Darwin August 2018

The month in review: Darwin

By Herron Todd White
August 2018

The Darwin of 1968 was a very different place to the Darwin that we see today. The official population in the 1966 census was about 21,000 although this number excluded the indigenous population, which was only included after the 1967 referendum (the 1972 census which included these numbers showed a population of about 36,000). The Greater Darwin area now boasts a population of about 130,000.

Despite the lessons of the 1937 cyclone, the urgent need for post-war housing meant that much of the construction was not of a standard to withstand cyclonic activity, which was to have tragic consequences years later. Nowadays building controls are strictly enforced with the result that Cyclone Marcus caused relatively little damage when it passed by Darwin earlier this year.

In 1968, the Northern Territory was still administered by the Commonwealth. Most of the urban land around Darwin was held under leasehold tenure. This year we are celebrating 40 years of self-government in the Northern Territory which brought in (amongst other things) freehold title to most of Darwin, giving landholders much greater certainty.

Fifty years ago, the urban areas of Darwin extended around the inner suburbs as well as some housing on the old World War II sites at Nightcliff. Areas such as Coconut Grove were still small farmlets and the land resumptions for the new satellite city of Palmerston had not been considered.

Suburbs such as Fannie Bay and Parap were developed in the early 1960s. A 3-bedroom dwelling in Nightcliff was advertised for sale in the NT News in 1968 for $22,000; a large sum for those days but only a small fraction of its value today.

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