Ongoing European suppression of Aboriginal cultural land management since early-nineteenth century colonisation is widely thought to have caused major transformations across all Australian landscapes, including vegetation thickening, severe fires and biodiversity declines. However, these effects are often confounded in the densely settled southern Australia due to European land transformation. Landscapes currently under conservation and national park management in Tasmania are generally less disturbed, providing an opportunity to track ecosystem changes caused by the removal of Aboriginal peoples following colonisation in southern Australia. We use a multi-proxy palaeoecological technique and the analysis of historical aerial photography to investigate these changes in Cape Pillar, southeast Tasmania. Results reveal a major ecological shift following European colonisation, with the replacement of stable, open wet heathland characterised by minor fires (active cultural land use) with dense dry scrub characterised by major fires (cessation of cultural land use). We also discuss potential background role of regional climatic shifts in the observed ecological changes. Management programmes designed to restore open heathland pre-colonial cultural ecosystem would help reduce the risk of large fires in Cape Pillar.