Records 1985

About 1985 records

This page has a historical overview of the Northern Territory (NT) in 1985. 

Ian Tuxworth is the Chief Minister.

On 14 April Cyclone Gretel passed just north-west of Darwin. At Darwin Airport, mean wind speeds of 84 kilometres per hour and gusts of 117 kilometres per hour were recorded, with a lowest pressure of 984 hectopascals (hPa).

There was significant rainfall over the whole western Top End of the NT and along the north coast, with some minor flooding and road damage. 

Since Gretel was a weak cyclone, no significant storm surges were recorded. No casualties were reported, but tree damage around Darwin was widespread. 

About 700 insurance claims totalling $2 million were received after Gretel passed close to Darwin. Most claims resulted from water damage, falling trees and minor structural damage. The estimated clean-up cost was $500,000.

On 10 May workers at Mudginberri Abattoir in Arnhem Land begin a strike, which ran until September. They were objecting to the payment by results system, with the support of both the Australasian Meat Industry Employees’ Union and the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

On 22 June, the first local council elections were held in Palmerston. A mayor and six aldermen were elected to begin on 29 June 1985. This replaced the Palmerston Development Authority.

In July unleaded fuel was introduced to the NT.

On 3 July, telephones were installed at Daly River after the commissioning of Telecom's digital radio concentrator system.

Darwin Stonewall Gay Pride Festival marked the first public discussion of gay life.

The first newspaper reports about HIV-positive Territorians are published in the local press.

The population of the NT passes 150,000.

In September, Australian rock band INXS played to an audience of 8,000 at Darwin Amphitheatre.

In October, Correctional Services Minister Mr Barry Coulter "announced a program involving minimum security prisoners taking part in outside work projects".

HMAS Darwin sails into Darwin for the first time, escorted by a flotilla of small craft, four Cherokee Warriors from the Darwin Aero Club and four Mirage fighters from the Royal Australian Air Force.

On 29 October, the NT News reported that the Casuarina Shopping Square $35 million extension saw Darwin “move into a new era of shopping sophistication”, with new shops, and escalators.

A proposal to move to Sunday trading by Darwin’s major retail outlets was supported by the Confederation of Industries.

In December, thousands of Territorians signed a petition to keep the incumbent Administrator, Commodore Eric Johnston, after an announcement by the Federal Government that he would be replaced once his term finished on 1 January 1986.

On 7 December, the Litchfield Shire, the first rural shire to be designated in the NT, elects its Council. Future Olympic Gold medallist Leisel Jones was born in the Territory town of Katherine.

National scene in 1985

Bob Hawke is the Prime Minister.

On 1 February, AM Stereo broadcast starts in Australia.

On 5 September, John Howard replaces Andrew Peacock as federal Liberal leader and Leader of the Opposition.

The Capital Gains Tax is introduced.

New South Wales abolishes capital punishment for treason and piracy with violence, and so abolishing capital punishment from Australia.

The McClelland Royal Commission into the nuclear tests at Maralinga in the 1950s reported its findings.

Network 0/28 becomes known as SBS.

Handover of Uluru

The handover of Uluru in 1985 was a symbolic highpoint for the land rights movement in Australia. 

On 26 October hundreds of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people attended the ceremony when Governor General Sir Ninian Stephen handed over the title deeds to Anangu traditional owners. 

Anangu signed a lease agreement leasing the land back to the Australian Parks and Wildlife Service, which is now the Director of National Parks, for 99 years. 

This occasion formally acknowledged Anangu ownership of the park while also recognising the value of their land as a park of national significance. 

At the time the NT Government boycotted the handover, with Chief Minister Ian Tuxworth vowing to fight for the return of the Park to the control of the NT Government. The Federal opposition also declined an invitation to attend the ceremony.

International scene

Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union after death of former leader Konstantin Chernenko.

The vessel Rainbow Warrior is sunk when French agents plant a bomb in the hull. The sinking was designed to sink the flagship of the Greenpeace fleet, the Rainbow Warrior in the port of Auckland, New Zealand, to stop her from interfering in a nuclear test in Moruroa authorised by top French Officials.

Live Aid pop concerts in Philadelphia and London raise over US$50 million for famine relief in Ethiopia.

Popular culture

Ray Martin takes over Mike Walsh’s daytime TV slot replacing 'The Mike Walsh Show' with 'Midday with Ray Martin'.

On 18 March, TV Soap 'Neighbours' is launched by Network Seven. It was dropped seven months later and picked up by Ten Network.

The American science fiction adventure comedy movie ‘Back to the Future’ is released, starring Michael J Fox, and Christopher Lloyd, is released. 

Other movies released included ‘The Breakfast Club’, ‘Witness’ starring Harrison Ford, ‘St Elmo’s fire’, ‘Mask’ starring Cher, ‘James Bond: A View to a Kill’ starring Roger Moore and Grace Jones, ‘The Colour Purple’ starring Whoopi Goldberg, and the first of the ‘Fright Night’ movies.

Music releases in 1985 included the INXS album ‘Listen like Thieves’, Grace Jones ‘Slave to the Rhythm’, Dire Straits ‘Brothers in Arms’, Fine Young Cannibals self-titled album, and Talking Heads ‘Little Creatures’.

In the fashion stakes it was a time of big shoulder pads, stirrup pants, and spikey mullet hairstyles.


All of the following references were used for the information on this page:

  • NT News 1985 editions , Northern Territory Library
  • Northern Territory Chronicle, prepared by Steve Bennett, Research Officer, Government House, Darwin, edited by His Honour Neil Conn AO, Administrator of the Northern Territory, available on the NT Library website at
  • Northern Territory Chronicle1974-1998, NTU Press 1999
  • Dino Hodge paper
  • ABC Darwin Radio interview with Ian Tuxworth reflecting on Handover 30 years ago, 26 October 2015
  • Wikipedia, 1985 Australia,
  • Wikipedia, 1985 in Music,
  • Wikipedia, 1985 in Film,

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Last updated: 14 April 2021

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