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The title Administrator of the Government (Administrator) has several uses in Australia.

Administrator of the Commonwealth

At the Commonwealth level, Section 4 of the Australian Constitution provides that:

The provisions of this Constitution relating to the Governor-General extend and apply to the Governor-General for the time being, or such person as the Queen may appoint to administer the Government of the Commonwealth; but no such person shall be entitled to receive any salary from the Commonwealth in respect of any other office during his administration of the Government of the Commonwealth.

Following this provision, when the Governor-General dies, resigns or is absent from Australia, an Administrator is appointed. The Administrator is styled either Administrator of the Commonwealth or, less commonly, Administrator of the Government of the Commonwealth. On 11 May 2003 the Letters Patent commissioning the Governor-General were amended to include revised circumstances in which an Administrator can be asked to take over.

By convention, the Administrator is usually the longest-serving state Governor, who holds a dormant commission from the Sovereign (Queen Elizabeth II) which comes into effect in these circumstances. For example, in May 2003 when Dr Peter Hollingworth stood aside as Governor-General, Tasmanianmarker Governor Sir Guy Green was appointed Administrator.

Administrator of a State

In the Australian states, when the Governor dies, resigns or is absent, the Lieutenant-Governor (appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Premier) performs the official duties of the Governor as Administrator until such time as the Crown appoints a new Governor. In the absence of both a Governor and Lieutenant-Governor, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of that State or the next most senior Puisne Judge, traditionally holding, ex officio, the position of Lieutenant-Governor, assumes his position as head of the executive until a Governor is appointed.

Administrator of a Territory

Unlike the Australian states, each of which is a possession of the Crown in its own right and which therefore possesses a Governor directly representing the Queen, all Australian territories are possessions of the Crown in right of the Commonwealth of Australia and the sole direct representative of the Crown therefore remains the Commonwealth Governor-General. Unlike the states, the territories fall within the exclusive legislative and administrative competence of the Commonwealth. In respect of several territories the Governor-General is represented in the territory by an Administrator appointed to administer the territory on his behalf. In those territories with an Administrator, the Administrator can be considered the indirect representative of the Queen in the territory.

Northern Territory

In the Northern Territorymarker, which is not a state and does not have a Governor, but which is self-governing with its own legislature and executive, the role of the Crown is filled by an Administrator of the Northern Territory appointed by the Governor-General-in-Council – that is, the Governor-General acting on the formal advice of the Federal Executive Council – on the recommendation of the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, in accordance with the provisions of the Northern Territory (Self Government) Act 1978 (Cth).

Administrators of the Northern Territory since Self-Government

Australian Capital Territory

The Australian Capital Territorymarker does not have an Administrator. As in all other Australian territories, the Governor-General of the Commonwealth remains the direct constitutional representative of the Queen in the Territory; however, pursuant to the provisions of the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988 (Cth) there is a Territory Executive consisting of the Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory and any other Ministers admitted by him to the Executive. The Crown is therefore represented by the Governor-General of Australia in the Government of the ACT. However, reserve powers analogous to those vested in a State Governor are vested by the Act in the federal Minister for Territories who may, eg, dissolve the ACT Assembly in cases of corruption or deadlock.

Other Australian Territories

As well as the internal and largely self-governing territories of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, Australia also possesses (or lays claim to – since Australia's Antarctic claims are not universally recognised) seven external territories, each of which falls within the sphere of influence of the Commonwealth and is administered by the Commonwealth Government. Three of these, Norfolk Islandmarker (which enjoys a large degree of autonomy), the Territory of Cocos Islandsmarker and the Territory of Christmas Islandmarker have permanent populations and also have an Administrator appointed by the Governor-General-in-Council to administer the territory on his behalf. The remaining four external territories, the Australian Antarctic Territory, the Coral Sea Islands Territorymarker, the Territory of Ashmore Reef and Cartier Islandmarker, and the Territory of Heard and McDonald Islandsmarker have no permanent population and do not have an Administrator as such but are administered directly by the Commonwealth Government, currently under the auspices of the Attorney-General's Department.

In addition to the two self-governing internal territories and Australia's seven external territories, there is also the internal territory of Jervis Baymarker. Prior to ACTmarker Self-Government in 1989 what is now the Jervis Bay Territory constituted part of the Australian Capital Territory. Upon ACT Self-Government it became a separate territory located on the Australian mainland; for the most part it is populated with Defence Force personnel. The territory does not have an Administrator and is administered directly by the Commonwealth Government.


  1. Chapter 1, Part 1 - The Parliament - General, Australian Constitution.
  2. McKeown, Deidre: Frequently Asked Questions About the Office of Governor-General, Parliament of Australia, 18 August 2003.
  3. Epstein, Rafael: Sir Guy faces first day as Administrator, AM (ABC Radio National, 15 May 2003.
  4. The Role of the Lieutenant Governor, Governor of South Australia.
  5. The Administrator as Head of State Appointment, Northern Territory Legislative Assembly.

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