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Research Guides

Commonwealth Government Records about Tasmania

5. Lighthouses

Tasmania's lighthouses and similar beacons have an intrinsic interest to a handful of devotees. Their detailed origins are not directly relevant for this guide. As Van Diemen's Land began its journey towards a self-governing colony, in 1858 the Hobart Marine Board was formed. From that year, all ocean lights around the coastline came under its responsibility. An equivalent development, just as significant but of direct relevance here, was the decision of the 'federal fathers' that this colonial responsibility for lighthouses, which Tasmania and its mainland counterparts had exercised, should pass to the Commonwealth of Australia.

Accordingly, section 51(vii) of the Constitution included among the new Commonwealth Parliament's powers one to legislate regarding 'beacons, buoys, and lighthouses'. Understandably, this did not happen immediately, and the status quo ante applied for some years, with the Tasmanian Government continuing to pay the keepers and maintain the towers. Then the Lighthouses Act 1911 was passed, authorising the acquisition of lighthouses and similar 'navigational aid installations'. Sensibly, in 1912, an Australia-wide survey was commissioned, Commander Brevis concluding that Tasmania's facilities were 'well-maintained'. As the legislation mandated, the transferred responsibility took effect in July 1915 and by the early 1920s, effective control had passed to new administrative units within a Lighthouse Branch of the Department of Trade and Customs. Tasmania, with Victoria and New South Wales, was designated the No. 3 Lighthouse District in Melbourne, and a Hobart headquarters established.


Chapter 5