The pastoral industry in the Northern Territory – Fact sheet 108

Pastoralism and the Northern Territory

Over the past 150 years the Northern Territory has drawn part of its identity from the pastoral industry that operates across its rural expanses. Much of the 'Territorian' image derives from this industry.

Following John McDouall Stuart's 1861–62 crossing of the country from Adelaide to Point Stuart to the east of what is now Darwin, much emphasis was placed on the pastoral and agricultural potential of the lands that he had traversed. During the late nineteenth century a substantial part of the Territory was acquired by pastoralists under pastoral leases issued by the South Australian government, which administered the Northern Territory from 1870 until 1911. It was on these pastoral leases the Territory based much of its economic and social development.

The station 'community'

In a place where cities and towns are few and far between, the pastoral stations of the Territory have been not only valuable (and often the only) points for reference on a map, but have usually provided the community around which people have lived. They have been a place of employment, a place of residence, a place of birth and death, and a location for providing numerous government services, including education, health, welfare, census collection and law enforcement.

Branding – Rockhampton Downs station, 1935
Branding – Rockhampton Downs station, 1935. Photographic prints of the NT relating to the Report on Pastoral Leases by the Northern Territory Pastoral Leases Investigation Committee; Volume 1 (NAA: F1454, 1)

Records on the pastoral industry

The National Archives office in Darwin holds a range of records relating to the pastoral industry in the Territory. These include records relating to the issue and management of leases, investigations and reports into the leasehold system, as well as census and welfare records relating to Aboriginal people. Many records use the station as a location on which to focus dealings with people.

The stations of the Territory have a rich history and for many researchers records relating to the pastoral industry are an invaluable source of information not only for historical, social and economic studies, but for research into personal and family histories. Some of the major series of interest in the Darwin office of the National Archives are listed below.

Selected records relating to the pastoral industry in the Northern Territory

Collection references

Records of the Pastoral Leases Investigation Committee (PLIC), 1935 ( CA 1098)

Maps and plans of pastoral leases

The National Archives Darwin office also holds maps and plans detailing pastoral leases in the Territory at different points in time. These are available for viewing in the reading room.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017