I was in need of help, I would just call it up and somebody would help me. We've got a story that we call the Flinders story, and it's called the Islander Way, which is what our project is called. And it's about - the bits that in the story that I just love are things like  - this is a very special place, don't try to change this place or its people, let it change you. And then there is another bit that says, we don't change, we don't chase growth, we don't chase really money as the main thing, which is meaning, meaning from the place, meaning from each other, meaning from the land. So it's very, very special, beautiful.

Debbie Clarke  06:18

So Annie, you've probably answered the next question that we have, which is what made you want to take on a leadership role on Flinders, and listening to you talk about your place with such deep love and passion. I think we can understand why but we'd love to hear from you, you know, why you took on this role? And what contributions you're hoping to make?

Annie Revie  06:32

Yes. And thank you for that question. I’m actually, I am a bit of a passionate person, I do know that. Sometimes that's for good. Not everybody does. You know, some people get a bit scared of passion. So it wasn't really the passion that brought me here. It was more, that, … I was a primary school principal in Launceston and I was coming up to retiring and I could have worked for a long time more, but I was getting the feeling of the whole bureaucracy was taking over and, and the emphasis … and it has become this way, in Australia … in schools a lot. So I was about 56 at the time, and I decided to retire. So my husband and I sold that house in Launceston and we bought a caravan. And we went travelling in Australia which was wonderful. So we actually lived in our caravan for four and a half years. And we then wanted to settle down again. And also the humidity in the north of Australia was getting to be too much. So we decided that we would come back to Tasmania and and give a try to settling down again. So that's when my daughter said we could have her house. 

And then I started to think right, well, what am I going to do, what's going to make me feel challenged and what's going to occupy me? And I just remember one day thinking, I know what I could do, I could stand for council. Now, I was here about two years before I did that. So obviously a bit more known by then. And somebody said to me, why don't you stand for mayor because the mayor is standing down? And I thought, Oh, I don't think so I didn't know anything about local government. However, I sort of got talked into that and, and decided that we'd give it a go. And although it was hard work, and it was a really big learning curve. And yeah, I've enjoyed most of it. And I love the thinking that you have to do. And being mayor was a brand new experience being in local government was a brand new experience. But it's a challenging one. And I quite like challenges. 

So you then kind of asked me, you know, what contributions have you made? And would you like to make? And so I've, I've looked at some of those. And I'd have to say before I say this, you don't do this alone, you do it with a team of people, you know, you do it with other councillors and Council staff. And to a big extent more and more with the community. You just can't do things to people all the time, you've got to do things with people, I really believe. So things that we've been working on and continue to work on. Transparency, you know, I really believe that you have to be as transparent as you can. It's not easy. And it's hard to achieve. Because no matter what you do, because you're not being transparent. It's a hard one. As you probably know, communication is hard. It's not easy. And people will say, look, it's just communication. But you know, “just communication” doesn't exist. It's a continuing thing. And I once heard a person I truly respected in the literacy area, saying, you know, as soon as you open your mouth, in the English language you're in, you're in grave danger of being misunderstood. And that's what's at the bottom of communication is language and understanding and, you know, meeting. So community engagement has been another thing that we have really wanted to do. And it wasn't particularly focused anywhere much until the last few years. And we have really tried hard to make that happen. It's got a long way to go. But it is happening. We did our main strategy plan. With quite a lot of community engagement. I'd have to still stress, heaps more to go, always heaps more to go but we made a big start to it. And so most of our planning is about, whether it's tourism, or whether it's about housing, or about waste? Or about anything, is trying to be aiming to be aligning with community values, I think you have to be flexible with, you know, obviously anything for flexibility because you can't just draw a line and put marks along it and say right, this is where we're at, right, this is where we're going next, tick the box, that's not what I'm planning for and with the community is about. 

How would I like to see it flourishing and thriving? And that is very aligned with where we're going with this project, even although we once again have got a long, long way to go. And so the first thing I noted in terms of flourishing and thriving is, we would like our population to rise a bit because we're kind of living on the edge of sustainability. You know, 1000 people, it's not very much. Our tradespeople are getting old, as is the Mayor and we're almost close to the stage where we may not have enough people to take us forward in a sustainable way. So I'd like our population to go, yeah, 1200, maybe towards 1400. But if we got to 1200, that would be a fabulous beginning, so that we could gain more of a sustainable lifestyle on the island. I would like then small businesses, a bit more small businesses, I'd like them to thrive and serve the needs of the people here, I'd like to continue the diversity that we have, because we do have diversity. And I'd like I'd like that feeling of safety to continue. I mean, here, obviously the place is small, and there's only about 1000 people or so. But everybody talks to everybody, you know, you don't go along the street and put your head down. And you always know when the visitors - most visitors speak to you - but there are some who go along with their heads high. I did say to one person, “hello, you must be a visitor because everybody else speaks to these people here. So hello how are?” The people here have a strong sense of belonging. And what I would really want is that the people feel they are being listened to. And because of being listened to, that they'll kind of take up the reins. And from doing that there'll be they'll accept ownership of this place in a way that makes it more than the place it is now, they’ve got to, got to create, they've got to identify the values and the principles, what they want, what they love, what they don't want, they've got to preserve and maintain, you know, how they want the place to be. And I hope that we get somewhere along the line with that. And what I'd like the community to value, its own values, to understand what their values are. And to value this place themselves, as well as any visitors. I'd like there to be a kind of a host/guest relationship between visitors and the community. Because when you have a host/guest relationship, it's like you're inviting people into your home. You know that they will value it, you know, that they will not trash it, you know, that they'll offer to do the dishes and that kind of thing. And we need people to participate in our island like that. I'd like to see the environment valued. It's valued just now, but it needs to be valued more, like we had visitors. Over the COVID time when Tasmania's borders were closed, we had people cutting down trees and making fires and, and toileting all over the place. Because our infrastructures in that area are not amazing. And so we had people who were beginning to kind of trash the place, and the community hated it. And so, you know, I'd like to see the community and visitors owning, in the future, a common bond, to work together to move on together, including the Aboriginal people, and the non Aboriginal people to co-create this place along the lines that they want to, and to maintain it and value it. And I would love the culture of the people here to regenerate itself.

Josie Major  13:42

I love how you speak to the values of the community and the sort of, you know, bringing together the values of your visitors and the values of your of your community and, and that guest/host relationship. I think that's so pertinent to this kind of project that we're working on. 

Annie Revie  13:53

Yes, it is. It is.

Debbie Clarke  13:55

Let's talk about the project that's underway that that you're involved in now the Islander Way project, describe that for us, and you know how you see tourism, contributing to the future of a flourishing Flinders.

Annie Revie  14:04

I've already told you about its unique beauty. It's a great place for walking, for trekking, for fishing, cycling, rock climbing, camping, all these things are just there, and free as well. So you know, admiring the beauty of the landscape if you do nothing else is amazing. But doing these other things, there's just so much room for them. The friendliness of the people is terrific. 

But what was happening with the people, the folks who began to really try to bring about their vision of making sustainable tourist industry here so that the island in itself would become more sustainable was that they didn't really start with the island at its centre. They started with a marketing company from mainland Australia. They got one thing very, very right and that was that they came up with a brand that was cold, and it was called, Unknown land. Untold beauty. Now that's very beautiful. I think it's like a poem in 4 words. But what they did was they targeted the eastern seaboard of Australia from kind of Sydney south. They set out to put Flinders Island on the map. And they succeeded very well in that. 

They decided, with the help of their marketers to have an event called a food and crayfish festival. We don't get many crayfish here. Well, there's loads of them. But the locals there's hardly any on the island. Because we've only got a couple of fishermen left. We can't get them ourselves. So it wasn't regarded as authentic by by the locals. They had this food and crawfish festival as the centre of things. All the chefs were brought in even though we have chefs on the island, a kind of an event organiser was hired from Hobart. So you can tell by just a brief bit that I'm telling you that although these people did their best, but it really almost divided the island. So that's when at one point, I just serendipidously came across Sarah and Dianne, I sought them out and I came across them and I’d heard that they were into regenerative tourism. And so, you know, they talked to me about what it was. And basically, the whole fundamental nature of regenerative tourism. And the principles of it are that you start from where the people are, you consult and you engage, you ask them, What do you value about this place? What do you value about living here? What's the biggest thing you wouldn't like to lose? And when you ask people that question, the main answer is our lifestyle. We don't want to lose our lifestyle. That's what the people value. And so you've got to ask them, what do you value? What do you want? What do you not want? Etc. Tell us what's gone wrong? How have you seen tourism acting in the recent past, and they've told us, we would have, Dianne and Sarah did most of that, and because of COVID, it took a long time. But as well as that, it was a deep, a much deeper kind of engagement that you would normally see, it was sitting down with people for anything from 10 minutes to three hours and more. It was getting the real depth of what people, how people see this place. And there's a roundabout in various forums that were survey, there were postcards on which people could write what they thought. There were interviews of people and less, less formal, just conversations. And one person as a response, actually opened up a little gallery for a while for a month, and invited people to come in and write answers to questions, you know, what did they think of the place and what did they value and all that stuff. So there was a lot done. And there would be you know, close to 500 expressions of value in Diane and Sarah’s hands at the moment.

Debbie Clarke  18:39

Annie that's just beautiful. When you talk about the depth of engagement. That's amazing. You've just described what community engagement should be

Annie Revie  18:51

Yes, it is. I've never seen anything like it. 

Debbie Clarke 

We're very privileged. We feel very privileged to be part of this.

Annie Revie  18:51

Yes. Well, I do too, to be quite honest. Yes, it is a privilege. 

Debbie Clarke 

What's your message to visitors? 

Annie Revie

My message to people in general is that this place, the people here are being consulted, have been consulted. They want tourism that's in line with their values. They, at the moment, are designing some experiences for visitors that will help to manage visitation to the islands, and that will help to turn it into hopefully more like a host guest experience. We want people to leave a very small footprint. We even want people to participate and help us keep the place the way it is and help us improve it. (19:26)