Dr Mickey Dewar

Frederick Watson Fellow 2007

Topic: An examination of the characteristics and attributes of postwar Darwin, through a detailed and multidisciplinary study of Commonwealth public housing policy
Dr Dewar presented her findings in a public lecture at the National Archives in Canberra on 28 October 2008.

Biographical note

Mickey Dewar has worked and published in Northern Territory history for nearly thirty years. Two of her books have been short-listed for the NSW Premier’s History Awards for Community and Regional History. In 1998 she also received the Jessie Litchfield Award for Literature. Her career has been diverse including teaching in Arnhem Land, a postdoctoral fellowship at the Northern Territory University (now Charles Darwin University), and working as a political adviser and contract historian. For many years she was Curator of Territory History at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, responsible for the heritage management of a number of listed sites including Fannie Bay Gaol and Lyons Cottage. She has also curated a number of exhibitions including the development of the permanent Cyclone Tracy Gallery.

She is currently working as a freelance historian and museums policy consultant based in Darwin, and teaching northern Australian history at Charles Darwin University. She was the recipient of a Northern Territory government history grant in 2007.


The focus of Dr Dewar's research for the Frederick Watson Fellowship was an examination of the characteristics and attributes of postwar Darwin through a detailed and multidisciplinary study of Commonwealth public housing policy.


This paper presents a history of housing in Australia's northern capital in the 1950s, exploring the stories and circumstances of the people who lived there. Darwin, a city affected by cyclones and bombing, was particularly unstable during this decade.

The challenge for the federal government in the postwar years was to normalise the Northern Territory and rebuild the town of Darwin – to create a place that people could call home.

References to records in the National Archives collection, cited by Dr Mickey Dewar

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
ItemCommonwealth hostel and messing facilities – policy admin1946–52F1, 1949/411
ItemNightcliff Community Centre1950–53F1, 1949/594 part 2
ItemProgress Association Fannie Bay1950–54F1, 1950/572
ItemPort Darwin Progress Association1950–52F1, 1950/756
ItemHutments for police officers – Darwin Police Station1946–57F1, 1951/210
ItemHouses Salonika1946F1, 1951/543
ItemMarrenah House1950–54F1, 1951/585
ItemAustralian Half-castes Progressive Association1951–72F1, 1951/744
ItemCommunity hall and recreation centre Berrimah1951–54F1, 1951/983
ItemProposed housing schemes Northern Territory1951–52F1, 1951/1012
ItemCountry Women's Association Darwin branch [with plans]1946–58F1, 1952/141
ItemHalf-caste children – policy1946–56F1, 1952/250
ItemPurchase of Parap Military Camp [Parap Community Centre, with plans]1952–54F1, 1952/990
ItemDarwin Housewives Association1949–52F1, 1953/251
ItemCommonwealth Hostel and messing facilities – administration1953–54F1, 1953/259 part 1
ItemProposed new government house Darwin1947–53F1, 1953/277
ItemMitchell Street Hostel – complaints from guests1954–58F1, 1955/71
ItemMarrenah House – equipment1948–59F1, 1955/744
ItemPart-coloured housing policy – Darwin1955–59F1, 1955/1119
ItemWelfare branch part-coloured housing programme policy1958–63F1, 1958–63
ItemWelfare Branch – applications for emergency housing – Vesteys area1958–59F1, 1958/876
ItemWinnellie Progress Association1958–60F1, 1958/1005
ItemNightcliff Hut Dwellers Association1958–601958/1254
ItemHostels – Marrenah House – complaint19581958/1599
ItemDepartmental housing policy1958–631962/1103
ItemHousing programme – Northern Territory – non-departmental housing commission1957–74F1, 1974/2354
ItemDepartment of Interior Canberra file – housing for part-coloured families policy – Northern Territory1954–66F1, 1974/5231

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