Protesting the Franklin Dam

Tasmanians were sharply divided over a 1978 proposal to dam the Franklin River and generate hydro-electricity.

In 1978 the Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Commission—with approval from the Tasmanian Government—announced plans to build a dam on the Franklin River to generate hydro-electricity. 

Tasmanians were sharply divided over the proposal. Many supported the project for the economic benefits it would bring to the state, while others opposed it because of the damage it would cause to an environmentally sensitive wilderness area.

Actions to protect this wilderness area included a large and sustained non-violent protest campaign against the dam, and World Heritage listing of the area. The newly elected Hawke Labor government intervened and the project was abandoned in 1983.

Curriculum areas

  • Year 10 History


  • Protesters opposing the dam mounted one of the largest environmental campaigns in Australian history. How important do you think their campaign was to the decision not to build the dam?
  • The areas affected by the dam proposal gained World Heritage listing during the campaign. Why was this listing significant?
  • Federal and state governments need to consider competing interests when they approve a project that has large economic benefits but a negative impact on the environment. What competing issues can you identify in this case?