It’s not an isolated example.

Ricky Ponting is “a great captain” when the Australian cricket team wins, but on more than one occasion has been dismissed by mainland commentators as “a former Tasmanian player” when it lost.

Bob Brown is hailed nationally as “a global environmental hero” when he stands against climate change, but in the mainland press Guy Barnett is consistently “a Senator from Tasmania” when he opposes social change.

It seems when Tasmanians do something brave or good it’s despite us being Tasmanian. When we fall, fail, or do something others don’t like, it’s because we’re Tasmanian.

The latest example is the much-anticipated documentary, “Whatever happened to Brenda Hean?”, about the unexplained and suspicious disappearance of conservationist, Brenda Hean, and her pilot, Max Price, on a flight to Canberra to raise awareness about Lake Pedder’s flooding in 1972.

It’s an important story that documentary-maker, Scott Millwood, tells fairly well, except in one crucial respect.

The documentary portrays Tassie as a place of exceptional corruption, of unusual violence against those who are different, and of unmatched silence about both.

This corruption, violence and silence is explained in terms of our past as a brutal prison where native people and animals were treated exceptionally badly.

I have no argument with this. My experience as a gay rights campaigner tells me things can be even worse than Millwood’s film says.

But it also tells me that his grim, “gothic” view of Tasmania is only part of the truth.

There is another Tasmania, a Tasmania of belonging, joy, freedom, beauty, abundance and love, which is greater than our island’s closed and hateful “twin”.

This “good Tasmania” is the one I grew up with on a dairy farm near Sheffield.

It is the Tasmania which can boast globally-significant achievements on the environment, democracy and social justice.

It is the Tasmania that has inspired our painters and writers for generations.

It is the Tasmania that historian James Boyce has traced back to the earliest days of European settlement when “brutal” convicts rapidly developed a stronger sense of community, a closer connection to the land and a greater sense of freedom than people anywhere else in the English-speaking world.

But Millwood is blind to this Tasmania, despite having spent most of his life here.

The environmental campaigners he interviews are not put in a Tasmanian context in the same way as their opponents, they have no obvious history here and their achievements after Pedder are not mentioned.

If you knew nothing else about this island and its environmental movement than what is in Millwood’s film, you would be left with the impression that a few green heroes suddenly sprang from nowhere to unsuccessfully battle a monster called “Tasmania”.

But the truth is that Tasmania’s conservation movement has been immensely successful, and that this success is largely because it is a Tasmanian movement that draws inspiration from what’s best about the place.

If Brenda Hean were alive today she would thank Scott Millwood for keeping her work and her cause alive.

But I suspect she might add that whatever bravery, dauntlessness and hope she showed, arose from an optimism about Tasmania which his film does not share.

My hope is that Millwood’s next film is about what Tasmanians can achieve, not just what we destroy.

HERE: A more detailed take on the same issues

Rodney Croomeis a former editor of Island magazine.

This article on “Whatever Happened to Brenda Hean?” was published in the Hobart Mercury on 8.10.08.

Rodney Croome

WHEN Brant Webb and Todd Russell emerged from the gold mine that almost became their grave, they were hailed “great Australian heroes”.

But when they stumbled in an interview with Oprah, the mainland media immediately dubbed them “inarticulate Tasmanian miners”.