Where did the name Tarraleah come from?

 

According to websites, site 1 and site 2, the name ‘tarraleah’ is the local Lairmairrener Aboriginal word for the Forester Kangaroo.  The Lairmairrener language was spoken by Teen Toomele Menennye (Big River) kinship groups who lived in central Tasmania and further afield.

There is nothing about the township of Tarraleah that has ever made me connect it with our Kangaroo – it has always been firmly imprinted on my mind as a town created only to support the expansion of hydroelectric power.  I wonder how prolific this Kangaroo was in central Tasmania at the time of naming the town; whether the word ‘tarraleah’ was used by white developers loosely without care for accuracy in location.

These days the area of central Tasmania near the Derwent River, where uncleared, often consists of very dense rain forests and I doubt this environment is one easily accessible for the large Forester Kangaroo. Their preference is for more open temperate forests.  Of course 10,000 years ago, the vegetation was different. The last Ice age generally caused much aridity across Australia so I assume the vegetation would have been comparatively open in the area where the township of Tarraleah now stands. Members of our aboriginal communities may possess stories passed down through the millennia about ‘tarraleah’ in this part of Teen Toomele Menennye country.

The National Museum of Australia notes  Bass Strait was not always a strait (of water). It used to be a plain populated by Indigenous peoples who moved back and forth between what we now call Victoria and Tasmania. The first humans arrived in Tasmania around 40,000 years ago. About 30,000 years ago an ice age began, which caused sea levels to drop about 120 metres and created a continuous land mass that stretched between Papua New Guinea and Tasmania. When the ice melted – a process estimated to have taken 6000 years – Bass Strait formed and became an almost impassable barrier by about 12,000 years ago.”

The Australian government explains the Forester Kangaroo, “Macropus giganteus tasmaniensis is recognised as the Tasmanian subspecies of the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Macropus giganteus, which is widespread throughout the eastern Australian mainland. The subspecies status of the Forester Kangaroo is based on differences in its skull and coat from the mainland population and its isolation in Tasmania for at least the last 10 000 to 15 000 years. Studies indicate that there is less than 1% difference in the mitochondrial DNA between the mainland Eastern Grey Kangaroo and the Forester Kangaroo.”

Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service explains the Forester Kangaroo “is the largest marsupial in Tasmania and the second largest in the world – males can reach over 60 kg and, when literally on tippy toes, stand 2 m tall! Colour varies from light brownish grey to grey. In Tasmania during the 1950s and 60s, the population of Forester kangaroos was reduced to 15% of its previous level.”  Tasmania’s Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment  reports “By the early 1900s, as a result of unsustainable levels of hunting (by European settlers in Tasmania) and to a lesser extent land clearance, the species was in serious decline. By 1970, Forester Kangaroos were to be found in only two areas; parts of the Midlands and the far north-east of Tasmania. This was less than 10% of its range at the time of European settlementSince then a number of measures have been implemented to reverse this trend.”

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