On this day …….. 1st of July 1978
The Northern Territory is a federal territory of Australia, bordered by the states of Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia. From 1825 to 1863, the Northern Territory was part of New South Wales. In 1863, as a result of the successful 1862 expedition of John McDouall Stuart to find an overland route through the desert from Adelaide to the north, control of the Northern Territory was handed to South Australia. On the 1st of January 1911, the Northern Territory was separated from South Australia and transferred to Commonwealth control. This meant that the laws governing people of the Northern Territory were dictated by the authorities in Canberra, in a society vastly different from their own. Over the ensuing decades, the Northern Territory took small steps towards attaining self-government. The Territory was allowed to make its own legislature in 1947. In 1974, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam announced that self-government would soon be granted, and a Legislative Assembly made up of 19 members was formed. However, a major catalyst to the granting of self-governance was the tragedy of Cyclone Tracy, which devastated most of the city of Darwin at Christmas in 1974. The cyclone and subsequent response highlighted problems with the arrangement of having a federal minister responsible for the Territory from Canberra, thousands of kilometres away. The Northern Territory was granted self-government on the 1st of July 1978. Around 6000 people gathered at the Cenotaph in Darwin. The inaugural ministry was sworn in, followed by a guard of honour and the first official raising of the new Territorian flag by Flight Sergeant Gordon Mcloughlin. The Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Fraser, stated, “Today’s historic occasion symbolises the strength and the spirit of men and women of the Territory, a spirit that has endured suffering, withstood hardships and overcome many times of adversity.” Most state responsibilities came under the purview of the Northern Territory government. Exceptions included matters relating to Aboriginal land, uranium mining, national parks and some industrial relations. Of major significance was the fact that citizens were now permitted to own freehold land. This was a tremendous boost to the economy, as it allowed for major construction works of new tourism and entertainment facilities such as accommodation and casinos, and educational institutions such as universities, to go ahead without waiting for approval from Canberra bureaucrats. Territory Day continues to be celebrated on the 1st of July every year. It is the only day when fireworks are permitted to be lit by the public.