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177 Nations of Tasmania - Episode 49 - Mysterious Mauritius

Updated: Apr 14, 2022

Mauritius is a small and quite remote set of islands in the Indian Ocean, and some 2000km off the coast of the African mainland. So perhaps it's not the sort of place you'd expect to find migrants from in Tasmania....and yet Tasmania and Mauritius do have some interesting connections.

First of all, Mauritius, despite being small and remote, Mauritius has a population of around 1.3 million, and has quite a large diaspora for its size, and many can be found in Australia, in fact accord to the Department of Home Affairs, there were almost 25,000 Mauritius-born residents in Australia.

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Mauritius was also the starting point for the journey of Abel Tasman's journey to Tasmania and New Zealand in the 1640s, and many Tasmanias may not be aware that Bruny Island and the D'Entrecasteaux Channel, both well known areas in Southern Tasmania, were named after French explorer Bruni D'Entrecasteax, who later became Governor of Mauritius.

But these are some of those interesting facts that I discover every time I do a bit of research before ( or after ) an interview as it helps me to ask better questions, or at least that's the theory.

However, the personal stories, like Jean-Marie's, really give you more of deeper and intimate insight into life in a place like Mauritius in a bygone era.

Perhaps the most interesting to me, were Jean-Marie's reminiscences of his time as a child living on the island of Rodrigues. Mauritius is the main island with over a million people and a lot of development, but Rodrigues is more remote and has only some 50,000 inhabitants, and even less in Jean-Marie's day. Jean-Marie gave a sense of the ease and simplicity of island life, but also the lack of basic things we take for granted elsewhere like fridges and regular mail. In fact, he gave a very nice anecdote of the cargo ship that would deliver supplies to the island once a month and mail would be delivered by calling people's name out at the harbour.

It's these little anecdotes which I feel are important to record as they are windows into a way of living that could get forgotten and passed over by future generations. And whether it's Rodrigues or elsewhere, there are no doubt similarities around the lifestyle in islands and other remote communities around the world.

Of course, also Mauritius and Tasmania are both connected by their closeness to the sea and their reliance and sea-borne transport, and so it is makes sense that Jean-Marie, with his career in the maritime industry would be drawn to that career in Mauritius but also find himself living and working near Devonport, Tasmania.

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