History of Self Government

SELF-GOVERNMENT:
WHY IT MATTERS

On 1 July 1978, around 6000 Territorians gathered at Darwin's Cenotaph to be part of something special.

Self-Government was finally here, a new era, bringing with it a sense of relief and excitement that the Northern Territory could now stand on its own two feet, no longer dictated to by the Commonwealth Government.

The day began with the swearing in of the inaugural NT Government ministry, before public celebrations kicked off with a guard of honour and the first official flag-raising.

swearing-in.jpg

Swearing in of NT Ministers by Administrator John England on 1 July 1978. Pictured: John England, Paul Everingham, Ian Tuxworth, Marshall Perron, James Robertson, Roger Steele.

Northern Territory Library, Northern Territory Government Photographer Collection, PH0093-0188

Flight Sergeant Gordon Mcloughlin had the prestigious job of flying the new flag before the massive crowd.

"It was a fairly proud moment but a little nerve-wracking," says Mr Mcloughlin, "But the most nerve-wracking part of the whole thing was when the crowd of children charged towards us in excitement, running to see the gun salute from the HMAS Derwent."

The Royal Australian Navy ship was anchored offshore to pay tribute to the flag-raising ceremony, while RAAF aircraft, a stunt flyer and parachutists provided aerial entertainment.

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As the flag is raised HMAS Derwent fires a 17 gun salute in celebration of the event at Darwin Oval, 1 July 1978.

Northern Territory Library, N.T. Self-Government ceremonies (Booklet), NTSGC-0011, John O'Keefe, Northern Territory, Department of Education.

Inspiring words marked the celebrations, including a message from the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser:

Today's historic occasion symbolises the strength and the spirit of men and women of the Territory, a spirit that has endured suffering, withstood hardships and overcome many times of adversity.

The NT News reported that the first Chief Minister Paul Everingham "…brought the most enthusiastic response from the crowd with an occasionally fiery and inspiring speech": 'How far would we have got with Self-Government if we had heeded the voices of caution and fear?' he asked."

Today, Mr Everingham reflects on the day with a sense of achievement. "We were all very chuffed, we were elated that we finally had got there and although the challenges were very big, at the time, we thought we were up to meeting them."

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The Chief Minister, Mr Paul Everingham, addresses the crowd at Darwin Oval, 1 July 1978.

Northern Territory Library, N.T. Self-Government ceremonies (Booklet), NTSGC-0008, John O\'Keefe, Northern Territory, Department of Education.

The Territory's aspirations for Self-Government stemmed back to the very early days.

At the time of Federation in 1901 the NT was part of South Australia before it was surrendered to the Commonwealth.

In 1947, some progress was made when the Territory was allowed to make its own legislature.

But it wasn't until 1974 that real change was in the air, with Gough Whitlam telling Australians that the Northern Territory would soon be granted Self-Government and a Legislative Assembly was formed with 19 members.

"Even though Self-Government was announced in 1974, it took another four years to prise the federal public servants' hands off the steering wheel," says Mr Everingham.

When Self-Government became a reality in 1978, the Northern Territory became responsible for most state-like functions.

The only exceptions related to Aboriginal land, uranium mining, national parks and some industrial relations matters.

One of the first Government Ministers, Roger Steele, recalls visiting some elated public servants at the time.

"I went into the offices to shake the hands of public servants with Paul Everingham, and one of them said to me he was so delighted he didn't want to wash his hands," says Roger. "I think people were so happy about Self-Government and no longer being chained to Canberra. People were sick of it."

Mr Steele says Self-Government captured the imagination of Territorians: "There was a euphoric sort of environment at the time."

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Nightcliff Primary School, Darwin. In celebration of self-government the new Northern Territory flag is distributed to school children throughout the Territory. 1 July 1978.

Northern Territory Library, N.T. Self-Government ceremonies (Booklet), NTSGC-0014, John O\'Keefe, Northern Territory, Department of Education.

Significantly, Territorians could purchase their own freehold land for the first time.

Long-term Territorian and businessman Gary Coleman says this was one of the most significant advantages of the NT having its own government.

"I think that had an immediate impact on people 's perception of longevity in Darwin, " says Mr Coleman. "Before Self-Government, you could never really say the land was yours as government could acquire it with the strike of a pen. "

And with freehold land came the opportunity to build institutions and facilities the rest of Australia had long enjoyed, such as a university, casinos and accommodation.

Mr Coleman says Chief Minister Everingham 's deal with the Sheraton group to manage five star hotels in Yulara, Alice Springs and Darwin made the NT an attractive place to visit and do business.

"It significantly opened up tourism in Central Australia, and to get the five star hotel in Darwin just sealed the deal. "

It was now full steam ahead for the Territory, no longer waiting on approvals from Canberra.

"Once we got Self-Government we could try and encourage people to stay in the NT and to have facilities for normal living, " adds former Chief Minister Paul Everingham.

Long-term Territorian and women 's advocate Wendy James says Self-Government was a positive step in the ultimate quest for statehood.

"Self-Government was an automatic move, but I don 't think any one of us believed it could ever happen, " says Mrs James.

"There was a great sigh of relief in the community that we actually had the privilege of running our own government. "

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Photo Gallery

An army band entertains the crowd on Darwin Oval, 1 July 1978.

Northern Territory Library, N.T. Self-Government ceremonies (Booklet), NTSGC-0004, John O'Keefe, Northern Territory, Department of Education.

Swearing in of NT Ministers by Administrator John England on 1 July 1978. Pictured: John England, Paul Everingham, Ian Tuxworth, Marshall Perron, James Robertson, Roger Steele.

Northern Territory Library, Northern Territory Government Photographer Collection, PH0093-0188

Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and Paul Everingham sign documents giving self-government to the Northern Territory.

From the collection of the Nationa Archives of Australia; NAA; A6180, 29/6/78/40

Galarrwuy Yunupingu at ceremony marking self-government for the Northern Territory with Governor General Zir Zelman Cowen and Lady Cown, 1978.

From the collection of the Nationa Archives of Australia; NAA; A6180, 13/9/78/3

Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and Paul Everingham sign documents giving self-government to the Northern Territory.

From the collection of the Nationa Archives of Australia; NAA; A6180, 29/6/78/40

Swearing in of first NT Legislative Assembly, Assembly Chambers, Dawn Lawrie taking oath. 20 November 1974.

Northern Territory Library, Northern Territory Government Photographer Collection, PH0091-0075

First Legislative Assembly members. At rear, left to right: R. J. Withnall; G. Tambling; M. J. Ballantyne; Eric Manuel; M. B. Perron; I. Tuxworth; N. Dondas; R. M. Steele. Second row, left to right: H. Tungatalum; R. W. S. Vale; R. Ryan; P. A. E. Everingham; R. Pollock; R. Kentish. Seated, left to right: G. A. Letts; Mrs D. Lawrie; J. L. S. MacFarlane; Ms E. Andrew; J. M. Robertson. Roger Vale identified photo as having been taken early in 1976 after the Alice Springs By-election (Feb 1976) in which Eric Manuel was elected. The vacancy had been created by Bernie Kilgariff's resignation in Nov 1975 in order to contest the Senate.

Northern Territory Library, Northern Territory Government Photographer Collection, PH0120-0107

Paul Everingham, Chief Minister; Les Macfarlane, Speaker; and Jon Isaacs, Leader of the Opposition holding the mace. 17 May 1979.

Northern Territory Library, Northern Territory Government Photographer Collection, PH0095-0248

Presentation of Mace by Sir Billy Snedden, Speaker of House of Representatives, to the Hon. Les MacFarlane, Speaker of Legislative Assembly. 17 May 1979.

Northern Territory Library, Northern Territory Government Photographer Collection, PH0095-0247

The Administrator, Mr John England, addresses the crowd at Darwin Oval, 1 July 1978.

Northern Territory Library, N.T. Self-Government ceremonies (Booklet), NTSGC-0006, John O\'Keefe, Northern Territory, Department of Education

The Chief Minister, Mr Paul Everingham, addresses the crowd at Darwin Oval, 1 July 1978.

Northern Territory Library, N.T. Self-Government ceremonies (Booklet), NTSGC-0008, John O\'Keefe, Northern Territory, Department of Education

During the ceremony, the new Northern Territory flag is handed over to the Administrator, Mr John England, by the Minister for the Northern Territory, Mr Evan Adermann.

Northern Territory Library, N.T. Self-Government ceremonies (Booklet), NTSGC-0007, John O\'Keefe, Northern Territory, Department of Education

A royal guard is provided by representatives of the three armed services during celebrations at Darwin Oval, 1 July 1978.

Northern Territory Library, N.T. Self-Government ceremonies (Booklet), NTSGC-0005, John O'Keefe, Northern Territory, Department of Education

The new Northern Territory flag is prepared to be raised by two members of the RAAF at Darwin Oval, 1 July 1978.

Northern Territory Library, N.T. Self-Government ceremonies (Booklet), NTSGC-0009, John O\'Keefe, Northern Territory, Department of Education

The new Northern Territory flag along with the Australia flag is flown over the oval, 1 July 1978.

Northern Territory Library, N.T. Self-Government ceremonies (Booklet), NTSGC-0010, John O\'Keefe, Northern Territory, Department of Education

As the flag is raised HMAS Derwent fires a 17 gun salute in celebration of the event at Darwin Oval, 1 July 1978.

Northern Territory Library, N.T. Self-Government ceremonies (Booklet), NTSGC-0011, John O\'Keefe, Northern Territory, Department of Education

The Australian Airforce contributes to the celebration of the flag raising ceremony by staging a flyover. Three Grumman Tracker aircraft along with an F111 and an Orion aircraft take part in the flyover. 1 July 1978.

Northern Territory Library, N.T. Self-Government ceremonies (Booklet), NTSGC-0012, John O\'Keefe, Northern Territory, Department of Education

The Darwin Fire Brigade presents a display of their fire fighting apparatus at Darwin Oval, 1 July 1978.

Northern Territory Library, N.T. Self-Government ceremonies (Booklet), NTSGC-0002, John O\'Keefe, Northern Territory, Department of Education

A display by parachutists is given during the celebrations at Darwin Oval, 1 July 1978.

Northern Territory Library, N.T. Self-Government ceremonies (Booklet), NTSGC-0003, John O\'Keefe, Northern Territory, Department of Education

The final event at the oval celebrating the granting of self government status to the Northern Territory is a fireworks display staged in the evening. 1 July 1978.

Northern Territory Library, N.T. Self-Government ceremonies (Booklet), NTSGC-0013, John O\'Keefe, Northern Territory, Department of Education

Nightcliff Primary School, Darwin. In celebration of self-government the new Northern Territory flag is distributed to school children throughout the Territory. 1 July 1978.

Northern Territory Library, N.T. Self-Government ceremonies (Booklet), NTSGC-0008, John O\'Keefe, Northern Territory, Department of Education

Bathurst Island. As part of self-government celebrations on Bathurst Island, school children stage a display of Aboriginal dancing. 1 July 1978.

Northern Territory Library, N.T. Self-Government ceremonies (Booklet), NTSGC-0018, John O'Keefe, Northern Territory, Department of Education

Bathurst Island. Two children proudly display the new Territory flags they have been presented with. 1 July 1978.

Northern Territory Library, N.T. Self-Government ceremonies (Booklet), NTSGC-0017, John O'Keefe, Northern Territory, Department of Education