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Commonwealth Government Records about the Northern Territory


William Edward (Bill) Harney (1895–1962)

Bill Harney was born in Charters Towers, Queensland in April 1895. After service with the First AIF in World War I he and a business partner, J Keighran, took a lease on land by the Macarthur River near Borroloola.

After selling his share of the lease, he bought a fishing vessel to hunt for trepang, and in 1940 joined the Commonwealth's Native Affairs Branch as a patrol officer. Some of his reports detail the enormous distances he was required to travel. Between May 1942 and May 1943, he undertook 105 patrols throughout the Top End, including Pine Creek, Katherine, Mataranka, Maranboy, Larrimah, Adelaide River, Elliott, Bathurst Island and Darwin. In that year alone he travelled over 17,000 kilometres.

In March 1957 he was appointed as the first ranger for Ayers Rock and the Olgas (now Uluru and Kata Tjuta) as they were then known. His responsibilities included the protection of wildlife and Aboriginal rock art.

Harney became widely read in his field and was highly sought after for his comments and views on the Northern Territory.

In retirement Bill Harney returned to Queensland where he died in December 1962.

Selected records relating to Bill Harney
National Archives, Canberra
Harney William Edward (WW I service file), 1914–20 B2455, Harney W E
J Keighran and W Harney – blocks 5 and 6 – Macarthur River, 1922–23 A3, NT1923/3933
W E Harney – Commonwealth Literary Fund, 1942–61 A463, 1967/674
National Archives, Sydney
Bill Harney remembers – 'Blackmans life' and 'Bushway with Bill Harney' (audio tape), 1954 C102, FD20
Bill Harney – keeper of Ayers Rock – ABC publicity photos, 1962 SP1011/1, 2322
National Archives, Darwin
Patrol Officer W E Harney patrols and reports, 1943–45 F1, 1944/275

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Chapter 16
Territory Personalities