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Commonwealth Government Records about the Northern Territory

Department of Aboriginal Affairs and beyond

In November 1967 the Government created an Office and Council for Aboriginal Affairs with H C (Herbert) Coombs as its Chairman. The office was located within an existing department of state, and in 1971 was moved to the Department of Education, Aborigines and the Arts – the first time a Commonwealth department featured the word 'Aborigines' in its name. It was in December 1972 with the creation of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs under the new Whitlam Government that Aboriginal affairs came into a department solely dedicated to that cause.

In the Northern Territory, departmental offices were established in Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine, Tennant Creek, Nhulunbuy and Arnhem Land. The National Archives holds records created by a number of these offices. Some of the records created by the department's Darwin Office are listed below.

Selected records created by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, State Office, Northern Territory
National Archives, Darwin
Miscellaneous records relating to studies, reviews, submissions and analyses, 1973–ongoing E1381
Correspondence files, 1974–ongoing E460
Grants in aid files, 1974–ongoing E1155
Correspondence files, 1976–ongoing E1421
Correspondence files, 1976–ongoing E1429
Correspondence files, 1979–ongoing E1412

Aboriginal Hostels Limited, from 1973

The Aboriginal Hostels Limited was established in June 1973 to provide accommodation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Accommodation is used largely by young people living away from home, studying, or taking advantage of training or employment opportunities. Accommodation is also provided for aged persons, single parents, transient and homeless people, as well as for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people undergoing medical treatment and rehabilitation. Offices in Darwin and Alice Springs were opened in June 1973.

The National Archives holds no records for either office.

Aboriginal Development Commission, 1980–90

The Aboriginal Development Commission was established in July 1980 to further the 'economic and social development of Aboriginals'. Its role was to assist Aboriginal communities and groups to acquire land; to engage in business enterprises; to obtain finance for housing and other personal needs, and to provide such finance. It maintained a Northern Territory Northern Region office in Darwin with area offices in Darwin, Katherine and Nhulunbuy and a Central Region office in Alice Springs with area offices in Alice Springs and Tennant Creek.

Selected records created by the Aboriginal Development Commission, Northern Territory, northern region
National Archives, Darwin
Project control cards for housing program, 1981–ongoing E1411
Correspondence files, 1984–ongoing E1025
Correspondence files – first system, 1985–86 E1024
Correspondence files – multiple number series, 1986–ongoing E1380

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, 1990–2005

In 1990 the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Aboriginal Development Commission amalgamated to form the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). The Northern Territory State Office of ATSIC was based in Darwin with regional offices in Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine, Tennant Creek and Nhulunbuy.

The Commission's role was to ensure maximum participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the formulation and implementation of government policies that affected them; to promote the development of self management and self-suffiency, and to further their economic, social and cultural development.

The Commission operated until 2005 when its functions were dispersed to Commonwealth government departments and an Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination was established. In the Northern Territory a state office of the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination was established with Indigenous Coordination Centres in Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine, Nhulunbuy and Tennant Creek.


Chapter 8
Aboriginal People of the Northern Territory