The year was 1981*
An historical overview of the Territory at the time
• In 1981, Malcolm Fraser was Australia’s Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Ronald Reagan the President of the United States of America. Chairman Mao was still running the show in China. Lady Diana Spencer, Kindergarten teacher, was rumoured to be the girlfriend of Prince Charles.
• We were going to the movies to see “Smokey and the Bandit”, starring Burt Reynolds, “Superman II”, and Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now”. We were watching the American soap opera “Dallas”, and the Australian drama “Patrol Boat” on television.
• We were eating at the Rock Oyster Restaurant, then located in Cavenagh Street opposite the Casino at the Don Hotel, the Tai Hung Tol Chinese Restaurant at Parap or the Top of the Telford.
• In 1981, GPO Status was conferred on the Darwin Post Office, FM radio stations opened at Alice springs (8CCC) and Darwin (8TOP), Kalymnos Island in Greece was offered sister city status with Darwin, and “We of the Never Never” was filmed on location at Elsey Station.
• A three bedroom ‘post cyclone’ elevated house in Nakara was on the market for $70 000. The average weekly earnings in the NT was $359 (for males), higher than the Australian average of $304 per week.
• The Gurig National Park was declared after successful negotiations between Government and Traditional Owners of the Coburg Peninsula.
• Waterside workers were determining policy on the handling and loading of “Yellow Cake” (uranium oxide) at the Darwin Wharf and uranium mining and export was set to expand with negotiations happening between the French and Australian Governments.
• On 1 January 1981, Commodore Eric Johnston AM OBE RAN was appointed the Administrator of the Northern Territory
Commodore Eric Johnston AM OBE RAN
• It was the International Year of the Disabled.
• The first months of the NT News headlines were dominated by the issue of service providers for domestic flights in and out of the Northern Territory, and on 6 February, the Northern Airlines closed.
• The township of Ti Tree was gazetted.
• With financial support from the Territory Government the first commercial Crocodile Farm commenced business (Crocodile Farms (NT) Pty Ltd), initially as a tourist venture and later as a commercial enterprise selling meat and skins.
• In March, Cyclone Max dumped 731 mm of rain on the North West Top End causing flooding.
Darwin residents sheltering at Dripstone High School during Cyclone Max
• In July, NORFORCE, Australia’s North-West Mobile Force of approximately 320 army reserve personnel, was established and entrusted with surveillance of the north-west coastline of Australia.
• The NT News announced that Darwin City Council and the Territory Government had negotiated a deal to construct the multilevel carpark at Westlane behind the Vic Hotel, and later in 1981 the Territory’s first road flyover, at the intersection of Bagot Road and the Stuart Highway was opened for traffic.
• Lake Mary Ann Dam at Tennant Creek was opened in April, and the Katherine Swimming Pool was officially opened in October. In July the $7 million Alice Springs Country Club Casino was open.• The purpose built Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences was opened at Bullocky Point in September, by Governor General Sir Zelman Cowen. Opening plaque MAGNT
Plaque commemorating opening of NT Museum
• Palmerston Development Authority formerly commenced planning for the new satellite city, to be developed on the 1973 Acquisition site.
• At the end of 1981, the Territory’s population was estimated at 126 300 totalling 65 600 males and 57 300 females. In Australia, the population was over 15 million.
• The first baby born in the Territory for the year was baby Wade Maxwell Humm, delivered by Dr Mounsey at Darwin Hospital.
• Sweetheart the crocodile, was on display at Casuarina Shopping Square.
• The Territory was growing and new developments taking shape across the NT indicated this.
• The Northern Territory Tourist Commission was running full page advertisements in the NT News to promote the communities role in tourism, “Tell a tourist where to go” stating that “We’d be lost without our tourists, and they’d be lost without us… show them our legendary hospitality, hospitality brought about through pride in the Territory we love. There’s more than enough magic in the Territory to go around. Share it with our tourists. Don’t avoid them. Tell them where to go.”
* All information from this historical overview of the Northern Territory 1981 has been sourced from the following publications: