Country Idealist Profiles

Northern Territory – Key Factors in Socio/Political/Economic Situation

Posted in Australia, Northern Territory (Australia), Northern Territory (Australia) Basics by mjoymatheson on August 14, 2008

At the center of Northern Territory’s current situation is its struggle to be recognized as an Australian state.  The Legislative Assembly of Northern Territory exercises roughly the same powers as the state governments of Australia, but it does so by a delegation of powers from the Federal Government, rather than by any constitutional right. This means that the Federal Government is entitled to overturn any legislation passed by the Assembly.  For several years there has been agitation for full statehood. A referendum was held on the issue in 1998, but the measure failed.

The rights and role of the Indigenous Australian population in the Northern Territory is also a key factor in understanding its socio/political/economic situation.  Historical areas of conflict/concern between Indigenous Australians and other Australians include land rights, access to education, life expectancy and general health.  Key historical events include:

  • In 1967, Australians voted “yes” to a referendum that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be counted in the national census of the population and that the Commonwealth Government should have the power to legislate for Aboriginal peoples.
  • In 1976, the Fraser Government of the Northern Territory passed the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, establishing that the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory could, for the first time, claim rights to land based on traditional occupation. In effect, it allowed title to be transferred for most of the Aboriginal reserve lands and the opportunity to claim other land not owned, leased or being used by someone else.
  • The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation Act was passed in 1991, creating the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.
  • In 2007, the Northern Territory National Emergency Response was introduced.  This controversial federal intervention is a package of changes to welfare provision, law enforcement, land tenure and other measures to address Northern Territory Aboriginal communities.
  • In 2008, Australia’s Prime Minister offered of formal apology to Indigenous people who were members of the “Stolen Generations”, an estimated 50,000 children that were forcibly taken from their families between 1910 and 1970, as part of government policies of the day.



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