Records 1981

NT and Australia in 1981

This page has a historical overview of the Northern Territory (NT) and Australia in 1981.

Political leaders

In 1981, Malcolm Fraser was Australia’s Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Ronald Reagan the President of the United States of America. 

Chairman Mao was running the show in China. 

Lady Diana Spencer, Kindergarten teacher, was rumoured to be the girlfriend of Prince Charles.

On 1 January 1981, Commodore Eric Johnston AM OBE RAN was appointed the Administrator of the NT.

Society and popular culture

Territorians were going to the movies to see 'Smokey and the Bandit', starring Burt Reynolds, 'Superman II', and Francis Ford Coppola’s 'Apocalypse Now'. 

On television, Australians were watching the American soap opera 'Dallas', and the Australian drama 'Patrol Boat'.

Territorians ate at the Rock Oyster Restaurant, then located in Cavenagh Street opposite the Casino at the Don Hotel. The Tai Hung Tol Chinese Restaurant at Parap and the Top of the Telford were also popular dining spots.

In 1981, GPO Status was conferred on the Darwin Post Office, FM radio stations opened at Alice springs (8CCC) and Darwin (8TOP), Kalymnos Island in Greece was offered sister city status with Darwin, and 'We of the Never Never' was filmed on location at Elsey Station.


A three bedroom ‘post-cyclone’ elevated house in Nakara was on the market for $70,000. 

The average weekly earnings in the NT was $359 for males, higher than the Australian average of $304 per week.

NT politics

The Gurig National Park was declared after successful negotiations between government and traditional owners of the Coburg Peninsula.

Waterside workers were determining policy on the handling and loading of 'Yellow Cake' (uranium oxide) at the Darwin Wharf. 

Uranium mining and export was set to expand with negotiations happening between the French and Australian Governments.

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Last updated: 14 April 2021

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