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LISA MILLAR visits ‘Lairmairrener Country’ in the Central Highlands of Tasmania tonight on BACK ROADS

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Guest presenter Lisa Millar heads to the ‘land of a thousand lakes’, the Central Highlands in Tasmania.

This often-overlooked patch of Tassie doesn’t feature in the tourism ads. It is a harsh, sometimes beautiful place where people live in isolated shack communities dotted around the lakes.

Most of these wily ‘Highlanders’ are drawn here by what hovers beneath the water – the wild, speckled brown trout. The Central Highlands is regarded as one of the best fly-fishing spots on the planet and attracts people from all over the world.

However, the water in the Highlands can be deceptive. On a fine day, when the surface of the lakes reflects the azure sky, it looks like a patch of Mediterranean paradise. But it can all change in an instant. The fickle and often brutal weather plays a big role in life up here. Just ask the locals. Their lives revolve around its ever-changing moods.

Driving around the Great Lake, Lisa’s stomach turns when she looks in the rear vision mirror and sees that familiar combination of red and blue flashing lights. When the local police officer, Senior Constable Dan Adams pulls her over, she thinks the worst.

Luckily for her, instead of a ticket Lisa gets a tour of the local area. Dan’s stationed in the old hydro town of Liawenee, which is the Aboriginal word for ‘frigid’ and has a population of 2. Last year it took out the title of being one of the coldest inhabited places in Australia.

To delve into the history of this place, Dan says Lisa must visit Irene Glover, one of the last true-blue ‘Highlanders’. Irene’s family has been in the area for 5 generations. She and her husband run a sheep property called ‘Wihareja’. They’re the last fulltime farmers in the Highlands.

Irene says that a big part of the history of this place is wrapped up with the shepherds who roamed these parts since the early 1800s. When the feed ran out in the low-lands, farmers hired shepherds to run the sheep up to the Central Highlands.

They lived in shacks for months on end tending the sheep and later hunting and trapping rabbits to survive. While shepherding may be a thing of the past, hunting is very much a part of the present. Lisa gets a big surprise when Irene, an avid hunter, shows her into her office and discovers it is lined with her mounted stag trophies. They breed ‘em tough up here!

Lisa heads back to the Great Lake to find out more about what lures most people here – the fishing. She catches up with fisherman, ‘Hairy’ Castles, who lives in Miena, the largest town on the lake. He looks as wild and woolly as the weather. He joined the fly-fishing army early in life when his Dad brought him up here to stay in a shack by the lake.

Back then, Hairy reckons the shacks where primitive – no power, outside toilets and tank water. People used to come up to fish and would build a shack at their favourite spot. And so, the shack communities were born. A lot has changed since those days. Now the shacks are all being ‘renovated’, and mainlanders are buying them up to take advantage of the trout and those million-dollar views.

Join Lisa as she goes on a journey in the wild beating heart of Tassie and discovers what it takes to be a ‘Highlander’.

Note: No fish were hurt in the making of this program.

Executive Producer, Brigid Donovan. Story Producer, Louise Turley.

Back Roads episode 12 airs Thursday, 22 April, 8.00pm on ABC and ABC iview

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