The modern Northern Territory: 1950s to self-government

The Northern Territory Chronicle 


January 26             

Darwin constituted a city by Status of Darwin Ordinance 1959

Crown Lands Ordinance 1931-1959 is amended to impose a limit of 5000 sq. miles on holdings of pastoral leases (50-year leases)

Northern Territory Housing Commission is established under Housing Ordinance


Northern Territory (Administration) Act is amended to make Northern Territory Legislative Council more representative and to give local members more control. House to number 17 of which 8 are to be elected (comes into operation 4 January 1960)

April 29

Northern Territory Representation Act amended to give certain voting rights to NT representatives


Social service benefits are made available for Aboriginals on the same basis as other members of the community

CSIRO establishes Coastal Plains research station at Middle Point

Committee to enquire into prospects of agriculture in NT is established under the chairmanship of Professor H.C. Forster

September 24

Consolidation and extension of Petermann, Haasts Bluff, and South West Aboriginal Reserves gazetted

Report of Joint Committee on Constitutional Review released

October 1   

Commencement of Wards Employment Ordinance 1953 '

From Helen J. Wilson, The Northern Territory Chronicle, History Unit, Department of the Chief Minister,1982; second edition with Elizabeth Estbergs, Northern Territory University Planning Authority, 1984

Click on headings below to move to different sections:

Self –government in the Northern Territory
Northern Territory movers and shakers
What the historical actors said
Northern Territory, past, present and future

Government of the Northern Territory 

Alistair Heatley, A City Grows: A History of the Darwin City Council, 1957-1984, NARU/ANU, 1986
Alistair Heatley, The Government of the Northern Territory, University of Queensland Press, 1979
P.F. Donovan, At the Other End of Australia: The Commonwealth and the Northern Territory 1911-1978, University of Queensland Press, 1984
Ted Ling, Commonwealth Government Records about the Northern Territory, National Archives of Australia, 2011

Self-government in the Northern Territory 

‘The granting of Self-Government to the NT in 1978 was a big event for the “last frontier” of the Australian continent, and the progress made in the two short years since has proven the worth of the move…the NT has put forward more financial and industrial development in mining and building in the time, relative to its population than most other states would achieve in several times the period. 
The social development has also been astounding. 
Results in the first election since Self-Government, and the way the election was conducted, prove Territorians are taking an active interest in the future of their part of Australia and the way it’s run politically. 
The development of the Territory’s natural resources has also led us to one of the leading roles in Australia. The NT has become a leader in Aboriginal liaison and land rights. 
The traditional owners of the uranium deposit sites in the Alligator River region and of the resources in the Centre are being given a say.
Their role in the development of the products located in both areas has been closely followed by other governments and other Indigenous people throughout the world.’
From Territory Self-Government: the first two years, Northern Territory News feature compiled by Andy Bruyn, 21 August 1980 

Northern Territory movers and shakers

See David Carment et al.Northern Territory Dictionary of Biography, 3 volumes, Charles Darwin University Press 1990, 1992, 1996

for well-researched biographies of notable Territory figures including Paul Everingham, Nicholas Paspaley, Wandjuk Djuakan Marika, Ella Stack, George Haritos, Jimmy Ah Toy and Ronald and Catherine Berndt

What the historical actors said

Marshall Perron MLA, Australia Facing Asia: A Northern Territory View, address by the Deputy Chief Minister to the fourth annual Northern Australia Development Seminar, Broome, 3 November 1979

Paul Everingham, Policy Speech, 26 May 1980; includes The Territory at the Crossroads, Self-Government: the Record; Strong Territory Development; Aboriginal Education, Training and Community Development; Community Colleges; University of the Northern Territory; Local and Community Development; Health Services; Energy; People, Young and Old; NT Public Service; The Task Ahead

Paul Everingham, address, Northern Territory Planning Authority, Toward Statehood: Alaska, Hawaii and the Northern Territory, 15 June 1982

Ministerial Statement, Northern Territory: Towards Statehood, 28 August 1986

Occasional Papers, State Library of the Northern Territory (from 1986) are an invaluable record written by those with special knowledge and experience of the Northern Territory. Titles include Pioneers of Post-War Recovery, Sir Paul Hasluck (1992); Ten Years of Self-Government, Graham Nicholson (1990) and Arnhem Land: A Personal History, Ted Evans (1990); the first 39 are listed on, and various titles are available at the National Library of Australia and the Mitchell Library at the State Library of New South Wales 

Northern Territory, past, present and future (1981) 

'...the great north Australian dilemma: large areas of arable land, sparsely occupied; land settlement and development; our proximity to the millions of Southeast Asia; Asian migration to northern Australia; our cultural ties and trade with our northern neighbours; and our continued occupancy in, and defence of this area...’

Click here to read Harry Giese’s paper


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