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Alice Springs location in Australia

Alice Springs is the second largest city in the Northern Territorymarker of Australia. Popularly known as "the Alice" or simply "Alice", Alice Springs is situated in the geographic centre of Australia near the southern border of the Northern Territory. The site is known as Mparntwe to its traditional inhabitants, the Arrernte, who have lived in the Central Australian desert in and around what is now Alice Springs for more than 50,000 years. Alice Springs has a population of 27,481 people which makes up 12 per cent of the territory's population. Averaging above sea level, the town is nearly equidistant from Adelaidemarker and Darwinmarker.

There are six suburbs altogether in Alice Springs which are close to the Alice Springs town centre. Alice Springs is mostly residential.

The town of Alice Springs straddles the usually dry Todd Rivermarker on the northern side of the MacDonnell Ranges. The region where Alice Springs is located is known as Central Australia, or the Red Centre, and is an arid environment consisting of several different deserts. In Alice Springs, temperatures can vary by up to and rainfall can vary quite dramatically from year to year. In summer, the average maximum temperature is , whereas in winter the average minimum temperature can be .


The "Springs" that gave the town its name
The Arrernte Aboriginal people have made their home in the Central Australian desert in and around the site of the future Alice Springs for more than 50,000 years. The Aboriginal name for Alice Springs is Mparntwe.

Three major groups Western, Eastern and Central Arrernte people live in Central Australia, their traditional land including the area of Alice Springs and East/West MacDonnell Ranges. They are also referred to as Aranda, Arrarnta, Arunta, and other similar spellings. Their neighbours are the Southern Arrernte, Luritja, Anmatyerr, Alyawarr and Western Arrernte peoples. There are five dialects of the Arrernte language: South-eastern, Central, Northern, Eastern and North-eastern.

Arrernte country is rich with mountain ranges, waterholes, and gorges; as a result the Arrernte people set aside 'conservation areas' in which various species are protected.

According to the Arrernte traditional stories, in the desert surrounding Alice Springs, the landscape was shaped by caterpillars, wild dogs, travelling boys, two sisters, euros, and other ancestral figures.
Alice Springs Desert Park, Sand Drawing Aboriginal

There are many sites of traditional importance in and around Alice Springs, such as Anthwerrke (Emily Gap), Akeyulerre (Billy Goat Hill), Ntaripe (Heavitree Gap), Atnelkentyarliweke (Anzac Hill), and Alhekulyele (Mt Gillen).

There are roughly 1,800 speakers of Eastern and Central Arrernte, making it the largest spoken language in the Arandic family, and one of the largest speaking populations of any Australian language. It is taught in schools, heard in local media and local government.

Many Arrernte people also live in communities outside of Alice Springs and on outstations.

In 1861–62, John McDouall Stuart led an expedition through Central Australia, to the west of what later became Alice Springs, thereby establishing a route from the south of the continent to the north.

A settlement came into existence as a result of the construction of a repeater station on the Overland Telegraph Line, which linked Adelaidemarker to Darwinmarker and Great Britainmarker.

The OTL was completed in 1872. It traced Stuart's route and opened up the interior for permanent settlement. It wasn’t until alluvial gold was discovered at Arltunga, east of the present Alice Springs, in 1887 that any significant settlement occurred. Until the 1930s, however, the town was known as Stuart.
Telegraph station
The telegraph station was sited near what was thought to be a permanent waterhole in the normally dry Todd Rivermarker and was optimistically named Alice Springs after the wife of the former Postmaster General of South Australiamarker, Sir Charles Todd. The Todd River was named after Sir Charles himself.

The original mode of transportation in the outback were camel trains, operated by immigrants from Pathan tribes in the North-West frontier of the then British India (present-day Pakistanmarker) who were misnamed 'Afghan' Camellers.

In 1929 the Palmerston and Pine Creek Railway was completed from Darwin as far as Birdum, while the Great Northern Railway had been completed in 1891 from Port Augusta as far as Oodnadattamarker, South Australiamarker, south of Alice Springs.
Alice Springs Landsat image
The lines wouldn't meet until 2003. On 4 February 2004, the first passenger train arrived in Darwin from Adelaide.

During the 1960s it became an important defence location with the development of the US/Australian Pine Gap joint defence satellite monitoring base, home to about 700 workers from both countries, but by far the major industry in recent times is tourism.

Almost in the exact centre of the continent, Alice Springs is some from the nearest ocean and from the nearest major cities, Darwin and Adelaide. Alice Springs is now the midpoint of the Adelaide–Darwin Railway.

World War II

During World War II, Alice Springs was a staging base, known as No 9 Australian Staging Camp, and a depot base for the long four-day trip to Darwin. The historic-listed Totem Theatre still exists from this camp.

The Australian Army also set up the 109th Australian General Hospital at Alice Springs. Seven mile aerodromemarker was also constructed by the Royal Australian Air Force.

Modern town

The modern town of Alice Springs has both western and Aboriginal influences. The town's focal point, the Todd Mall, hosts a number of Aboriginal art galleries and community events. Alice Springs’ desert lifestyle has inspired several unique and interesting events such as the Camel Cup, the Henley-on-Todd Regatta and the Beanie Festival.


Built environment

Alice Springs Telegraph Station
Alice Springs has many historic buildings, such as the Overland Telegraph Station, Adelaide House, the Old Courthouse and Residency and the Hartley Street School. Today the town is an important tourist hub and service centre for the surrounding area. It is a well-appointed town for its size with several large hotels, a world class convention centre and a good range of visitor attractions, restaurants and other services.
Rough Map to Local Points of Interest

The MacDonnell Ranges run east and west of Alice Springs and contain a number of hiking trails and swimming holes such as Ormiston Gorge, Ormiston Gorge Creek, Red Bank Gorge and Glen Helen Gorge. The long Larapinta Trail follows the West MacDonnell Ranges and is considered among the world's great walking experiences.

The Simpson Desertmarker, south-east of Alice Springs is one of Australia's great wilderness areas containing giant red sand dunes and interesting rock formations such as Chambers Pillarmarker and Rainbow Valley.


The town of Alice Springs straddles the usually dry Todd Rivermarker on the northern side of the MacDonnell Ranges. The region where Alice Springs is located is known as Central Australia, or the Red Centre, and is an arid environment consisting of several different deserts.

In Alice Springs, temperatures can vary by up to 28°C (50°F) and rainfall can vary quite dramatically from year to year. In summer, the average maximum temperature is in the high 30s, whereas in winter the average minimum temperature can be .

Under the Köppen climate classification, Alice Springs has a desert climate (BWh).The annual average rainfall is which would make it a semi-arid climate except that its high evapotranspiration, or its aridity, makes it a desert climate. Annual precipitation is erratic, varying year to year in Alice Springs. In 2001 fell and in 2002 only fell.

Source: Averages for Alice Springs Airport, 1940–2008, Bureau of Meteorology
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Notes: Temperatures are in degrees Celsius. Precipitation is in millimetres. Alice Springs Airport Latitude: 23.80° S Longitude: 133.89° E Elevation: 546 m ASL


In June 2006, approximately 26,486 people lived in Alice Springs with a total of 39,888 in the region.In 2006, the largest ancestry groups in the Alice Springs were, Australian (9,812 or 37%), English (6,975 or 26.6%), Irish (2,220 or 8.3%), Scottish (1,822 or 6.8%), Australian Aboriginal (1,794 or 6.7%), German (1,498 or 5.7%), and Italian (525 or 2%)

Alice Springs population comprises people from many different ethnic backgrounds. The 2006 Census revealed the following most places of birth for overseas migrants: United Kingdommarker (3.4%), United States of Americamarker (3%), New Zealandmarker (1.9%), and Philippinesmarker (0.8%).

The most common non English languages spoken in Alice Springs are: Arrernte, Warlpiri, Luritja, Pitjantjatjara, and Italian.

Aboriginal population

According to the 2001 census, Australian Aborigines make up approximately 17% of the population of Alice Springs, and 29% of the Northern Territorymarker. As Alice Springs is the regional hub of Central Australia it attracts Aboriginal people from all over that region and well beyond. Many Aborigines visit regularly to use the town's services. Aboriginal residents usually live in the suburbs, on special purpose leases (or town camps) or further out at Amoonguna to the South and on the small family outstation communities on Aboriginal Lands in surrounding areas.

The traditional owners of the Alice Springs area are the Central Arrernte people. As it is the largest town in central Australia, there are also speakers of Warlpiri, Warumungu, Kaytetye, Alyawarre, Luritja, Pintupi, Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara, Ngaanyatjarra, Pertame, Eastern, and Western Arrernte among others.

Foreign and itinerant populations

American population

Official Notice — Prohibited Area
The American population in Alice Springs is primarily associated with the proximity to Pine Gap, a joint Australian and U.S. satellite tracking station, located south-west of Alice Springs. While Pine Gap employs 700 Americans and Australians, there are currently 2,000 people in the Alice Springs district who carry citizenship of the United Statesmarker.

The American population celebrates most of the major US festivals, including Independence Day and Thanksgiving. A portion of the Australian citizens engage in the festivities as well. Also present in town are some sport teams, including baseball, basketball, and American football competitions.

Other cultures

Several small immigrant communities of other foreign cultures have found a home in Alice Springs, including Vietnamesemarker, Chinesemarker, Thaimarker, Germanmarker, and Turkishmarker ethnic groups. The most obvious impact of their presence in such a small and isolated town has been the opening of various restaurants serving their traditional cuisines.

Itinerant population

Alice Springs has a large itinerant population. This population is generally composed of foreign and Australian tourists, Australian Aborigines visiting from nearby Central Australian communities, and Australian or international workers on short-term contracts (colloquially referred to as "blow-ins"). The major sources of work near enough to Alice Springs to bring workers into town are the stations and mines; foreign tourists usually pass through on their way to Uluru, whilst Australian tourists usually come through as a part of an event such as the Master's Games and the Finke Desert Race. These events can cause the population of the town to fluctuate by several thousand within a matter of days.


Araluen Centre for Arts and Entertainment — Alice Springs Cultural Precinct
The Alice Springs Town Councilmarker governs the Alice Springs area, which takes in the town centre, its suburbs and some rural area. The Alice Springs Town Council has governed Alice Springs since 1971. The Alice Springs council consists of 9 members, the Mayor and 8 aldermen. The town is not divided up into wards. The current mayor of Alice Springs is Damien Ryan. Council Meetings are held on the last Monday of each month. The Alice Springs Region is governed by the newly created shire MacDonnell Shire, for which Alice Springs serves as council seat.

Alice Springs and the surrounding region have five elected members to the Northern Territory Legislative Assemblymarker. There is one elected member of the Federal Parliament in the Australian House of Representatives for the area outside of Darwin, the Electoral Division of Lingiari.


Alice Springs began as a service town to the pastoral industry that first came to the region. The introduction of the rail line increased its economy and productivity. Today the town services a region of and a regional population of 38,749. The region includes a number of mining and pastoral communities, the Joint Defence Space Research Facility at Pine Gap and tourist attractions at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Parkmarker, Watarrka National Parkmarker and the MacDonnell Ranges.

Whilst Alice started as a result of the Overland Telegraph line, it is now very much reliant on domestic and international tourism. It is home to the Northern Territory's largest dedicated travel organiser, Territory Discoveries, which employs over 50 full time local staff members.
Flying Doctor dispatch service,
As well as Territory Discoveries, all major tour companies have a base in Alice Springs, including AAT Kings & APT, as well as numerous local operators, including Emu Run Tours, Anganu Waai! tours, Alice Wanderer and Wayoutback Desert Safaris, the only locally based Advanced Ecotourism Accredited operator.

Alice is home to numerous hotels, from the 5 star Lasseters Hotel & Casino, to the backpacker standard Toddies Resort. Also, there are several caravan parks for the driving visitor.

A dispatch centre for the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia operates here.


Education is overseen territory-wide by the Department of Education and Training (DET), whose role is to continually improve education outcomes for all students, with a focus on Indigenous students.

Preschool, primary and secondary

Alice Springs is served by nineteen public and private schools that cater to local and overseas students. Over 3,843 primary and secondary students are enrolled in schools in Darwin, with 2,187 students attending primary education, and 1,656 students attending secondary education. There are over 1,932 students enrolled in government schools and 1,055 students enrolled in independent schools.

Alice Springs has an Alice Springs School of the Air which delivers education to students in remote areas.

Tertiary and vocational

The Alice Springs Campus of Charles Darwin University offers courses in TAFE and higher education. The Centre for Appropriate Technology was established in 1980 and provides a range of services to encourage and help Aboriginal people enhance their quality of life on remote communities.

Recreation and culture

Social characteristics

Alice Springs is often referred to as the lesbian capital of Australia due to the large percentage of lesbians in the population. The town is a place friendly to all people of all sexual orientations, race, and social standing

Events and festivals

Camel Cup, Alice Springs
There are many festivals and events, the town's focal point, the Todd Mall, hosts a number of Aboriginal art galleries and community events. Alice Springs’ desert lifestyle has inspired several unique and interesting events such as the Camel Cup, the Henley-on-Todd Regatta, Beanie Festival and the Finke Desert Race. The Finke Desert Race is some south of Alice Springs in the Simpson Desertmarker.

The American population celebrates most of the major American festivals, including Halloween, Independence Day and Thanksgiving. A portion of the Australian citizens engage in the festivities as well.

Arts and entertainment

Alice Springs is Australia's art capital, home to many local and Aboriginal art galleries. Indigenous Australian art is largely the more dominant showcasing the rich culture and native traditions that abound in Central Australia. Trade in Aboriginal art soared after the painting movement began at Papunya, a Central Australian Aboriginal settlement, and swept other indigenous communities. Central Australia has borne some of the most prominent names in Aboriginal art, including Emily Kngwarreye, Minnie Pwerle, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Albert Namatjira and Wenten Rubuntja.Each year since 11 July 2003, the music festival, Bass in the Dust has been hosted at Alice Springs and the Araluen Centre for Arts and Entertainment presents world-class ballets and orchestras, as well as local performances.

Liz Phair included a song called "Alice Springs" on her 1994 album Whip Smart. The group Midnight Oil mentions Alice Springs in its song Kosciuskomarker and in Warakurna ('There is enough in Redfern as there is in Alice'), and Pine Gap in its song Power and the Passion.

The annual Desert Mob Art Show sees art collectors and art lovers from all over the world travel to Alice Springs to see works from Aboriginal art centres in Central Australia, with works by artists from remote areas of the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia. This show is in conjunction with the Artist Association Desart and usually runs in September of each year at the Araluen Art Centre.

Nevil Shute's novel A Town Like Alice, and the resulting film and television miniseries, takes its name from Alice Springs, although little of the action takes place there. The local library is the Nevil Shute Memorial Librarymarker.


Other leisure and entertainment activities include hiking in the nearby MacDonnell Ranges, driving the four-wheeldrive tracks at Finke Gorge National Parkmarker and visiting the many art galleries in Todd Mall.

On 2 September 2007, Australians in Alice Springs challenge featured wild cat stew recipe or casserole as solution to the millions of feral cats roaming the outback. But wildlife activists strongly opposed including the cat on the nation's menus.

Yearly, felines, descendants of domestic pets, kill millions of small native animals, devouring almost anything that moves, including small marsupials, lizards, birds and spiders making them the most serious threats to Australia's native fauna.

Aborigines roasted the cats on open fire since they considered the dish delicious. Scientists warned that eating wild cats could expose man to harmful bacteria and toxins.

Parks and gardens

The Alice Springs Desert Park was created to educate visitors about the many facets of the surrounding desert environment. The arid climate botanic garden, Olive Pink Botanic Gardenmarker, is a short distance from the town centre. They were named after anthropologist, naturalist and artist Olive Pink, who lived in the town for almost 30 years and died in 1975. She was well known locally and referred to by all as Miss Pink. The Alice Springs Reptile Centremarker is located in the town centre.


Traeger Park, Alice Springs

Alice Springsmarker has a high participation in many different sports, including tennis, hockey, Australian rules football, basketball, soccer, cricket and rugby football.

Australian rules football is a particularly popular sport in Alice Springs in terms of both participation and as a spectator sport. The Central Australian Football League has several teams and a high participation rate. The sport is particularly popular in Indigenous communities. The local stadium, Traeger Parkmarker, has a 10,000 seat capacity and was designed to host (pre-season) AFL and is currently home to the Northern Territory Thunder. In 2004, an AFL pre-season Regional Challenge match between Collingwood Football Club and Port Adelaide Football Club attracted a capacity sell-out crowd.

Cricket is also a popular sport in Alice Springs and is primarily played at Traeger Park. The Imparja Cup Cricket Carnival first was played in 1994 and attracts Indigenous teams from all across Australia. The four main clubs are Federal Demons CC, Rovers CC, RSL Works CC and Wests CC.

Soccer is very popular among the younger community. A high number of kids play it. Soccer is also played quite a bit by adults in different divisions. There is also an all African league for soccer in Alice Springsmarker. A-League team Adelaide United has made Alice Springs its second home.

The Traeger Parkmarker sporting complex also hosts tennis, baseball, boxing, swimming, canoe polo, hockey, basketball, squash, badminton, gymnastics and skateboarding.

A unique sporting event, held annually, is the Henley-on-Todd Regatta, also known as the Todd Rivermarker Race. It is a sand river race with bottomless boats and it remains the only dry river regatta in the world. Another unusual sporting event is the Camel Cup. This is also held annually at the local racetrack, Blatherskite Park. It is a full day event featuring a series of races using camels instead of horses.

Rugby League has been a part of the local sporting scene since 1963. The Australian Rugby League has held a number of pre-season games in Alice Springs, usually at the ANZAC Oval. The local competition is the Central Australian Rugby Football League, that has both junior and senior leagues.

The annual Camel Cup is held in July at Blatherskite Park, part of the Central Australian Show Society grounds.

Every year, on the Queens Birthday long weekend, the annual Finke Desert Race is held. It is a grueling off road race that runs from Alice Springs to the Finke community, then back again the next day. The total length of the race is roughly . It attracts spectators, who camp along the whole length of the track, and roughly 500 competitors, buggies and bikes, every year, making it the biggest sporting event in the Alice Springs calendar.


Alice Springs Desert Park, Bush Tucker
Alice Springs is served by both local and national radio and television services. The government-owned ABCmarker provides four broadcast radio stations — local radio 783 ABC Alice Springs and the national networks Radio National, ABC Classic FM and Triple J.

Commercial radio stations are 8HA 900 kHz and SUN FM 96.9 MHz and community radio is provided by indigenous broadcaster 8KIN 100.5 MHz.Four broadcast television services operate in Alice Springs — commercial stations Imparja Television (callsign IMP9) and Seven Centralmarker (QQQ31), and Government-owned ABC (ABAD7) and SBS (SBS28). Imparja has a commercial agreement with the Nine network.

There are two local newspapers circulated in Alice Springs. The weekly publication, The Alice Springs News appears each Thursday with a circulation of 11,500, and the twice weekly The Centralian Advocate, which is published on Tuesdays ($1.10) and Fridays ($1.40)



The Ghan at Alice Springs Station
Departing Runway 12 at Alice Springs
Located on the Adelaide-Darwin railway, Alice Springs is accessible by train. Alice Springs railway station is visited by the The Ghan, operated by Great Southern Railway, on its journey between Adelaide and Darwinmarker. The train arrives twice weekly in each direction.

The line first opened to Alice Springs in 1929, as the narrow gauge Central Australia Railway. It was not until 1980 that the current standard gauge line was opened, which was extended to Darwin in 2004.

The Ghan
Tennant Creekmarker(to Darwinmarker) Alice Springs Kulgera(to Adelaidemarker)

There are daily express coach services to and from Adelaide and Darwin servicing Alice Springs.The Stuart Highway, running north from Adelaide to Darwin via Alice Springs, is Northern Territory's most important road. The distance from Alice Springs to Adelaide is and to Darwin is .

There are daily flights from Alice Springs Airportmarker to Adelaidemarker, Ayers Rockmarker (Uluru), Cairnsmarker, Darwinmarker, Melbournemarker, Perthmarker and Sydneymarker.

There are also direct flights a few times a week to Brisbanemarker.

There are two airlines which fly to and from Alice Springs: Qantas and Tiger Airways. Virgin Blue made an appearance in Alice Springs for a short time, before they were undercut by Qantas.

Alice Springs is also a base for the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia.

Sister cities

In January 2005, a Sister City relationship was established between Alice Springs and the Afghan district of Paghmanmarker.

See also


  1. Geoscience Australia Centre of Australia, States and Territories updated July 2006 "Officially, there is no centre of Australia. This is because there are many complex but equally valid methods that can determine possible centres of a large, irregularly-shaped area — especially one that is curved by the earth's surface." However, several methods for calculating the possible centre of mainland Australia have been developed … the results enclose an area which includes the town of Alice Springs and the MacDonnell Ranges — refer the Geoscience Australia page for further details.
  2. Arrernte Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre Alice Springs
  3. The Ghan – Outback experiences – Northern Territory Official Travel Site
  4. McKnight & Hess, pp. 212-1, "Climate Zones and Types: Dry Climates (Zone B)"
  5. Alice Springs' Climate
  6. About Alice Springs
  7. The American Connection
  8. Department of Education and Training — About the Department
  9. Tables&javascript=true&textversion=false&navmapdisplayed=true&breadcrumb=TLPD&&collection=Census&period=2006&productlabel=Type of Educational Institution Attending (Full/Part-Time Student Status by Age) by Sex&producttype=Census Tables&method=Place of Usual Residence&topic=School Education& ABS education tables
  10. DAILY TELEGRAPH, Outed: Lesbian capital of Australia
  11. BBC NEWS, Australians cook up wild cat stew
  12. Australian Railmaps, "RAIL MAP — PERTH to ADELAIDE, CENTRAL AND NORTHERN AUSTRALIA". Accessed 12 June 2007.

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