Records 1985


This guide has Cabinet record information from 1985, including Cabinet decision highlights from that year, a background to the Northern Territory and Australia in 1985, and the Cabinet members.

For a full listing of Cabinet decisions and Executive Council records go to indexes of Cabinet records.

Not all Cabinet decisions are available to view, get the list of Cabinet documents exempted from 30 year release PDF (142.1 KB).

Get the list of Cabinet 1984 redacted exempt documents PDF (173.9 KB).

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,

Members of 1985 Cabinet

This page shows the Northern Territory Government ministries in 1985.

Members of 1985 Cabinet 

Second Tuxworth Ministry - 21 December 1984 to 19 August 1985

Hon IL Tuxworth MLAChief Minister
Hon NM Dondas MLAMinister for Industry and Small Business
Hon MB Perron MLAAttorney-General
Minister for Mines and Energy
Hon JM Robertson MLAMinister for Health
Minister for Youth, Sport, Recreation and Ethnic Affairs
Hon T Harris MLAMinister for Education
Hon DW Manzie MLAMinister for Transport and Works and Housing
Hon SP Hatton MLAMinister for Lands
Minister for Primary Production
Minister for Ports and Fisheries
Minister for Conservation
Hon BF Coulter MLAMinister for Community Development
Minister for Correctional Services

Third Tuxworth Ministry - 20 August 1985 to 28 April 1986

Hon IL Tuxworth MLAChief Minister
Hon NM Dondas MLAMinister for Industry and Small Business and Tourism
**Hon MB Perron MLAAttorney-General
Minister for Mines and Energy
*Hon JM Robertson MLASpecial Minister for Constitutional Development
Hon Tom Harris MLAMinister for Education
Hon DW Manzie MLA Minister for Transport and Works and Housing
Hon SP Hatton MLAMinister for Primary Production
Minister for Conservation
Minister for Ports and Fisheries
Minister for Lands
Hon BF Coulter MLAMinister for Community Development
Minister for Correctional Services
Hon RA Hanrahan MLAMinister for Health
Minister for Youth, Sport, Recreation and Ethnic Affairs

Marrara sporting complex

Marrara Stadium 

Following a decision to centralise Darwin’s sporting facilities at Marrara rather than upgrade existing facilities across the city, Government needed to decide the extent of the development. 

A sum of $2.5 million had already been allocated for the Marrara complex in 1984/85 to commence the development of outdoor facilities including a cricket field, wickets, amenities block, football ovals, synthetic hockey field and associated amenities, and a grassed field for hockey, soccer and athletics.

The submission sought additional funding to complete the facilities to a standard required for the staging of national and international competitions in the Northern Territory, to be completed in time for Australia’s Bicentenary in 1988. 

In support of the proposal, the submission noted the hosting of major sporting events makes a substantial contribution to the promotion of the Territory, supports tourism and provides spin-off benefits to the business community.

Cabinet approved two Capital Works projects at the Marrara Sporting Complex in Darwin as recommended in the submission.

The first of these, for the financial year 1985-86, was the construction of a grandstand in the main football stadium together with grassing and irrigation of the No. 2 oval at a total cost of $6.57 million. 

The second project was the construction in 1986-87 of a cricket clubhouse and scoreboard, along with car parks, landscaping and spectator terracing, at a cost of $2.6 million.

Read the Cabinet decision - submission number 3479 and decision number 4046 or 19 April 1985 PDF (5.0 MB).

Photographic drivers licence

In May 1985, Cabinet considered a proposal to introduce photographic drivers’ licences, an initiative which had recently been taken up in Victoria and New South Wales.

The submission to Cabinet argued that the existing drivers’ licence issue procedure was open to manipulation such as substitute applicants sitting for licence tests, obtaining additional licences with different names, and licence swapping when proof of identity or age is demanded such as when purchasing liquor.

Weaknesses in the existing system imposed investigatory burdens on the police and, while it was acknowledged the problems would not be totally overcome by including photographs on licences, a substantial decrease in offences based on the lack of identification was anticipated.

Cabinet approved the introduction of photographic drivers’ licences, at a cost of $228,000 in the first year.

Read the Cabinet decision - submission number 3512 and decision number 4083 of 21 May 1985 PDF (4.3 MB).

New Darwin central fire station

Following the closure in 1984 of the fire station in Darwin’s industrial suburb of Winnellie for cost reasons, Darwin was left with only one fire station, which was located in Daly Street in the city.

The Daly Street facility was some 30 years old and it was considered that the expansion of Darwin over that time, coupled with the station’s outmoded design and facilities, meant the station would be increasingly unable to service the growing city. 

A more strategic location was identified for a new central fire service on the corner of Woolner Road and Iliffe Street in Stuart Park, adjacent to arterial and distributor roads to facilitate quick and easy access to fire callouts.

Cabinet approved a project to construct a new Darwin Central Fire Station and Fire Services Administration accommodation at Stuart Park in 1986/87 at an estimated cost of $3.975 million.

Read the Cabinet decision - submission number 3652 and decision number 4280 of 23 August 1985 PDF (2.3 MB).

Local Government in Darwin rural area

In March 1983, the Minister for Community Development, the Hon Ian Tuxworth MLA, established the Darwin Rural Advisory Council to consider options for a form of local government in the Darwin rural area. The report of the Advisory Council was handed to the Government in June 1984. The report was released for public consultation, and resulted in a considerable amount of public debate.

A number of general principles received wide support throughout the community.

These principles were:

  • that the Darwin City Council boundary should not be extended into the rural area nor should the rural area become wards of the Town of Palmerston
  • that the level of municipal services be in accordance with a rural lifestyle
  • that the imposition of rates in the immediate future was inevitable
  • that the rating system must be equitable.

In May 1985, Cabinet approved in principle the establishment of local government in the Darwin outer rural area.

A Cabinet submission was then developed on the options for implementing this proposal. 

Two primary issues were presented to Cabinet: whether the local government representatives should be appointed or elected, and what form the rating system might take e.g. a flat rate with concessions, or a land based rating system.

The submission recommended a fully elected council with four wards and a rating system based on unimproved capital value. 

The area to be covered by the new shire was proposed to include Gunn Point, Howard Springs, Humpty Doo, Noonamah, Berry Springs, Tumbling Waters and Darwin River Dam.

Cabinet approved the establishment of the new municipality as a Shire consisting of four Wards, that elections be held on 7 December 1985 for one alderman from each Ward and a Mayor or President from the whole of the Shire, and that a rating system be commenced from 1 July 1986 on a basis to be approved by the Minister.

Read the Cabinet decision - submission number 3663 and decision number 4295 of 3 September 1985 PDF (3.5 MB).

Read the preliminary submission 3534 PDF (2.4 MB).

Drought assistance cost

Woolaroo Station 

In 1985, eleven properties in the Barkly Tableland and two in the Victoria River District were drought declared. Cabinet was advised that anticipated drought assistance for 1985/86 was initially $150,000 but this had now been revised up to $650,000 to $800,000.

In terms of the Alice Springs pastoral district, the Northern Territory drought assistance scheme provided that properties became eligible for assistance only when they entered their second consecutive year of declared drought. 

The submission advised that should the drought enter a second year in this area, the total cost of the consequent assistance would be in the order of $1 million.

The recommended option was for Cabinet to note that $650,000 in additional appropriation would be required to meet the cost of assistance to drought affected properties in 1985/86.

The alternative was to revoke the existing drought assistance policy and provide a lower rate of assistance, an option which was not recommended. Cabinet noted the advice in the submission.

Read the Cabinet decision - submission number 3754 and decision number 4393 of 26 November 1985 PDF (2.5 MB).

Central Australian Masters Games

Masters Games 

On 3 December 1985, Cabinet approved the staging of the Central Australian Masters Games in Alice Springs during October 1986 and the allocation of up to $150,000 to underwrite operational costs of the Games on behalf of the organising committee.

Leading up to this decision, a preliminary feasibility study had been undertaken by the Confederation of Australian Sport on behalf of the Northern Territory Tourist Woolaroo Station.Commission, to determine the economic and logistical viability of the Northern Territory hosting a Masters Games. 

One of the primary objectives of such an event was to provide an effective incentive for mature age athletes to renew or maintain their active participation in a sporting discipline.

This would be the first Masters Games of its kind to be held in Australia. 

Alice Springs was identified as a suitable venue because of climate and economic advantages. 

In particular, new visitor markets and attractions were required to support the substantial increase in accommodation capacity recently developed throughout the Northern Territory, and the Tourist Commission identified sport as providing the potential for a substantial impetus to visitor growth patterns. 

Further, the staging of the Games in October 1986 would serve to attract additional visitation to the Territory during a ‘shoulder period’ of the tourist year. 

The Games were expected to embrace around 12 different sports and involve approximately 2,000 competitors, including 300 locals.

Read the Cabinet decision - submission number 3765 and decision number 4403 of 3 December 1985 PDF (8.6 MB).

Pastoral industry study

The submission to Cabinet proposed a study to help government to formulate a strategy for developing the pastoral industry of the Territory, to increase productivity, and to raise the economic potential of a range of associated secondary and processing industries. 

It was noted there had not been a comprehensive study of the Territory’s pastoral industry since the 1937 Payne-Fletcher Report and the 1948 Rose Report.

Cabinet approved the commissioning of a major study of the pastoral industry and the establishment of a Steering Committee comprising representatives of NT Development Corporation, Department of Primary Production, NT Cattlemen’s Association, Buffalo Industry Council and a head consultant to direct and monitor the study.

The Terms of Reference for the study required the development of a draft industry plan for raising the level of pastoral productivity and a broad economic analysis of the pastoral industry looking at issues such as:

  • the structure of and changes in livestock population
  • the major cost components, returns and profitability for a range of properties
  • current and potential markets and marketing methods for livestock (cattle, buffalo and other species) and livestock products, and means of developing market outlets and increasing marketing efficiency
  • limiting factors and problems within the industry
  • the part which micro electronic technology might play in terms of data storage and retrieval in relation to individual properties and the industry as a whole
  • trends towards diversification of land use within traditional pastoral areas, and
  • abattoir/meat processing and byproduct processing.

Read the Cabinet decision - submission number 3774 and decision number 4414 of 17 December 1985 PDF (5.0 MB).

Australian Bicentennial Authority

In July 1985, Cabinet approved the Bicentenary Commemorative Program Project: “An Aboriginal Pharmacopoeia” for submission to the Commonwealth Government and the allocation of $233,000 to the project from “reserve funds” held for the involvement of Aboriginal Australians and/or other projects of a commemorative nature. 

The submission noted many plants are still used by Northern Territory Aborigines in traditional medical treatment.

The project involved documenting plants known to have been, or still, in use for therapeutic purposes; it was noted that much of this type of knowledge in southern Australia had already been irretrievably lost. 

All data would be of Aboriginal origin to be obtained through ngunkaris and other medicine men and women or through library search.

The stated aims of the proposed project were to safeguard traditional knowledge against permanent loss to future Australians, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, to evaluate and document Aboriginal traditional medicine and assess its use in modern programs of health care by Aboriginal Health Workers and the wider Australian community, and to strengthen the place of Aboriginal traditional medicine in the training of Aboriginal Health Workers.

Read the Cabinet decision - submission number 3597 and decision number 4207 of 11 July 1985 PDF (4.5 MB).