Colloquium burrows into northern history 

Kathy De La Rue (above) and Robyn Smith (below) both presented at the History Colloquium held on the weekend

Charles Darwin University doctoral student Kathy De La Rue has already published a book about the history of Darwin between 1869 and 1911, the year the Federal Government took over administration of the Territory from South Australia.

Now she is tackling the years of federal administration between 1911 and 1978, when the Territory was granted self-government.

Ms De La Rue outlined the challenges of writing a history of this period of growth and change in her lecture at the weekend’s History Colloquium organised by CDU, the Australian National University and the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.

Although her research is still in its preliminary stages, she is hoping to eventually publish a book on the period as a companion piece to her earlier effort The Evolution of Darwin (2004).

The Colloquium was held over two days at the MAGNT’s theatrette in Fannie Bay.

A small but dedicated group of history enthusiasts and research students turned out on both days to hear speakers update their research projects about various aspects of social, political and Indigenous history.

ANU doctoral student Karen Fox related the challenges of defining famous Indigenous women from Australia and her home country New Zealand, raising questions about the nature of fame and celebrity, and how society determines who will be regarded as famous.

Another PhD student, CDU’s Robyn Smith, gave an entertaining account of how Northern Territory politicians behaved badly at the first sitting of the Legislative Assembly in September, 1978.

With the Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser and the Governor-General, Sir Zelman Cowen in Darwin for the official opening, the first days of sitting degenerated into a slanging match between the new government and the opposition.

The abuse became so vindictive that parts of the official record has to be expunged from the Hansard record because the Governor-General was insulted – an inauspicious debut for the fledgling Parliament.

According to Ms Smith, the first speeches of the new Parliament helped establish Darwin’s political reputation as a free-wheeling ‘frontier’ town.

The Colloquium also saw the launch of visual arts curator and historian Daena Murray’s new book The Sound of the Sky, which details the influence of the Territory landscape and Indigenous population on Australian artists in the 20th century.

The Sound of the Sky is published by Charles Darwin University Press, and retails for $75.