Liffey Home of Bob Brown Provisionally Registered

 

This simple weatherboard house perched beneath Drys Bluff tells you a lot about its residents. Its dramatic setting is reminiscent of tourism images of Tasmanian 'wilderness'. No power lines serve the house and it has no vehicular access. It could be an early-twentieth-century farmhouse—or a philosopher's retreat.

In fact it's both. In 1973 the old Crack family farm became the Spartan residence of a young medical practitioner from the New South Wales backblocks. After years of struggle with social isolation and depression relating to his repressed homosexuality, Dr Bob Brown had found an affinity with Tasmania's magnificent wild environment. At Oura Oura, as he dubbed the property, Brown established a home in that natural paradise, a sanctuary on the mountainside.

Oura Oura was destined to play a part in major political upheaval. The Tasmania that Brown had come to love was threatened. He led a campaign to save the Franklin River from development which changed the Tasmanian political landscape, being described as 'one of the defining moments in Australian political history' and one of the events that 'shaped' Australia. It also turned Bob Brown into an international figure. Oura Oura was Brown's retreat from the public stage but also the early meeting place of the Wilderness Society. The house lit only by candle or lantern contributed to his minimalistic, monastic image and was emblematic of his 'brand', that is, 'wilderness', and the spiritual nature of its following. Brown's Liffey house, according to one biographer, looked 'a little like a church'.

Almost synonymous with its high-profile resident, the 'little house at Liffey' has been commemorated in song and made countless media appearances. Oura Oura has been a stronghold for environmental activism and Green philosophy. It was here in 1984 that the Tasmanian Greens initiated efforts to establish an Australian Greens party; where Bush Heritage Australia was founded in 1990; where Brown withdrew after ending his state parliamentary career to write his manifesto The Greens in partnership with philosopher Peter Singer; where he launched a new parliamentary career as Australia's first Greens senator. Even today, eight years after Brown handed the property over to Bush Heritage Australia, the desk with the view over the Liffey River to the Cluan Tiers remains a favourite place to write. His influence as an activist and politician is written in the land tenure at Oura Oura. When he arrived at the house in 1973, Drys Bluff was Crown land under threat of clear felling. Today the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) starts literally at the back fence.

For more history, click through to read the Tasmanian Heritage Register entry. Public consultation on the Heritage Register entry is now open. For more information click here.



 

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