Territory of north-central Australia, bounded on the north by the Timor and Arafura seas, on the east by Queensland, on the south by South Australia, and on the west by Western Australia; area 1,346,200 sq km/519,770 sq mi; population (2001 est) 200,000. The capital is Darwin. The main products are beef, bauxite, gold, copper, uranium, manganese, tropical fruits, and fish. Tourism is important.
History The area was part of New South Wales from 1827, it was annexed to South Australia in 1863, and was under the control of the Commonwealth of Australia government 1911–78. Self-government was introduced in 1978. Mineral discoveries on land occupied by Aborigines led to a royalty agreement in 1979.
Physical Northern Territory includes several offshore islands, principally, Melville, Bathurst, Croker, Groote Eylandt, and Wessel. The 1,675 km/1,041 mi long coastline is low and flat, seldom reaching a height of 30 m/100 ft. The sandy beaches and mud flats are thickly fringed with mangroves. The coastline is indented with bays and inlets and the estuaries of numerous rivers, including the River Roper, Victoria River, Daly River, and East Alligator River. Inland the terrain rises gently southwards to the 18th parallel of latitude, where higher land forms the watershed between the rivers flowing north towards the sea, and those forming the scanty supply of the interior systems. Further south, towards the centre of the continent, the land is higher and there are several mountain ranges, generally running in an east–west direction, principally the Macdonnell Ranges. The Simpson Desert lies in the southeast corner of the territory.
Features These include the Macdonnell Ranges (Mount Zeil 1,525 m/5,003 ft); Arnhem Land; Kakadu National Park, with 50,000–60,000-year-old rock paintings of animals, birds, and fish; and Ayers Rock, the largest natural monolith in the world. Towns and cities include Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine, Tennant Creek, and Humpty Doo. Northern Territory University is in the region.
Population distribution Northern Territory is sparsely populated, concentrated in Darwin and, to a lesser extent, Alice Springs. Almost one half of the land belongs to Aboriginal people who constitute more than 25% of the population. Arnhem Land, in the eastern section of the northern peninsula, and Groote Eylandt, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, are Aboriginal reserves.
Climate About four-fifths of Northern Territory lies within the tropics, and has a monsoonal climate, with most rain falling in the period December–March (the wet season). Average annual rainfall varies from 1,650 mm/65 in Darwin to 430 mm/17 in at Tennant Creek. The average minimum temperature in this part of the state is 16°C/61°F and the average maximum is 35°C/95°F. The one-fifth of the state which does not lie within the tropics has a minimum temperature below freezing, and a maximum above 40°C/104°F, and the average annual rainfall is 280 mm/11 in. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) found, in 1999, that the annual rainfall in the Western Territory had increased by 15% over the past 85 years.
Economy The main economic activities are cattle-raising, mining, and tourism. Over half of the Territory is used for the rearing of beef cattle, especially in the Alice Springs, Barkly Tableland, and Victoria River districts. The beef industry has grown in importance since the 1960s because of better disease control, pasture management, and export abattoirs at Darwin and Katherine. Buffalo, camel, crocodile, pigs, poultry, deer, ostrich, and emu are also raised, and crocodile farming to produce meat and hides is now established, especially in the Darwin area. Largely because of the hot climate, the sheep industry, however, is of minor importance and is confined to the Alice Springs area. Tropical fruits (especially mangoes), peanuts, pineapples, and bananas are grown, and there is a small crop industry which produces legumes and tropical grains.
Fishing includes barramundi, threadfin salmon, shark, mackerel, snapper, emperor, and cod; shrimp fishing is significant in the Timor and Arafura seas and prawns and crayfish are also caught. Aquaculture has become a significant part of the Northern Territory fishing industry, notably in the Roper River fisheries bordering the Gulf of Carpentaria. Barramundi, red claw crayfish, prawns, and pearl oysters are cultivated, and the cultivation of golden snapper and mud crab is being developed.
The Northern Territory is rich in mineral resources, and the mining and oil sector employs 5,000 people in the state. Bauxite, alumina, manganese, gold, uranium oxide, copper, tin, silver, lead, and zinc are produced. Diamonds have been located near the Gulf of Carpentaria. There is an open-cast mine producing bauxite at Gove; the Territory has major reserves of uranium at Jabiluka and Koongarra and uranium is currently being produced at Ranger in the Alligator Rivers district (one of only two places producing uranium in Australia, the other being at Olympic Dam in South Australia); gold is mined at Pine Creek, Tennant Creek, and in the Tanami Desert area; manganese is mined at Groote Eylandt, one of the world's largest sources of high-grade ore, and there are major reserves of silver, lead, and zinc in the McArthur River area. Exploration of oil and natural gas reserves is taking place in the Timor Sea, Arafura Sea, and Joseph Bonaparte Gulf to the west of Darwin, as well as in the Amadeus Basin in the south of the territory.
Manufacturing is on a small scale and consists of those industries normally associated with a developing area, such as electrical repairs, printing, marine engineering, welding, concrete products, and fencing materials. Darwin is the chief port and the principal exports are cattle, bauxite, and uranium.
Tourism Tourism makes a major contribution to the economy of Northern Territory. Many visitors are attracted to the national parks, especially Kakadu National Park, Litchfield National Park, Uluru National Park (the site of Ayers Rock), and the West Macdonnell National Park. Many of the national parks in Northern Territory are jointly managed by the traditional Aboriginal owners and the Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory. Both on the mainland and on the Tiwi (Bathurst and Melville) Islands, there are tourist ventures, owned and operated by Aboriginal people, which focus on Aboriginal culture, which is claimed to be the oldest surviving culture in the world, dating back some 60,000 years.
Government Northern Territory has an administrator and a Legislative Assembly (25 elected members). It has been self-governing since 1978 and is represented in the federal parliament.
Communications Northern Territory is linked to the rest of Australia by rail, road, and air. Air transport is the main means of communication and a network of local air services, including a medical service, covers the whole area. In 1974 there were 15 government airfields and 130 licensed airfields. Darwin has an international airport, with services to the main cities of Australia and to many parts of the world. A railway runs from Port Augusta, on the central south coast, to Alice Springs, a distance of 1241 km/771 mi. The North Australian Railway from Darwin terminates at Birdum, 508 km/316 mi south. Two highways were built during World War II: the Stuart Highway, from Darwin to Alice Springs (1535 km/954 mi), and the Barkly Highway, from Tennant Creek in the centre of Northern Territory to Mount Isa in western Queensland (644 km/400 mi). Use of shipping is restricted by the fact that Darwin is the only port in the Territory capable of accommodating large vessels.
Administration Northern Territory is not a state, but became self-governing in 1978, and for financial purposes the Commonwealth Government has regarded it as a state since July 1988. The region formerly belonged to New South Wales, but was annexed to South Australia in 1863 and transferred to the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January 1911. In 1926 the Territory was divided for administrative purposes into North Australia and Central Australia, divided at latitude 20°S. The present area was constituted as an administrative entity in 1931. It is now administered by an administrator, appointed by the governor-general of Australia, who with 25 elected members constitutes the Legislative Assembly. Its powers are more limited than those of state parliaments and all its decisions must be approved by the governor-general. The Northern Territory elects one member of the House of Representatives in Canberra, and two senators to serve in the Senate.
Early exploration The coast of Northern Territory was visited by Cheng-Ho, a Chinese explorer; Willem Janszoon explored Cape York in 1606; and in 1623 Jan Carstensz explored and named the Gulf of Carpentaria and Arnhem Land. The Dutch navigator Abel Tasman charted the coastline in 1644, as did the English explorer Matthew Flinders in 1803.
19th century The coast was surveyed by Philip Parker King in 1818 and by John C Wickham and John Lort Stokes in 1838 and 1839. Port Darwin was charted in 1839. In 1845 Ludwig Leichhardt reached Port Essington in Arnhem Land after a journey from southern Queensland during which he and his party were attacked by Aborigines, and his naturalist, John Gilbert, was killed. His route is marked by the names which he gave to features that he found, including the Calvert and Roper rivers, named after members of the party. Two years later, in 1847, Leichhardt attempted to cross the continent from east to west, an expedition from which none of his party returned. In 1855–56 Augustus Charles Gregory explored the interior, crossing from west to east down the Victoria River, Stuart Creek, the Elsey, and then into Queensland. In 1861 John McDouall Stuart began his transcontinental journey from Adelaide and reached the north coast at the west side of Van Diemen's Gulf in 1862. Early settlements at Port Essington (1824), Fort Dumas (1824), and Raffles Bay (1827) all came to nothing, but Darwin's future was assured when Charles Todd, superintendent of telegraphs for South Australia, selected it as the terminal for the submarine cable from Java. The overland telegraph from Adelaide to Port Darwin was completed under Todd's direction by 22 August 1872. In the 1880s thousands of Chinese and other foreign nationals were employed on the railway construction works for the Palmerston (renamed Darwin in 1911)–Pine Creek railway. In the meantime legislation in Queensland, designed to restrict the employment of foreign labour in that state, had a direct bearing on Northern Territory history, for the South Australian government, yielding to general popular sentiment, abandoned the project of developing the Northern Territory by non-Europeans. This restrictive policy foreshadowed the so-called White Australia Policy.
20th century During World War II, Darwin was heavily attacked from the air by Japan in 1942, and 261 people were killed. A decision to redevelop the city was made after the war by the Commonwealth Government, and rebuilding and development started in the 1950s. The city was struck by Cyclone Tracey on 24 December 1974, killing 50 people and destroying 90% of the city's buildings. The city had been rebuilt by 1978 and in that year it was given self-government. In 1984 the Aboriginal people were given control of Ayers Rock. Floods devastated Alice Springs in 1988 and the town of Katherine in 1998.
The Aboriginal Land Rights Act (Northern Territory) was passed by the Australian Federal Government in 1976. The Act granted ownership of vacant crown land in the Alligator River region and in the Arnhem reserve to the Aboriginal Lands Trust, with Aboriginal communities being represented by the Northern Lands Council. The Act requires the traditional owners' consent to any mining proposal on their land. The discovery of uranium at Ranger Dam, on land in Aboriginal possession, resulted in a negotiated royalty agreement between the traditional owners and the mining company. The company received authority to mine in 1979.
Flora and fauna The Northern Territory is a mixture of desert scrub, savannah grasslands, mangrove swamps, and tropical areas. The emblem of the state is the Stuart Desert Rose. The fauna of the area includes salt and freshwater crocodiles, snakes (including the king brown, western brown, and the eastern brown), lizards (including the military dragon), marsupials, dingoes, emus, and numerous species of birds.
Northern Territory – flag
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