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Top End and Darwin History

Sailing Darwin Harbour

Early visitors to the Top End coastline
British attempts to settle the Top End
Early visitors to the Top End coastline
  • Some historians document early Chinese traders from 1750’s
  • For several hundred years traders from Macassar (located on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi) came to the Territory searching for trepang from the 15thcentury onwards and traded with local Aboriginal people.
  • Dutch and French explorers sailed along the northern coast and gave Territory locations names such as Groote Eylandt, Arnhem Land, and Vanderlin Island.
  • The British established a series of northern forts in the 1820s, primarily to ensure that no other country laid claim to the area. Chinese immigrants came to the Territory in large numbers from the 1870s onwards in response to the first gold rushes, but Asian immigration was curtailed from Federation with the introduction of the Immigration Restriction Act 1901.
British attempts to settle the Top End
  • There were 5 attempts to settle Northern Australia by the British
  • (1) 1824 Fort Dundas (Melville Island),
  • (2) 1827 Fort Wellington (Raffles Bay)
  • (3)1838 Port Essington (Coburg), all abandoned by 1849
  • (4) 1839 Escape Cliffs
  • (5) 1869 Port Darwin
  • Augustus Charles Gregory explored the Northern Territory's interior from Victoria River in 1855–56 and travelled through Elsey Creek to the Gulf of Carpentaria. The much speculated inland sea and fertile tablelands, however, were not located.
  • 1862 John McDouall Stuart's successful overland expedition reached the Arafura Sea
  • The South Australian Government proposed to hold the first land sales in 1864 and drafted a Bill that was debated in some haste to ensure its passage in the 1863 Parliamentary session, the first sitting after the Letters Patent arrived in the colony. The Bill was duly passed and became known as the Northern Territory Act 1863.
  • 1864 Boyle Travers Finniss' expedition to Escape Cliffs, east of present day Darwin
  • 1869 George Goyder's expedition to Palmerston (Darwin)
  • 1872 Overland telegraph line from Adelaide to Palmerston (present day Darwin) was completed