From go to woe
: the Northern Territory's failed first statehood bid

  • Edwin Frederick Dunstan

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    Aims: Overall, the thesis aims to provide a contribution to knowledge in the quest for statehood of the Northern Territory. This study has three principal aims. First and foremost is the aim of explaining how this attempt failed to move the Northern Territory further along the path of becoming the seventh state in the Australian federation. Second, is to situate the Northern Territory experience within the wider context of constitutionalism, creating states in pre-existing federal structures, the notions, theories, values and literature. The third aim is to provide a historical and cultural context, and includes personal insights derived from relevant associations. 

    Scope: The scope is limited by the federation and by chapter subject relevance, documenting and analysing the key themes and processes of the Northern Territory’s constitutional development towards statehood; the culture, roles, work and interests of key participants. It includes the contours of debates, and involves analysis of the relevant literature, sifting the archival, parliamentary, media, and other primary and secondary sources. Original sources from oral history and shorter interviews with key individuals are included in appendices for text analyses. 

    The Conclusions: The evidence suggests many reasons and causes affecting failure, including: 1. The culture of the statehood movement: its rise and fall. 2. A diminution and loss of constitutionalism removing the underpinning of unimpeachable sovereignty. Its genesis included changes to an informed paradigm of democratic method. The process adopted under the Constitutional committees was ostensibly on track, but came under the Legislative Assembly’s control, inserting an extra paradigm stage, enabling direct management by the CLP government. 3 The contradiction of separately redrawing a well-drafted constitution resulting in the changed minimalist Revised Draft Constitution, without Rights. It was rejected mainly by Aboriginal people, and by opponents of undemocratic process. 4. Corollary effects of all the above: (a) A stage-managed Constitutional Convention and delegate selection process, exacerbating distrust of political direction. (b) Absence of an adequatelyfunded education campaign, instead, substituting a last-minute propaganda assault. (c) Ignoring fears of the Indigenous population, and a disproportional inclusion of them in the statehood process, entrenching suspicion. (d) The single, untimely and presumptuous referendum question. (e) Fears of euthanasia returning with statehood. And (f), objections to joining a flawed federation.
    Date of AwardMar 2007
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJim Jose (Supervisor)

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