A brief history

THE MOUHENNEENER

In the early 1800s, at the time of European arrival, Taroona was the territory of the mouhenneener, one of four bands of the South East nation of Aboriginal Tasmanians. According to early European records, they numbered about 80 people. The mounenneener camped on headlands and in sheltered coves, close to animal and plant food sources. From the sea they harvested shellfish (mainly oysters, mussels, abalone and crayfish). On land, the men hunted for mammals, such as wallabies, pademelons, bandicoots and possums, while the women gathered a great variety of plants - not only for food, but also for many other purposes. Various plants were used for medicine, while grass fibres were collected for basket weaving. Bull kelp was fashioned  into containers for carrying water and tree bark became canoes. Weapons and digging tools were also crafted from wood using stone tools. 

They regularly burnt sections of bushland to encourage succulent young growth – both food for themselves and a lure for game animals. In the open forest behind the beach they built windbreak shelters from pliable branches interwoven with bark or grass.

Living in Tasmania for many thousands of years, and along this river's edge for around six thousand years (since sea level stabilised at its present height), Aboriginal people developed an intimate connection with the land, including a great knowledge of each plant and what it offered them. In the Native Plants section of this website, you will find information about Aboriginal plant use drawn from local records and knowledge of the plants’ use by Aboriginal people elsewhere in Tasmania and other parts of eastern Australia.

THE EUROPEANS ARRIVE

The arrival of Europeans in the early 1800s tore apart the mouhenneener culture. Their lands were divided into parcels and awarded to European settlers. Among the first Europeans to take up land in what is now the suburb of Taroona were many former convicts from Norfolk Island who were evacuated to Hobart in 1808. The mouhenneener people were steadily forced off their traditional lands as the bushland was cleared for wheat, potatoes and sheep. 

After many thousands of years of Aboriginal occupation, in only 200 years the landscape has been transformed:  from bushland to farmland to a garden suburb.

Today, Taroona is a leafy suburb, with about 1200 households. Residents enjoy the coastal and bushland views, the foreshore track, the rocky shoreline and beaches, the cultural icon of the Shot Tower, and the convenience of proximity to the city of Hobart.

A PLACE OF SIGNIFICANCE

One of the most significant sites along Taroona's foreshore is the Aboriginal midden on the High School's headland. This was a popular living area for the mouhenneener. It is also one of the few midden sites relatively undisturbed, while most along the River Derwent have been built upon. 

You can walk around the headland of the school and see midden material in the soil profile - shells, stone tools, animal bones and charcoal from campfires. In fact, a walk along Taroona's entire coastal track will reveal the occasional scatter of shells where Aboriginal people once ate and camped. An interpretation panel on the school's headland reveals more of the story of the mouhenneener

The Taroona foreshore is also the resting place of James Batchelor who was buried at the northern end of Taroona Beach. His is the first known marked European grave in Tasmania. The backdrop to Taroona is the iconic Shot Tower.

There's much more to discover about the Aboriginal and European history of our foreshore. Listen to the interviews with Aboriginal Heritage Officer Leigh Maynard, and local history buff Peter Gee, by Taroona High students Emily and Ollie on our Taroona Coastal Discovery Trail.

Photo credits:

  • Aboriginal campsite, Aboriginal bark canoe, Aboriginal Tool Kit :  State Library of Tasmania
  • News extract:  Archives Office of Tasmania
  • Aerial photograph:  courtesy Richard Mount