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The Northern Territory is a federal territory of Australia, occupying much of the centre of the mainland continent, as well as the central northern regions. It shares borders with Western Australiamarker to the west (129th meridian east), South Australiamarker to the south (26th parallel south), and Queenslandmarker to the east (138th meridian east).

To the north, the territory is bordered by the Timor Seamarker, the Arafura Seamarker and the Gulf of Carpentariamarker. Despite its large area - over , making it the third largest Australian federal division - it is sparsely populated. With a population of 223,100 it is the least populous division on the mainland.

The history of the Northern Territory began over 40,000 years ago when Indigenous Australians settled the region. Makassanmarker traders began trading with the indigenous people of the Northern Territory for trepang from at least the 18th century onwards, and very likely for 300 years prior to that.

The coast of the territory was first seen by Europeans in the 17th century. The British were the first Europeans to attempt to settle the coastal regions in the 19th century; however no attempt was successful until the establishment of a settlement at Port Darwinmarker in 1869. Today the economy is based on tourism, especially Kakadu National Parkmarker in the Top End and the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Parkmarker (Ayers Rock) in central Australia, and mining.

The capital city is Darwinmarker. The population is not concentrated in coastal regions but rather along the Stuart Highway. The other major settlements are Katherinemarker, Alice Springsmarker, Tennant Creekmarker and Nhulunbuymarker in the territory's north-east.

Residents of the Northern Territory are often known simply as 'Territorians'.


Indigenous Australians have lived in the present area of the Northern Territory for an estimated 40,000 years, and extensive seasonal trade links existed between them and the peoples of what is now Indonesiamarker for at least five centuries.

With the coming of the British, 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 Walesmarker from 1825 to 1863, except for a brief time from February to December 1846, when it was part of the short lived colony of North Australia. It was part of South Australiamarker from 1863 to 1911. Under the administration of South Australia, the overland telegraph was constructed between 1870 and 1872.

A railway was also built between Palmerstonmarker and Pine Creekmarker between 1883 and 1889. The economic pattern of cattle raising and mining was established so that by 1911 there were 513,000 cattle. Victoria River Downs was at one time the largest cattle station in the world. Gold was found at Grove Hill in 1872 and at Pine Creekmarker, Brocks Creek, Burrundi, and copper was found at Daly Rivermarker.

Letters Patent annexing the Northern Territory to South Australia, 1863
On 1 January 1911, a decade after federation, the Northern Territory was separated from South Australia and transferred to Commonwealth control. Alfred Deakin opined at this time "To me the question has been not so much commercial as national, first, second, third and last. Either we must accomplish the peopling of the northern territory or submit to its transfer to some other nation."

For a brief time between 1927 and 1931 the Northern Territory was divided into North Australia and Central Australia at the 20th parallel of South latitude. Soon after this time, parts of the Northern Territory were considered in the Kimberley Plan 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.

Indigenous Australians 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 Stationmarker 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 Act 1976 was eventually passed by the Fraser Government on 16 December 1976 and began operation on the following Australia Day (26 January 1977).

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

During 1996 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 committed suicide through voluntary euthanasia, a practice orchestrated by Dr. Philip Nitschke.



The Northern Territory is one of the three unicameral parliaments in the country based on the Westminster System. The Northern Territory Parliament consists of only one house, the Northern Territory Legislative Assemblymarker which was created in 1974, replacing the Northern Territory Legislative Council.

The Northern Territory Legislative Council was the partly elected governing body from 1947 until its replacement by the fully elected Northern Territory Legislative Assemblymarker in 1974. The total enrolment for the 1947 election was 4,443, all of whom were white. The Northern Territory was split into five electorates: Darwin, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Batchelor, and Stuart.

Whilst this assembly exercises similar powers as the governments of the states of Australia, it does so by legislated delegation of powers from the commonwealth government, rather than by any constitutional right. The Monarch represented by the Administrator of the Northern Territory which is similar to that of state governors.

Twenty-five members of the Legislative Assembly are elected to four-year terms from single-member electorates.

For several years there has been agitation for full statehood. A referendum was held on the issue in 1998, which was resolved in the negative. 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 twelve guaranteed to original states. (Because of the difference in populations, equal numbers of Senate seats would mean a Territorian's vote for a Senator would have been worth more than 30 votes in New South Walesmarker or Victoriamarker.) Alongside what was cited as an arrogant approach adopted by then Chief Minister Shane Stone, it is believed that most Territorians, regardless of their general views on statehood, were reluctant to adopt the particular offer that was made.

Chief Minister and Cabinet

The Chief Minister of the Northern Territory is the head of government of a self-governing territory, while the head of government of a state is a Premier. The Chief Minister is appointed by the Administrator of the Northern Territory, who in normal circumstances will appoint the head of whatever party holds the majority of seats in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. The current Chief Minister of the Northern Territory is Paul Henderson.

Paul Henderson replaced Claire Martin on 26 November 2007. The Leader of the Opposition was Denis Burke, head of the Country Liberal Party, until the Territory elections of June 2005, where Burke lost his seat. The party then chose Terry Mills as the new Opposition Leader. Subsequently, Jodeen Carney took over for a time. In January 2008, Terry Mills again became the Opposition Leader.


The Northern Territory received self-government on 1 July 1978 under its own Administrator of the Northern Territory appointed by the Governor-General of Australia. The Commonwealth government, not the Government of the Northern Territory, advises the governor-general on appointment of the Administrator, but by convention, consults first with the Territory Government. The current administrator, Tom Pauling, was sworn in on 9 November 2007.

Federal government

The Northern Territory is represented in the Commonwealth parliament by two Members in the House of Representatives, currently Warren Snowdon and Damian Hale for the Australian Labor Party (ALP), and two members in the Senate, currently Trish Crossin for the ALP and Nigel Scullion for the CLP.

Local Government

The Northern Territory is incorporated into 17 Local Government Areas, including 11 shires and 5 municipalities. Shire, city and town councils are responsible for functions delegated by the Northern Territory parliament, such as city planning, road infrastructure and waste management. Council revenue comes mostly from property taxes and government grants.


Northern Territory
population by year
1901 4,765
1956 19,556
1961 44,481
1974 102,924
1975 92,869
1981 122,616
1991 165,493
2002 199,411
2006 210,600
2011 236,300
2021 296,300
2031 364,000
2056 573,000
Source: Australian Bureau
of Statistics

Darwin skyline from East Point
The population of the Northern Territory in late 2006 was estimated at 212,600 This was an 1.8% increase from the 2001 Australian Bureau of Statistics report, and the population represents 1% of the total population of Australia.

The estimated population of the Northern Territory at the end of 2008 was 221,100. The population grew 2.2% which was the second largest growth in the country with Queenslandmarker after Western Australiamarker which grew 2.4%.

The Northern Territory's population is the youngest in Australia and has the largest proportion under 15 years of age and the smallest proportion aged 65 and over. The median age of residents of the Northern Territory is 30.3 years, almost six years younger than the national median age.

More than 100 nationalities are represented in the Northern Territory's population, including more than 50 organisations representing different ethnic groups.

The 2006 Census revealed that of the Northern Territory's population, 68.4% is of European descent. 64,491 (30.6%) Englishmarker with 44,662 (20.2%), Irishmarker with 14,346 (6.8%), Scottishmarker with 11,759 (5.6%), Germanmarker with 7,729 (3.7%) and Italianmarker with 3,308 (1.5%). Indigenous Australian people make up 32.5% of the Northern Territory's population, while Chinesemarker people with 4,081 make up (1.9%).

Indigenous Australians own some 49% of the land. The life expectancy of Aboriginal Australians is well below that of non-Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory, a fact that is mirrored elsewhere in Australia. ABS statistics suggest that Indigenous Australians die about 11 years earlier than the average Australian.There are Aboriginal communities in many parts of the territory, the largest ones being the Pitjantjatjara near Ulurumarker, the Arrernte near Alice Springs, the Luritja between those two, the Warlpiri further north, and the Yolngu in eastern Arnhem Landmarker.

In terms of birthplace, according to the 2006 census 13.8% of the population were born overseas. 2.6% of Territorians were born in Englandmarker, 1.7% in New Zealandmarker, 1.0% in Philippinesmarker, 0.6% in the United Statesmarker and 0.5% in East Timormarker.

More than 54% of Territorians live in Darwin, located in the territory's north (Top End). The greater Darwin metropolitan area and nearby Palmerstonmarker is home to 120,900 people. Less than half of the territory's population live in the rural Northern Territory.

Rank Statistical Division/District 2007 - 2008 Population
1 Darwinmarker 120,652
2 Palmerstonmarker 28,621
3 Alice Springsmarker 27,481
4 Katherinemarker 9,912
5 Nhulunbuymarker 4,849
6 Tennant Creekmarker 3,494
7 Wadeyemarker 2,322
8 Jabirumarker 1,287
9 Yularamarker 1,186


53.6% of Territorians describe themselves Christian. Roman Catholics form the single largest religious group in the territory with 20.3% of the Northern Territory's population, followed by Anglican (12.7%), Uniting Church (7.0%) and Lutheran (3.6%). Buddhism is the territory's largest non - Christian religion (1.4%), followed by Islam (0.5%) and Hinduism (0.2%). around 21.9% of territorians claim no religion.

Land Rights

The Aboriginal Land Rights 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 for 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:

The Northern Territory Emergency Response provides for the Commonwealth Government to compulsorily acquire five year leases of townships currently held under the title provisions of the Native Title Act 1993 through with compensation on a basis other than just terms. (The number of settlements involved remains unclear.)


Primary and secondary

A Northern Territory school education consists of six years of primary schooling, including one transition year, three years of middle schooling, and three years of secondary schooling. In the beginning of 2007, the Northern Territory introduced Middle School for Years 7-9 and High School for Years 10-12. Northern Territory children generally begin school at age five. On completing secondary school, students earn the Northern Territory Certificate of Education (NTCE). Students who successfully complete their secondary education also receive a tertiary entrance ranking, or ENTER score, to determine university admittance. An International Baccalaureate is offered at one school in the Territory - Kormilda College.

Northern Territory schools are either publicly or privately funded. Public schools, also known as state or government schools, are funded and run directly by the Department of Employment, Education and Training. Private fee-paying schools include schools run by the Catholic Church and independent schools, some elite ones similar to English public schools. Some Northern Territory Independent schools are affiliated with Protestant, Lutheran, Anglican, Greek Orthodox or Seventh-day Adventist churches, but include non church schools and an Indigenous school.

As of 2009, the Northern Territory had 151 public schools, 15 Catholic schools and 21 independent schools. 39,492 students were enrolled in schools around the Territory with 29,175 in public schools, and 9,882 in independant schools. The Northern Territory has about 4,000 full-time teachers.


Charles Darwin University
The Northern Territory has one university. Northern Territory University (now called Charles Darwin University) enrolled its first student in 1987. Charles Darwin University had about 19,000 students enrolled: about 5500 higher education students and about 13500 VET students. The first tertiary institution in the territory was the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education (established in mid 1960s).


The Northern Territory State Library is the Territory's research and reference library. It is responsible for collecting and preserving the Northern Territory documentary heritage and making it available through a range of programs and services. Material in the collection includes books, newspapers, magazines, journals, manuscripts, maps, pictures, objects, sound and video recordings and databases.


There are many very small settlements scattered across the territory, but the larger population centres are located on the single paved 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, Ulurumarker (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjutamarker (The Olgas), which are sacred to the local Aboriginal peoples and which have become major tourist attractions.

The most strikimg examples of australian's tiger bush (also reffered as groove/intergroove mulga) are found in this state (e.g. NW of Alice Springsmarker or at the foot of Ulurumarker and Kata Tjutamarker).

In the northern part of the territory lies Kakadu National Parkmarker, which features breathtaking wetlands and native wildlife. To the north of that lies the Arafura Seamarker, and to the east lies Arnhem Landmarker, whose regional centre is Maningridamarker on the Liverpool River delta.There is an extensive series of river systems in the Northern Territory. These rivers include: Alligator River, Daly Rivermarker, Finke River, McArthur Rivermarker, Roper Rivermarker, Todd Rivermarker and Victoria Rivermarker.

National parks


Average monthly maximum
temperature in Northern Territory
Month Darwin Alice Springs
January 31.8 °C 36.3 °C
February 31.4 °C 35.1 °C
March 31.9 °C 32.7 °C
April 32.7 °C 28.2 °C
May 32.0 °C 23.0 °C
June 30.6 °C 19.8 °C
July 30.5 °C 19.7 °C
August 31.3 °C 22.6 °C
September 32.5 °C 27.1 °C
October 33.2 °C 30.9 °C
November 33.2 °C 33.7 °C
December 33.6 °C 35.4 °C
Source: Bureau of Meteorology

The Northern Territory has two distinctive climate zones.

The northern end, including Darwin, has a tropical climate with high humidity and two seasons, the wet (November to April) and dry season (May to October). During the dry season nearly every day is warm and sunny, and afternoon humidity averages around 30%. There is very little rainfall between May and September. In the coolest months of June and July, the daily minimum temperature may dip as low as , but very rarely lower, and frost has never been recorded.

The wet season is associated with tropical cyclones and monsoon rains. The majority of rainfall occurs between December and March (the southern hemisphere summer), when thunderstorms are common and afternoon relative humidity averages over 70% during the wettest months. On average more than of rain falls in the north.

The central region is the desert centre of the country, which includes Alice Springs and Ayers Rock, and is semi-arid with little rain usually falling during the hottest months from October to March. Central Australia receives less than of rain per year.

The highest maximum temperature recorded in the territory was at Finkemarker on 1 and 2 January 1960. The lowest minimum temperature was at Alice Springs on 12 July 1976.


The Northern Territory's economy is largely driven by mining, which is concentrated on energy producing minerals, petroleum and energy and contributes around $2.5 billion to the gross state product and employs over 4,600 people. Mining accounts for 26 per cent of the gross state product in 2006 - 2007 compared to just 7 per cent nationally.

The economy has continued to grow during the 2005 - 2006 financial year from the past two financial years. Between 2003 and 2006 the gross state product had risen from $8,670 million to $11,476 million and increase of 32.4 per cent. During the three years to 2006 - 2007 the Northern Territory gross state product grew by an average annual rate of 5.5 per cent. Gross state product per capita in the Northern Territory ($63,548) is also higher than the gross domestic product per capita for Australia ($45,021). This can be attributed to the recent mining and resources boom.

The Northern Territory's exports were up 19 per cent during 2005 - 2006. The largest contributor to the territory's exports was: oil and gas (33.4 per cent), iron-ore (20. per cent), other manufactoring (5.9 per cent) and agriculture (4.9 per cent). Imports to the Northern Territory totalled $2,887.8 million which consisted of mainly machinery and equipment manufactoring (58.4 per cent) and petroleum, coal, chemical and associated product manufacturing (17.0 per cent).

The principal mining operations are bauxite at Gove Peninsulamarker where the production is estimated to increase 52.1 per cent to $254 million in 2007-08. Manganese at Groote Eylandtmarker, production is estimated to increase 10.5 per cent to $1.1 billion which will be helped by the newly developed mines include Bootu Creek and Frances Creek. Gold is estimated to increase 21.7 per cent to $482 million at the Union Reefs plant. Uranium at Ranger Uranium Minemarker.

Tourism is one of the major industries on the Northern Territory. Iconic destinations such as Ulurumarker and Kakadumarker make the Northern Territory a popular destination for domestic and international travellers. Diverse landscapes, spectacular waterfalls, wide open spaces, aboriginal culture, wild and untamed wildlife, all create a unique opportunity for the visitor to immerse themselves in the natural wonder that the Northern Territory offers. Images of Uluru (Ayers Rock) are recognised around the world ensuring that Tourism in the Northern Territory will remain a vital component of its future. In 2005-06, 1.38 million people visited the Northern Territory. They stayed for 9.2 million nights and spent over $1.5 billion.

The territory is well known for being promoted with the slogan "You'll Never Never Know if you Never Never Go". This was implemented as a result of the Kennedy Review in 1992.



The Northern Territory is the most sparsely populated state or territory in Australia. Despite its sparse population there is a network of sealed roads connecting the major population centres, the neighboring states, and some other centres such as Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks. The Stuart Highway, known as "The Track", runs north to south, connecting Darwin and Alice Springs to Adelaidemarker. Some of the sealed roads are single lane bitumen. Many unsealed (dirt) roads connect the more remote settlements.

The Adelaide-Darwin Railway, a new standard gauge railway, connects Adelaide via Alice Springs with Darwin, replacing earlier narrow gauge railways which only went north as far as Alice Springs.

The Northern Territory was one of the few remaining places in the world with no speed restrictions on public roads. Since 1 January 2007 a default speed limit of 110 km/h applies on roads outside of urban areas (Inside urban areas of 40, 50 or 60 km/h). Speeds of up to 130 km/h are permitted on some major highways, such as the Stuart Highway.

Since the introduction of a universal 130km/h speed limit in 2006, together with the introduction of demerit (penalty) points for speeding, the Territory's road toll has risen markedly. The road toll for 2009 to November 7, however, is under half of that for the same period in 2008 and lower than for the same period in the previous four years.

Darwin International Airportmarker is the major domestic and international airport for the territory. Several smaller airports are also scattered throughout the Territory and are served by smaller airlines; including Alice Springs Airportmarker, Ayers Rock Airportmarker and Tennant Creek Airportmarker.



The Northern Territory has only one daily tabloid newspaper, News Corporation's Northern Territory News, Centralian Advocate which is circulated around the Alice Springsmarker region twice a week. Also published is one Sunday tabloid newspaper The Sunday Territorian. There are also 5 weekly Community Newspapers. The Northern Territory also receives the national daily, The Australian


Metropolitan Darwin has had five broadcast television stations:
  • ABCmarker Northern Territory. Produces nightly local news at 7pm. (digital & analogue) (callsign: ABDmarker - Channel 6 Analogue, Channel 30 Digital)
  • SBS Northern Territory (digital & analogue) (callsign: SBS - Channel 28 Analogue, Channel 29 Digital)
  • Seven Network/Southern Cross Television Darwin. Produces weeknightly local news updates . (digital & analogue) (callsign: TNDmarker - Channel 34 Analogue, Channel 32 Digital)
  • Nine Network Darwin. Produces weeknightly local news from 6pm - 6.30pm. (digital & analogue) (callsign: NTDmarker - Channel 8 Analogue, Channel 31 Digital)
  • Network Ten/Darwin Digital Televisionmarker Darwin. Receives Ten News At Five from ATV-10marker in Melbournemarker. (digital & analogue) (callsign: DTDmarker - Channel 33 Digital)

In addition, broadcasters operate digital multichannels:

Regional Northern Territory has a similar availability of stations.Imparja Television is produced from Alice Springsmarker and is available throughout most of the Northern Territory. Produces weeknightly local news 6pm - 6:30pm.


Darwin has radio stations on both AM and FM frequencies. ABC stations include ABC NewsRadio (102.5FM), 105.7 ABC Darwin (8DDD 105.7FM), ABC Radio National (657AM), ABC Classic FM (107.3FM) and Triple J (103.3FM). The 2 commercial stations are: Mix 104.9 (8MIX), Hot 100 (8HOT)

The leading community stations are 104.1 Territory FM and Radio Larrakia (8KNB).

The radio stations in Alice Springs are also broadcast on the AM and FM frequencies. ABC stations include Triple J (94.9FM), ABC Classic FM (97.9FM), 783 ABC Alice Springs (783AM) and ABC Radio National (99.7FM). There are two community stations in the town--CAAMA (100.5FM) and 8CCC (102.1FM). The commercial stations, which are both owned by the same company are Sun 96.9 (96.9FM) and 8HA (900AM). Two additional stations, Territory FM (98.7FM) and Radio TAB (95.9FM) are syndicated from Darwin and Brisbane respectively.

See also



  1. ABS population estimates (March 2008)
  2. Federal Parliament NT Legislation,
  3. Profiles&textversion=true&navmapdisplayed=true&breadcrumb=PLD&&collection=census&period=2006&producttype=Community ProfilesBasic Community Profile 2006 Census Community Profile Series : Northern Territory
  4. Department of Employment, Education and Training,
  5. Charles Darwin University Annual Report,
  6. About Minerals and Energy Department of Regional Development, Primary Industry, Fisheries and Resources
  7. Northern Territory Budget
  8. Northern Territory Budget Mining and energy


  • Hill, Ernestine. 1951. The Territory: The classic saga of Australia's far north. Angus & Robertson. Reprint: 1995. ISBN 0-207-18821-1
  • Govan, A. (2007) Broadband debate key to NT's future. N.T. Business Review, vol. N/A, no. N/A, p.7
  • Morrison, P. (2000) a pilot implementation of internet access for remote aboriginal communities in the "Top end" Of Australia. Urban Studies, Vol. 37, No.10, pp. 1781–1792.
  • Toyne, P. (2002) Northern Territory Governments Response to the House of Representatives Communications, Information Technology & the Arts Committee inquiry into Wireless Broadband Communications. In N.T. GOVERNMENT (Ed.) (pp. 3). Darwin: Northern Territory Government.
  • Toyne, P. (2003) Remote Areas Telecommunications Strategy 2003-2008. In N. T. GOVERNMENT (Ed.) (pp.1– 32). Darwin N.T. viewed 6 February 2008, />

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