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Franklin River, 1983

The proposed damming of the Franklin River in Tasmania led to one of the largest environmental protests in Australian history. Click on the images below for photos, videos and more information. Suitable for years 3 to 6.

Why build a dam?

Water supply and energy

There are various reasons for damming a river. The most obvious is to create a more reliable water supply for a town or city. In a country where rainfall can be variable (and is often seasonal), having a ready supply of water is essential. Dams also provide water for irrigation, to grow crops and run livestock, in drier areas.

Rivers can also be dammed to generate hydro-electricity. This was the main reason behind the proposal to dam the Franklin River. Supporters argued that the dam would provide clean energy for Tasmania, create jobs and encourage economic growth.

Why oppose a dam?

Rare and wild river

When a river is dammed, a reservoir of water is created that drowns much of the river valley. The flow of water downstream is often reduced, impacting on the life of the river and nearby areas.

The Franklin River in Tasmania is one of the few wild rivers remaining in Australia. People objected to the damming of the river because they believed it would destroy a unique natural habitat, which had recently been added to the World Heritage List.

Did you know?

Aboriginal people lived in Kutikina Cave on the Franklin during the last ice age (about 20,000 years ago). The cave is thought to be the world’s southernmost site of human habitation at that time.

Whose decision?

Stopping the dam

The Tasmanian Government made the decision to dam the Franklin River in 1978, hoping to create jobs and boost the state's economy with the sale of electricity from the dam.

The proposed dam was opposed by many people who wanted the river and the land around it preserved. Hundreds of protestors were arrested on charges of trespassing and obstruction.

In 1983 the Federal Government vowed to stop the dam and was supported by the High Court of Australia.

Take the quiz

How much do you know about the Franklin River? Check out the Kids learning space pages above, then see how many answers you can get right!

Start the Franklin River
online quiz

Do the exercise

What arguments were used by supporters and opponents of the plan to dam the Franklin River? Pay close attention to the Kids learning space pages above, then see how many answers you can get right!

Start the Franklin River
online exercise

Watch the videos

Take a journey down the Franklin River with botanist Antonius Moscal.

Journey down the Franklin River 3:49

Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office

Franklin River campaign on ABC Education website
1986 ABC TV report about the fight to save the Franklin River, led by the Tasmanian Wilderness Society. Duration: 6:58.

Tasmanian Wilderness on the UNESCO website
'A Marvel of Nature' video, maps and photo gallery. Duration: 2:42.

Additional resources

Collection highlights

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