The first Cabinet records created under Northern Territory self-government in 1978 have become open for public access as of 1 January 2009. Cabinet documents are available for viewing at the Northern Territory Archive Service in Darwin. Selected scanned Cabinet documents are available online, along with a highlights narrative. These documents have become publicly available under the Information Act, introduced in 2003. On 1 January each year, the Northern Territory Archives Service releases the Cabinet records from 30 years before.
Cabinet submissions and decisions (NTRS 2575) are an invaluable record of the decisions of successive Northern Territory administrations, and cover a wide range of issues relating to the social, political and economic development of the Northern Territory.
The Northern Territory Cabinet consists of government Ministers who meet to make decisions on matters such as major policy issues, proposals with significant expenditure or employment implications, matters which involve important initiatives or departures from previous arrangements, proposals with implications for Australian, state and local government relations, legislation, and high level government appointments.
In 1977, the Commonwealth Government began transferring executive powers to the Legislative Assembly in preparation for Northern Territory self-government. On 1 January 1977, the Northern Territory Public Service was created and administrative powers relating to a number of State functions such as police, fire brigades, local government, and correctional services were transferred from the Commonwealth to the Northern Territory. Other functions such as health and the Supreme Court were progressively transferred from the Commonwealth to the Northern Territory Government.
Once the Fraser Federal Government enacted the Northern Territory (Self Government) Act 1978 (Commonwealth) the Northern Territory was established under the Crown with limited state-like powers with effect from 1 July 1978. The Act extended the powers of self-government in the Northern Territory by providing for the Legislative Assembly and the appointment of an Administrator, and establishing the Executive Council consisting of the Ministers of the Northern Territory Government.
The major state powers retained by the Commonwealth in the Northern Territory include Aboriginal land rights, the mining of uranium and other prescribed substances, industrial relations and control of Commonwealth national parks. For inter-governmental financial purposes the Northern Territory has been regarded by the Commonwealth as a State since 1 July 1988.
For further information regarding the previous administrations of the Northern Territory go to the History of the Northern Territory Parliament webpage.
Understanding Cabinet submissions and decisions
Most business comes before Cabinet by way of formal Cabinet submissions, identified by a consecutive number. Cabinet submissions generally follow a set format. This includes a cover sheet which provides brief details of the submission (e.g. title, purpose, sponsoring Minister, relationship of the proposal to existing policy, timing considerations, staffing implications, costs) followed by the body of the submission which includes recommendations, background materials, options, budget implications, timing issues and other key topics. There may also be attachments to the submission. Submissions are usually prepared by Government agencies at the direction of, or with the agreement of, the Minister responsible for that agency. Submissions may also include comments from other Northern Territory Government agencies which were consulted during the development of the submission.
Each decision made by Cabinet is formally recorded in a separate document known as a Cabinet decision. Like Cabinet submissions, each Cabinet decision is given a consecutive number. Most Cabinet decisions will have a corresponding Cabinet submission, but Cabinet may also issue a Cabinet decision without a submission. Note that the decision number is not the same as the corresponding submission number (apart from a small number of very early submissions and decisions in a new Government's term when the numbers may coincidentally align).
Ministers may from time to time present memoranda to Cabinet, or table a document at a Cabinet meeting. These documents will generally be incorporated in the formal records of the Cabinet meeting. Such documents will usually result in a Cabinet decision, but not in every case.
The Cabinet submissions and decisions filed by meeting date and bound in volumes.
The Northern Territory Archives Service is responsible for managing, preserving and providing access to Territory Archives. Archives Advices nos 1-6 provide further information relating to access procedures.
Under the Northern Territory Information Act, public sector organisations are required to transfer their records to the Northern Territory Archives Service not later than 30 years after the record was created. Most Government archives enter an “open access period”, whereby they are available for public perusal, 30 years after the record was created.
An access agreement negotiated between the Northern Territory Archives Service and the Department of the Chief Minister provides for an annual opening of Cabinet submissions and decisions (NTRS 2575) and the Executive Council meeting papers (NTRS 3351) 30 years after the records creation.
These series can be accessed by appointment in the Darwin Search Room of the Northern Territory Archives Service.
The Darwin Search Room of the Northern Territory Archives Service is open by appointment to the public from Monday to Friday, 9.00am - 12.00noon and 1.00pm to 4.00pm. To contact the Reference Archivist please refer to the following contact details:
Telephone: (08) 8924 7677