Records of government are a useful source for tracing the life stories of Australian people. Documents, such as letters, cablegrams, newspaper cuttings and memos, filed by government agencies, were later transferred to the custody of the National Archives as part of the public record. The National Archives holds millions of government records, evidence of the workings of the many departments and agencies of the Australian Government.

The records held by the National Archives of Australia are particularly relevant to the history of the Northern Territory and the people living there, as the Territory was adminstered by the federal government from 1911 until 1974.

In the early 1930s a daily flow of cables were telegraphed between the Department of the Interior's office in Canberra and the Northern Territory Adminstrator's office in Darwin – a clumsy form of today's email. Expensive to send, cables tended to be short and somewhat raw, and make it easy to track the day-by-day unfolding of government responses to the killing of Constable McColl. The more formal letters or follow-up instructions from the Department of the Interior were sent by air (taking three days), or ship (taking 10 days). Such instructions were frequently overtaken by events.

The records also reveal the importance of newspaper reports to governments. The departmental files relating to Dhakiyarr's case are filled with newspaper cuttings carefully clipped, pasted onto a backing sheet, labelled, dated and initialled by the Chief Clerk of the Department of the Interior. Some sheets have handwritten comments or instructions at the bottom.

This website includes documents from files created by the Department of the Interior, the Department of Territories, the Attorney-General's Department, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, and the Cabinet Office. It also includes records of the High Court of Australia, newly transferred to the National Archives.

Other interesting inclusions are files created by JA Carrodus as Acting Administrator of the Northern Territory in 1934, and rare photographs from an album compiled by Hilda Abbott, whose husband was Administrator from 1937 until 1946.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019