Statehood: a political synopsis 

Professor David Carment AM

As well as hotly debating the issues surrounding the adoption of a Bill of Rights by the Northern Territory, the May Charles Darwin Symposium also focused on a possible move towards statehood by the Territory.

David Carment AM, Professor of History at Charles Darwin University spoke to Symposium delegates about the politics surrounding the history of the Northern Territory and its governance.

Professor Carment shared his view with Symposium delegates that after 30 years of self government, statehood seemed the obvious and logical next step for the Territory, in its political and social evolution.

‘The Territory, for the most part, functions as a state, and it is surely anomalous that its constitutional status is much the same of that of the Australian Capital Territory,’ he said.

Professor Carment also told delegates he supports the contention that it is hard for Territorians to respond knowledgably to the statehood issue, until the Commonwealth reveals its terms and conditions for statehood.

He did however note that even with this information there are still a number of issues that will continue to stall the movement towards statehood.

‘While the most frequently used official argument in favour of statehood, is misleading and counterproductive – the argument being that the Territory is not democratically governed under its current constitutional arrangements – movement towards statehood will be impeded,’ he told delegates.

The second critical factor to statehood is the uncertainty surrounding the impact of statehood on Indigenous people and the clear division between the statehood agendas of Indigenous and non-indigenous residents of the Northern Territory.

Professor Carment concluded by noting that any progress towards statehood could only be achieved in addressing these key issues.

Visit the Symposium website for further information about the event.