Ruled by remote control
: the Commonwealth's role in the history of Darwin, 1911-1978

  • Kathleen May De La Rue

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    The Australian Commonwealth government, mindful of the need to settle the northern coast for defence purposes, and conscious of the possible criticism from other countries at the failure to develop what was regarded as a potential source of great wealth, assumed control of the Northern Territory in 1911. In this thesis I examine the impact of the government’s policies and their implementation on the development of Darwin. 

    The thesis is essentially an urban history of Darwin during the years that the Commonwealth government administered the Northern Territory. It chronicles the social and economic developments in the city during this period and traces the changes to the physical landscape caused by government policies, and outside influences such as World War Two and Cyclone Tracy. The interaction between the various ethnic groups in the city and between the longterm residents and the transitory public servants is investigated. I also portray the way in which the perception of the Northern Territory as an untamed wilderness and Darwin as a backward colonial outpost gradually changed after the war as politicians and bureaucrats began to accept more fully that the development of the region was of vital importance to the well-being of the nation. 

    Territory residents were disenfranchised when the Commonwealth took control of the region. The story of the following years includes the slow and difficult struggle of politically minded residents to win some sort of representation in the federal parliament and also to achieve some measure of control over the administration of the Northern Territory. The thesis ends with the granting of self-government in 1978 and the end of rule by remote control from Canberra.
    Date of Award2014
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorAlan Powell (Supervisor)

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