History of the Northern Territory


History of the Northern Territory

The history of the Northern Territory began over 40,000 years ago when Indigenous Australians settled the region. Makassan traders began trading with the indigenous people of the Northern Territory for trepang from at least the 18th century onwards [http://www.abc.net.au/message/tv/ms/s645986.htm] , and possibly for 300 years prior to that, while the coast of the Territory was first seen by Europeans in the 17th century. The British were the first to attempt to settle the coastal regions of the Territory in the 19th century; however no attempt was successful until the establishment of a settlement at Port Darwin in 1869.

Prehistory

Although sparse, the archeological record of the Northern Territory provides evidence of settlement around 40,000 years ago (at Malakunanja and Nauwalabila, although there is controversy surrounding the thermoluminescent dating of these sites [http://arts.anu.edu.au/arcworld/resources/papers/ausdates/allen1.htm] ). During this period, sea levels were 100 - 150m lower than at present, and Australia and New Guinea along with large tracts of what is now the Timor Sea formed one single landmass.

Abundant and complex rock art testifies to the rich cultural and spiritual lives of the original inhabitants of the Northern Territory, and in many areas of the Northern Territory there is a cultural continuum between the earliest inhabitants and the indigenous population today. Rock Art is extremely difficult to date with any reliability, and it can also be difficult to identify a linear sequence of art due to the reworking and reinterpretation of older art by younger generations, however archeologists have been able to identify three distinct phases of art: pre-estaurine (dry climate and extinct animals), estaurine (rising sea levels and marine fauna) and freshwater (freshwater fauna, moving into 'historical' subjects such as makassan traders, and European technology eg guns). Rock art also demonstrates cultural and technological changes, for instance boomerangs give way to broad spearthrowers which give way to long spearthrowers, which give way to guns and boats. [http://www.lonker.net/art_aboriginal_1.htm]

The dingo was introduced from Asia around 5000 years ago and quickly became integrated into Aboriginal societies, where they played a role in hunting and provided warmth on cold nights.

Makassan Trade

Traders from Makassar (now Ujung Pandang began journeying to the north of Australia in search of trepang, which was prized for its culinary and medicinal values in Chinese markets. The voyages dated from at least 1720, although there are reports of visits perhaps 300 years prior to that, and extended from the Kimberleys in the west, to the east of Gulf of Carpentaria. The Makassans had extensive contact with the indigenous tribes of the Northern Territory, trading cloth, knives, alcohol, and tobacco for the right to fish in Territory waters and use aboriginal labour.

European coastal exploration

The first recorded sighting of the Northern Territory coastline was by Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon aboard the ship "Duyfken" in 1606. Abel Tasman and numerous French navigators also charted the coast, naming many prominent features. British Admiral Phillip Parker King also made surveys of the coast.

European exploration and settlement

Following the European settlement of Australian in 1788, four unsuccessful attempts were made to settle coastal areas of the Northern Territory prior to the establishment of Darwin. On 30 September 1824 British Captain James Gordon Bremer established Fort Dundas on Melville Island as a part of the Colony of New South Wales. Fort Dundas was the first settlement in Northern Australia, however poor relations with the Tiwi, cyclones, and other difficulties of tropical living led to the Fort being abandoned in 1828. A second settlement was established on the Cobourg Peninsula at Raffles Bay on June 18, 1827. Fort Wellington was founded by Captain James Stirling, however it was also abandoned in 1829.

The British made a third attempt in 1838, establishing Fort Victoria at Port Essington October 27, 1838. Bremer was in command of the new settlement, in July 1839 the HMS "Beagle" and her crew visited the settlement. Bremer left the settlement in 1839 and following his departure conditions in the settlement deteriorated. Explorer Ludwig Leichhardt travelled from Moreton Bay, overland to Port Essington. An unsuccessful migration scheme was tried, and the first Catholic priest Father Angelo Confalonieri in the area arrived in 1846, however the settlement disbanded on December 1, 1849.

In 1863 the Northern Territory was annexed by South Australia by Letters patent. Following annexation of the Territory by South Australia a fourth attempt at settlement occurred in 1864. Escape Cliffs, about 75 kilometres from present day Darwin, in 1864. Colonel Boyle Travis Finniss was responsible for the settlement, there were numerous confrontations with the local Marananggu Aborigines, and when he was recalled to Adelaide in 1867 the settlement disbanded. The South Australian government also tried to find sites for additional settlements, sending explorer John McKinlay to search in the region of the Adelaide River, however he had no success.

Finally, on February 5, 1869, George Goyder, the Surveyor-General of South Australia, established a small settlement of 135 men and women at Port Darwin. Goyder named the settlement Palmerston, after the British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston. In 1870, the first poles for the Overland Telegraph were erected in Darwin connecting Australia to the rest of the World. The construction of the Overland Telegraph led to more exploration of the interior of the Territory and the discovery of gold at Pine Creek in the 1880s further boosted the young colony's development.

Twentieth century

On 1 January 1911, a decade after federation, the Northern Territory was separated from South Australia and transferred to Commonwealth control as a result of the "Northern Territory Surrender Act 1908" in South Australia and the federal "Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910". [ [http://www.foundingdocs.gov.au/item.asp?dID=51 Northern Territory Surrender Act 1908 (SA)] National Archives of Australia.] [ [http://www.foundingdocs.gov.au/item.asp?dID=52 Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910 (Cth)] National Archives of Australia.] The "Northern Territory (Administration) Act" provided that there shall be an Administrator appointed by the Governor-General to administer the Territory on behalf of the Australian Government, subject to any instructions given to him by the appropriate Minister from time to time.

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 [http://www.nt.gov.au/lant/pub/ip2.shtml A Brief History of the Administration in the Northern Territory] Soon after this time, parts of the Northern Territory were considered in the [http://www.naa.gov.au/Publications/research_guides/guides/haven/chapter2.htm 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.

Indigenous Land Rights

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 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.

elf-government

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

Recent history

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.

References

*National Archives of Australia. [http://www.foundingdocs.gov.au/area.asp?aID=4 Northern Territory documents]
*Interview with the author of a book on the Kimberley scheme. [http://www.abc.net.au/rn/relig/ark/stories/s1438826.htm ABC NewsRadio interview]


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