Fanny Cochrane Smith

Fanny Cochrane Smiths’ songs of survival

This here is the only recording of a language that has become extinct, the languages of the Tasmanian indigenous people:

The woman in this recording is Fanny Cochrane Smith. Fanny was born in 1834 on Flinders Island. She became a trailblazer for her people and well-known for her singing voice, she sang the songs of her people to crowds of European people and they seemed to love it. Between 1899 and 1904, recordings were made on wax cylinders using a grammophone. Being the last fluent speaker of any Aboriginal Tasmanian language (she was around the age of 70 at the time), these recordings of Fanny have been preserved by the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) and last week they were inscribed on UNESCO’s Australian Memory of the World Register.

One of Cochrane’s descendants said it was a proud day and spoke about the general message of the songs she sang in an interview with ABC news:

“She was a strong woman, a woman who stood up and spoke the truth about what was going on. Bearing in mind she would have known of the atrocities of the things that happened in the past to her families, she was singing about what was important to her as an Aboriginal person.”