Northern Territory

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The Northern Territory is a federal territory of Australia. The capital city is Darwin; the other two sizable settlements are Alice Springs (in the desert interior, 1500 km to the south) and Katherine (near the base of the Top End). Residents of the Northern Territory are often known simply as 'Territorians'.



There were four early attempts to settle the harsh environment of the northern coast, of which three failed in starvation and despair. The Northern Territory was part of New South Wales from 1825 to 1863 and part of South Australia from 1863 to 1911. On 1 January 1911, a decade after federation, the Northern Territory was separated from South Australia and transferred to Commonwealth control.

For a brief time between 1926 and 1931 the Northern Territory was divided into North Australia and Central Australia at the 20th parallel of South latitude. See A Brief History of the Administration in the Northern Territory ( Soon after this time, parts of the Northern Territory were considered in the Kimberley Scheme ( as a possible site for the establishment of a Jewish Homeland, understandably considered the "Unpromised Land".

During World War II, most of the Top End was placed under military government. This is the only time since Federation that an Australian state or territory has been under military control. After the war, control for the entire area was handed back to the Commonwealth.

Australian Aboriginal people had struggled for rights to fair wages and land. An important event in this struggle was the strike and walk off by the Gurindji people at Wave Hill, cattle station in 1966. The Commonwealth Government of Gough Whitlam set up the Woodward Royal Commission in February 1973 set to inquire into how land rights might be achieved in the Northern Territory. Justice Woodward's first report in July 1973 recommended that a Central Land Council and a Northern Land Council be established in order to present to him the views of Aboriginal people. In response to the report of the Royal Commission a Land Rights Bill was drafted, but the Whitlam Government was dismissed before it was passed.

The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 was eventually passed by the Fraser Government on 16 December 1976 and began operation on Australia Day, that is 26 January 1977.

In 1978 the Territory was granted responsible government, with a Legislative Assembly headed by a Chief Minister.

The Northern Territory was briefly one of the few places in the world with legal voluntary euthanasia, until the Federal Parliament overturned the legislation. Before the overriding legislation was enacted, three people had been voluntarily euthanasised by Dr Philip Nitschke.


The territory has a legislative assembly. Whilst this assembly exercises roughly the same powers as the governments of the states of Australia, it does so by delegation of powers from the commonwealth government, rather than by any constitutional right.

For several years there has been agitation for full statehood. A referendum was held on the issue in 1998, which failed. This was a shock to both the Northern Territory and Commonwealth governments, for opinion polls showed most Territorians supported statehood. However, under the Australian Constitution, the Federal government may set the terms of entry to full statehood. The Northern Territory was offered three Senators, rather than the full complement of 12. (With 12 Senate seats, a Territorian vote would have been worth more than 30 votes in New South Wales or Victoria.) Alongside what was cited as an arrogant approach adopted by then Chief Minister Shane Stone, it is believed that most Territorians were reluctant to adopt the offer which was made.

The current head of government is Chief Minister Clare Martin who led the Australian Labor Party to their first Northern Territory electoral victory in August 2001, and to a second victory in June 2005. The leader of the opposition Denis Burke, head of the Country Liberal Party, until the Territory elections of June 2005, where Burke lost his seat. It is currently unclear who will next lead the Country Liberal Party.

The territory is represented in the Commonwealth parliament by two members in the House of Representatives and two members in the Senate.

At the local government level, there are 6 incorporated municipalities (3 town councils, 1 shire and 2 cities), 30 'community government councils' and 26 other bodies. See: Local Government Areas of the Northern Territory

Aboriginal Land Rights

The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 established the basis upon which Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory could, for the first time, claim rights to land based on traditional occupation. In effect it allowed title to be transferred of most of the Aboriginal reserve lands and the opportunity to claim other land not owned, leased or being used by someone else.

The Land Councils are representative bodies with statutory authority under the Act. They also have responsibilities under the Native Title Act 1993 and the Pastoral Land Act 1992. There are four Land Councils in the Northern Territory, they are:


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Northern Territory towns, settlement and road network

There are many very small settlements scattered across the Territory but the larger population centres are located on the single sealed road that links Darwin to southern Australia, the Stuart Highway, known to locals simply as "the track".

The Northern Territory is also home to two spectacular natural rock formations, Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), which are sacred to the local Aborigines and which have become major tourist attractions.

In the northern part of the territory lies Kakadu National Park, which features breathtaking wetlands and native wildlife. To the north of that lies the Arafura Sea, and to the east lies Arnhem Land, whose regional centre is Maningrida on the Liverpool River delta.

Rivers include:

National Parks

  • Arnhem Land (Restricted Area)
  • Arltunga Historical Reserve
  • Barranyi Nth. Island National Park
  • Berry Springs Nature Park.
  • Butterfly Gorge Nature Park
  • Cape Hotham Conservation Reserve
  • Casuarina Coastal Reserve
  • Connells Lagoon Conservation Park
  • Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park
  • Daly River Nature Park
  • Devil's Marbles Conservation Reserve
  • Djukbinj National Park
  • Douglas Hot Springs Nature Park
  • East Point Reserve
  • Elsey National Park
  • Finke Gorge National Park
  • Fish River Forestry Reserve
  • Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve
  • Gregory National Park
  • Gurig National Park
  • Howard Springs Conservation Reserve
  • Kakadu National Park
  • Keep River National Park
  • Kings Canyon National Park
  • Leaning Tree Lagoon Nature Park
  • Litchfield National Park.
  • Manton Dam Park
  • Marrakai Conservation Reserve
  • Mary River Crossing Conservation Reserve and proposed National Park
  • Mataranka Thermal Springs
  • Nitmiluk National Park
    • Katherine Gorge
  • Palm Valley
  • Robin Falls
  • Ruby Gap Nature Park
  • Simpsons Gap National Park
  • Tanami Desert
  • Trephina Gorge Nature Park
  • Uluru National Park
  • Umbrawarra Gorge Nature Park
  • Watarrka National Park

See protected areas of the Northern Territory (Australia) for a full list.


The population of the Northern Territory is only about 1% of the total population of Australia. Population centres include the capital, Darwin, nearby Palmerston and Alice Springs.

Australian Aboriginal people make up 27 per cent of the Northern Territory's population and own some 49% of the land in the Northern Territory.

The Northern Territory's alcohol consumption is one of the highest in the world, and certainly the highest in Australia. In 2001 the alcohol consumption rate was estimated at 1120 standard drinks per person per year.


The New Territories economy comprises mostly primary extractive industries, together with a significant amount of tourism.

The prinicipal mining operations are:


Hill, Ernestine. 1951. The Territory: The classic saga of Australia's far north. Angus & Robertson. Reprint: 1995. ISBN 0-207-18821-1

External links

de:Northern Territory

et:Phjaterritoorium fr:Territoire du nord he:הטריטוריה הצפונית is:Norur-svi ka:ჩრდილოეთი ტერიტორია (ავსტრალია) lb:Nrdlechen Territoire nl:Noordelijk Territorium ja:ノーザンテリトリー pl:Terytorium Północne


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