If in doubt, refer to your driver’s license

When did us ‘locals’ go from being the biggest advocates of our state to being the people most likely to point out all the things that are wrong with Tasmania? Don’t believe me? Check facebook.

I’m not having a go, just interested in the process that’s got us here.

There seems to be a disconnect in how Tasmanians view their state to how ‘the rest’ do. Perhaps, that’s just it. ‘The rest’ are just viewing it, while we are living in it.

Not only is there a reason for this disconnect, I reckon there is a solution (insert happy dance here).

There has been significant investment into marketing Tasmania as an awesome place to visit. Successful investment too, with more and more visitors coming to experience our island every year. Yet, any efforts to market Tasmania as a great place to live and work… not so successful, yet. So why?

I first left Tasmania bound for ‘the mainland’ at 17 with my (fake) ID, a Tasmanian driver’s license, in hand. Such was the sport of poking fun at my Tasmanian heritage that it had the unexpected benefit of helping this 17-year-old get into licensed venues. True story. Bouncers were so busy asking “where’s the ID for the other head” they didn’t realise the only head on that driver’s license didn’t belong to me (seems I owe you a round, Tassie). NOTE: This was in the olden days, DO NOT try this now, it is not a smart plan.

But in those days the benefits of being a Tasmanian on the mainland were few. I soon had an arsenal of replies that I would shoot back at anyone who dissed my home state. These usually had little venom but significant pride as most people hadn’t been to Tasmania before.

That was almost 20 years ago. Now, people HAVE been to Tasmania. They get it. They’ve rambled our rocky coast line with its orange lichen, they’ve moseyed our mountains, they’ve five-starred our fresh produce and they’ve caught those smiles that we just give out to people as they walk past, just ‘cause, well, that’s what we do.

So, now we no longer have to prove ourselves, are we doubting ourselves? Or do we now seek something more?

If I compare the conversations I had recently with a far north Queenslander in the morning and a Launceston taxi driver in the evening, it would seem one of the above is true.

Never have I enjoyed small talk so much as during a recent visit to Queensland. The reaction I received as ‘being Tasmanian’ was of celebrity status. Those I expected to be most critical of our state because of the climate and, well, just because Tasmania a really long way ‘down there’, had nothing but praise. Not only had they been there, they wanted to go back! And the best bit? I WAS going back.

I was feeling pretty chuffed when I touched down on the tarmac outside the refurbed Launceston airport, enough so that it made up for the 20 degree drop in temperature from QLD to Tassie.  However, when I jumped in a cab my celebrity status of being one of only half a million Tasmanians soon dropped away. Within minutes my taxi driver started telling me horror stories about the state of the Tamar river, the decision to relocate UTAS, the lack of jobs, the inability of the health system, all in less than 15 minutes.

The first thing I want to say here is Taxi Drivers know stuff. So much stuff. They are front line. In Tasmania their conversations cross the demographics. They hear of more experiences in their first month driving than your grandma has had in her lifetime. It’s this qualification that validated the sad picture that my driver painted about my home town.

How does it happen that in a matter of hours I have a Far North Queenslander telling me how great Tasmania is, followed by a Tasmanian telling me how bad it is? I ask you, who is more qualified to comment?

I could just decide that this taxi driver is simply one of the whingers. Or, perhaps he is looking for something beyond what a  Queenslander sees. Perhaps he sees that there IS work to be done. A MASSIVE amount of work. The statistics tell us our state is the oldest, fattest, sickest, poorest, most disabled, least active, least literate, poorest eaters in the country with the lowest life expectancy. Hmm, seems he may be onto something.

However, perhaps what he ISN'T onto is the choice we have to either complain about these things or get excited about improving them. We’re a smart bunch of people. Double the heads, doubles the thinking power (it’s just maths). It's us 'locals' who need to find ways to fix the things that get in the way of us being able to properly enjoy the Tasmania that the Queenslander sees. They can be fixed. Think of the jobs it will create, think of the innovation it will take, think of the future it will make. Having problems to solve isn't a bad thing.

I propose that we multi task.

Let’s brag about our awesomeness but not dismiss the work at hand.

Let’s change the conversation from complaining about the problems to looking for the solutions.

Let's not wait for policy makers to lead the charge, let's innovate and find ways to improve things from the bottom up.

Let’s roll up our sleeves to get the job done hand while still telling everyone about those other things that make us proud to hold up our driver’s license.

Let's ask ourselves "What am I doing to make my Tasmania better"?

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