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North and Australian Capital Territories

Northern Territory.The Northern Territory was part of New South Wales from 1825 to 1863. It was then divided from that colony and became a part of South Australia (1863 - 1911). In 1911, ten years after it was federated, control was separated from South Australia to the Commonwealth of Australia. For a short period of time between 1926 and 1931, the Territory was divided at the 20th parallel of the south latitude.

The new territories were North Australia and Central Australia. However, the Act which had established this division was repealed in 1931, and the Territory reverted to the original name.As with all of the Territories and States of Australia, the first people to inhabit it were Aboriginals who came from Southeast Asia as far back as 40,000 years ago.

Their history is traced through oral narration handed down from generation to generation, and in rock art, which has been studied by archaeologists from around the world.The first recorded sighting of the Territory was made by a Dutch vessel in 1623. However, chances are that other Europeans had visited the coastline long before that. The Dutch influence was evident on maps from that time, and in names which were given to islands, capes, and gulfs.John Stuart became the first explorer to cross the territory from its south end to the north. His exploration preceded the coming of the Overland Telegraph line, which followed his trail and linked Australia to the rest of the world.

The telegraph facilitated the opening of the region for colonization and settlement. Once the lines were installed from Darwin to Adelaide (completed in 1872), settlers (called pastoralists) were more inclined to lease properties in the settlement of Centre. The event that caused the largest influx of immigrants was the discovery of alluvial gold at a settlement about 100 km. (62.5 mi.

) east of Alice Springs in 1887.The city of Darwin was founded in 1869, and is the Territorial capital. It's Australia's most northerly port. The population increased after gold was discovered at nearby Pine Creek in 1871. Today's population exceeds 105,000, which is the largest concentration of people in the entire Territory. The unofficial nickname for this beautiful port city is "The Gateway to Asia".

Its location is called, locally, the "Top End".Alice Springs was called Stuart Township until 1933. Until then Alice Springs was the name of the telegraph station, which was the site of the original white settlement in Central Australia. This caused so much confusion for the administrators in Adelaide that in August of 1933, the township was officially renamed Alice Springs.

Another town of note is Tennant Creek. It takes its name from the nearby watercourse so named in 1860 by John Stuart, in honor of John Tennant who assisted him financially in his explorations. Local legend says that the settlement started in 1934 when a man's beer wagons bogged down in the mud from the seasonal rains. Rather than dig them out, he built his stores around them and the town sprang up from there. While the story is not true, it does very colorfully draw a picture of the sort of settlers who established the town.

One more town, which should be noted here, is Katherine. It also developed once the Overland Telegraph line was in place and operational. In 1879 two men, Alfred Woods and Alfred Giles, brought in stock and began a homestead, which they named Spring Vale. Their original Homestead is the oldest in the Northern Territory and is open to the public as a part of the Territory's historical heritage.

The government of the Northern Territory is one of Legislative Assembly. It is still a Constitutional Monarchy, but has an Administrator and a Chief Minister. The Assembly does have about the same powers as the governments of the States of Australia, but it does so by the delegation of powers from the Commonwealth Government, rather than by constitutional rights.

It is represented in the Federal Government by two members in the House of Representatives and two Senators.While there was a referendum put forth in 1998 for the Territory to become a State, it was defeated. This surprised both the Territorial Government and the Commonwealth because polls had indicated that most Territorians supported statehood. It is thought that the defeat was caused by the Federal Government's offer of three Senators, as opposed to the normal twelve, which Australian States have, and the Territorians possibly were not pleased with this offer.

However, under the Australian Constitution, the Federal Government is allowed to set forth the terms of entry to Statehood. Because of the scarcity of population in the Territory, an equal number of Senate seats would have meant that a Territorian's vote for a Senator would be worth more than thirty votes in any of the States.Northern Territory covers 1,420,968 sq. km.

(548,848 sq. mi.), but in all of this huge harsh area, there are only 200,800 residents, making it the eighth in population of States and Territories. While there are many small settlements throughout the Territory, the largest population centers are located between Darwin and South Australia on the sole paved road called the Stuart Highway.

Of special interest is that the Northern Territory is the location of two wondrous and magnificent rock formations - Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas).Australian Capital Territory.Although the smallest in area of the States and Territories, the population of the Australian Capital Territory outnumbers that of the Northern Territory. The ACT, as it is called "down under", is located in south eastern New South Wales in an area known as "bushland".The concept for the ACT came about in the 1800s during the Federal Conventions. There had been ongoing contention between Sydney, New South Wales and Melbourne, Victoria about which of them should be the National Capital.

The Conventions agreed that there needed to be a neutral Territory established in which to build a separate and new Capital. When the Australian Constitution was enacted, it provided that, following the Federation of the States in 1901, land would be ceded to the new Federal Government for this purpose.Three sites were on a list of options - Bombala, Yass-Canberra, and Orange (all in New South Wales). The site for the ACT (Yass-Canberra) was chosen in 1908 by the Commonwealth Parliament and the Commonwealth Surveyor was sent to stake out the site for Capital Hill.

NSW signed over the Territory in 1911, and the construction of the Capital began in 1913. The official name of the city became Canberra during the ceremony in which the laying of the foundation stone for Capital Hill was performed.In the late 1980s, the Federal Government deemed that the ACT needed its own system of self-government.

Legislation was enacted in 1988, and the Territory held an election in 1989 to put into place the First ACT Legislative Assembly. This Assembly is composed of seventeen Members. It is unique in that the Crown does not play a direct part in its legislation. If a Bill is passed by the Assembly, it is gazetted (posted in the Gazette) by the Chief Minister and it then becomes a part of the law of the Australian Capital Territory.The ACT is the smallest (8th in size) of the six States and two Territories. It covers 2358 sq.

km. (910 sq. mi.).

The total population at the end of March 2005 was 325,100, which puts it in seventh place in population. The area is not all urban. There is also agricultural land and a large National Park within its borders.

Canberra is the site of the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex, which is operated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as a part of its Deep Space Network.

Michael Russell
Your Independent guide to Australia

By: Michael Russell

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