Switching on
: Darwin's history of electricity supply

  • Beverley Margaret Sydney James Phelts

    Student thesis: Other thesis - CDU


    As recent as a hundred years ago, electricity was starting to be incorporated into industry and into the home. It is now used extensively and has become part of our everyday lives. Nowadays, people take electricity for granted when they turn on a light, the airconditioner or their computer.

    Just how much society is dependent upon electricity is not realised until the power goes out. Nor would they be aware of how electricity is generated, transmitted, and carried to their homes or businesses. Before Darwin acquired this miracle, electrical inventions were amazing people around the world and in Australia.

    Darwin was the last capital city in Australia to receive a power supply in 1912 but it would not be until after the Second World War when many residents could enjoy the benefits of lighting, fans and refrigeration.

    This thesis will argue that a reliable power supply for Darwin did not eventuate until the advent of the Second World War due to the Commonwealth's indifference. No purposeful commitment was made to Darwin either in development or funding, and this point is reflected throughout Darwin's history of electricity supply. Amends to improve the electricity supply and other important utilities only eventuated because of the need to accommodate thousands of defence personnel during the Second World War.

    Postwar Darwin was left again to struggle on with the power plant that had been overworked and poorly maintained during the war years. With the population increasing during the 1950s, it became necessary to build Stokes Hill Power Station. For the first time, an electricity scheme for Darwin was carefully planned and funded.

    Living standards improved with Stokes Hill Power Station because a larger power supply now allowed the possibility of airconditioning in businesses and homes. Needless to say, Stokes Hill Power Station became renowned for its many breakdowns and consequent blackouts and power supply was not to become more reliable until the opening of Channel Island Power Station in 1987.
    Date of Award1997
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorDavid Carment (Supervisor) & Christine Doran (Supervisor)

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