Records 1986


This guide has Cabinet record information from 1986, including Cabinet decision highlights from that year, a background to the Northern Territory and Australia in 1986, 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 (108.3 KB).

Get the list of Cabinet 1986 redacted exempt documents PDF (120.3 KB).

About 1986 records

This page has an historical overview of the Territory in 1986.

Ian Tuxworth is the Chief Minister.

The New Year opened with the Northern Territory News reporting that Australian Parks and Wildlife was investigating the illegal landing at Uluru by 3 parachutists, who attempted to land on the rock on the first day of the New Year. “We will prosecute” they claimed.

Reports of New Year celebrations included that the packed Diamond Beach Casino at Mindil Beach, resembled ‘a sardine can’ as new year revellers saw in 1986. Popular Darwin venues Darby’s Nightspot, the Beachcomber, and Fannies were crammed with people swaying to the music.

Territorian Mr Jay Pendarvis, owner of the Mudginberri Abbatoir, exporter of Buffalo meat, was named Australian of the year.

Ian Tuxworth MLA resigned as Chief Minister in May. Steve Hatton MLA became the third Chief Minister of the Northern Territory.

Early in the New Year the NT Government announced the auction sale of Annaburroo Bark Hut Inn, billabong and camping area for tourism development.

Contracts in order of $6M were announced for the development of Tindal RAAF Base.

In the early days of the year, the newspaper reported that “more youths will hit the prison system following the transfer [on 6 January 1986] of Youth Services to Correctional Services”.

Landscaping plans for the low lying land behind Vesteys Beach in Darwin were released for public consultation.

A new Post Office was designed and designated for the budding town of Palmerston.

On 8 April 1986 international super-band Dire Straits played their “Brothers in Arms” concert to a thrilled audience at the Darwin Showgrounds. Rain soaked the crowd but not their enthusiasm. Dire Straits also played at Uluru on 11 April.

There were full page advertisements regularly in the NT News warning of the dangers of drinking alcohol and driving a motor vehicle, with the stark message that Drink Driving kills.

Local Darwin attractions Indo Pacific Marine, located at Smith Street West, Aquascene Fish Feeding at Doctors Gully, the Crocodile Farm at 40 mile, and The NT Museum of Arts and Sciences (now the MAGNT) were on the tourist ‘to do list’ for visitors to Darwin.

On 30 June 1986 the Australian Bureau of Statistics conducted a census. Results indicated that the Australian estimated resident population had reached 16 million, with the NT’s population around 154,400.

The population of the Northern Territory although still small in comparison with State populations, had been increasing rapidly, having more than doubled in 25 years between 1961 and 1986. The NT had the youngest age profile in Australia with median age in 1986 of 25.7 years.

In the Northern Territory the major centre outside Darwin was Alice Springs which had grown at an average annual rate of nearly 5 per cent in the period 1976-86. Alice Springs was one of Australia's fastest growing inland towns; its population at 30 June 1986 was 22,000.

Pope John Paul II visited Australia at the end of November, blessing gatherings of Roman Catholics from his ‘Pope mobile’ on a tour of various cities and towns, including Darwin and Alice Springs. In Darwin he celebrated mass at the Darwin Showgrounds, dressed in specially designed vestments incorporating both papal and Tiwi symbols. In Alice Springs he addressed a crowd at Blatherskite Park and gave an inspirational speech to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia.

National scene in 1986

The Australian Prime Minister was Mr Bob Hawke, and Leader of the Opposition was Mr John Howard.

Sydney nurse, Ms Anita Cobby was abducted, raped and murdered by 5 men on 2 February. All perpetrators were found guilty in June 1987 and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

Mrs Lindy Chamberlain was released from prison in Darwin in February, following the discovery of her daughter’s matinee jacket at Uluru. The Royal Commission into the conviction of both Lindy and her husband Michael began in April.

Mrs Joan Child became the first female Speaker of the Australian House of Representative in the Federal Parliament.

The Australia Act 1986 came into effect on 3 March, granting Australia legal independence from the United Kingdom by removing the power of the Parliament of the UK to legislate with effect in Australia, its States and Territories.

The headquarters of the Victoria Police at Russell Street Melbourne was bombed, killing police constable Ms Angela Taylor.

AUSSAT satellites are launched bringing television to remote areas of Australia for the first time.  The new facility for the Northern Territory located near University Avenue Palmerston, was opened in July.

International Scene

A nuclear power plant at the Ukraine town of Chernobyl, exploded in April 1986 causing widespread radioactive contamination of the region. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced by the disaster as the Soviet Union evacuated and closed off the surrounding area within 18 miles of the plant. Contaminated dust and air from Chernobyl blew across parts of Europe.

The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after launching from Cape Canaveral in Florida USA in January 1986, killing all of the astronauts on board, and shocking a worldwide television audience.

Pan Am Flight 73, with 358 people on board bound for the US, was hijacked at Karachi International Airport, Pakistan, by four armed men.

Following a breakthrough commitment to disarm, negotiated during US-USSR Arms Talks between US President Ronald Reagan and Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev, Gorbachev stepped up reforms in Russia introducing Perestroika(restructuring) and Glasnost (openness).

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical adaptation of the Phantom of the Opera debuted in London’s West End in October 1986.

Halleys Comet could be observed in the night skies as it reached its closest point to the Earth, during its second visit to the solar system in the 20thcentury.

Popular Culture

Territorians were watching A Country Practice, Simon Townsends Wonder World, TV Series Rush, and American drama Dynasty on the television.

Australian TV soap opera, Neighbours introduced the character Charlene Robinson on 17 April 1986, with actor Kylie Minogue selected for the role fresh from finishing her High School exams.   

John Farnham’s You’re the Voice topped the Australian music charts. Other popular music on the charts for 1986 included Billy Ocean When the going gets tough, the tough get going, and UK performers Bananarama song Venus.

Sylvestor Stallone’s Rambo First Blood Part IIand Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator were shown as a double feature at the local Darwin Cinema.

The movie Crocodile Dundee starring Australian actor Paul Hogan and American actor Linda Koslowski was released in Australia on 30 April.


Crocodile Dundee Movie Poster

Members of the 1986 Cabinet

 Third Tuxworth Ministry (20 August 1985 to 28 April 1986)

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

* Hon MB Perron resigned from Ministry 29 April 1986.
**Hon J M Robertson resigned as Member for Araluen 26 March 1986.

Forth Tuxworth Ministry (29 April 1986 to 14 May 1986)

Hon IL Tuxworth MLA* Chief Minister
Hon NM Dondas MLA  Minister for Transport and Works
  Minister for Ports and Fisheries
   Minister for Lands
 Hon DW Manzie MLA  Attorney-General
   Minister for Education
Hon BF Coulter MLA  Treasurer
  Minister for Conservation
Hon SP Hatton MLA** Minister for Primary Production
   Minister for Mines and Energy
Hon T Harris MLA Minister for Health
  Minister for Housing
Hon RA Hanrahan MLA Minister for Business, Technology and Communications
   Minister for Tourism
Hon DF Dale MLA Minister for Community Development
   Minister for Correctional Services
  Minister for Youth, Sport, Recreation and Ethnic Affairs

*Hon IL Tuxworth resigned as Chief Minister 14 May 1986.
**Hon SP Hatton sworn in as Chief Minister 15 May 1986.

First Hatton Ministry (15 May 1986 to 18 March 1987)

Hon SP Hatton MLA  Chief Minister (appointed 14/5/86)
Hon BF Coulter MLA  Treasurer
  Minister for Mines and Energy
Hon NM Dondas MLA Minister for Transport and Works
  Minister for Ports and Fisheries
  Minister for Lands
Hon DW Manzie MLA Attorney-General
  Minister for Education
Hon RA Hanrahan MLA Minister for Business, Technology and Communications
  Minister for Tourism
Hon T Harris MLA Minister for Health
  Minister for Housing
Hon DF Dale MLA Minister for Community Development
  Minister for Correctional Services
  Minister for Youth, Sport, Recreation and Ethnic Affairs
 Hon TR McCarthy MLA  Minister for Primary Production
   Minister for Conservation

Fifth ministry 

Image courtesy of Northern Territory Archives Service, Department of the Chief Minister, NTRS 3354/P1, Item 7

Fifth Tuxworth Ministry (26 April 1986-15 May 1986)

Rear: BF [Barry] Coulter; DF [Don] Dale; SP [Steve] Hatton; RA [Ray] Hanrahan;

Front: T [Tom] Harris; NM [Nick] Dondas; IL [Ian] Tuxworth; DW [Daryl] Manzie

First Hatton Ministry

Image courtesy of Northern Territory Archives Service, Department of the Chief Minister, NTRS 3354/P1, Image 8


First Hatton Ministry (15 May 1986-18 March 1987)

Rear:  T [Tom] Harris; TR McCarthy ; DF [Don] Dale; RA [Ray] Hanrahan

Front: NM [Nick] Dondas; BF [Barry] Coulter; SP [Steve] Hatton; DW [Daryl] Manzie

Australia Card – National Identification System

This Submission canvassed whether the Northern Territory Government should cooperate with the Commonwealth's proposal for a national identification system, to be known as the Australia Card.  The operation of the Australia Card relied on states and territories providing the Commonwealth’s Health Insurance Commission with access to Births, Deaths and Marriages records in each jurisdiction.

The Australia Card was intended to replace the Medicare Card, and the database for the Australia Card would contain the name, address, sex, date of birth, date of death, Australia Card number, and signature of the person concerned. Consideration was also being given to whether the record would contain a photograph of each individual.

The Australia Card was expected to assist in combating tax evasion by aiding the identification of participants in financial transactions and persons lawfully entitled to undertake work in Australia. It also aimed to prevent employment under false names and false taxation instalment declarations, promote greater compliance with the requirement to declare interest and dividend income, and enable better auditing of business tax papers and detection of non-lodgers.  The Card was also expected to reduce social security fraud through the identification of people seeking income maintenance assistance.

Cabinet agreed that the Territory may be prepared to cooperate with the proposed national identification system, subject to:

  • the Commonwealth agreeing to pay the cost of computerisation of the Territory’s births, deaths and marriages records
  • protection of civil liberties and privacy
  • limitation of the use of the Australia card information and number to combating tax evasion, abuse of social welfare programs and to assist in identifying illegal immigrants
  • the information not being made available to any third party without the Territory’s approval
  • no access to the Territory’s adoption records
  • indemnity against claims based on dissemination of information from the Territory’s records.

Read the Cabinet decision - submission No. 3816 and decision number 4459 PDF (1.6 MB) of 28 January 1986

NT Theatre Company

Prior to the 1983 Northern Territory general election, the then Chief Minister gave an undertaking to establish a state-type theatre company in the Northern Territory.  To progress this, a committee of the Legislative Assembly was commissioned to investigate the establishment of such a company.  Following a review of state theatre operations in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia, the Parliamentary Committee recommended that a Territory Theatre Company be formed.

A submission was subsequently put to Cabinet proposing the establishment of an interim management committee to bring the new Territory Theatre Company into operation by January 1987.  The committee’s role was to prepare a constitution, register the company, recruit a general manager and artistic director, prepare a budget for the first three years of operation, and organise an initial program of plays, including for regional and remote areas in the Territory.

The new Theatre Company was intended to complement and provide a professional expertise resource to existing amateur performing arts organisations.  It would bring the Northern Territory more into line with other states and was expected to attract additional Commonwealth funding for theatre in the Territory.

Cabinet approved the formation of an interim management committee to establish a Territory Theatre Company with a view to the Territory Theatre Company commencing activities in January 1987.

Read the Cabinet decision - submission No. 3820 and decision No. 4463 PDF (1.1 MB) of 28 January 1986

Establishment of Mature Age Community near Alice Springs

In March 1986, Cabinet was provided with an information paper on work being undertaken in relation to establishing a mature age community near Alice Springs. The Submission noted the rapid growth in the number of mature age and elderly people in the Australian population and a trend towards earlier retirement coupled with improved financial capacity and prosperity of the retirement aged population.  This change in demographic and economic characteristics was also evident in the United States, where it had led to the emergence of communities designed specifically to provide a recreation oriented lifestyle for retirees, such as Sun City in Arizona and Laguna Hills in California.

Such projects were observed as having strong parallels with Alice Springs in climatic and lifestyle characteristics.  As a result, the Chief Minister had agreed that a study should be carried out to test the feasibility of developing a comparable community in Central Australia.

A community of this nature was seen as having important benefits for the Northern Territory in general and Alice Springs in particular, and would contribute to:

  • the economy of the region
  • a greater demographic and sociological balance
  • an overall improvement in infrastructure consistent with increased population
  • an improvement in human skills and resources available in the Territory
  • opportunities for tourism development in the region.

Preliminary parameters for the proposal included planning for a maximum capacity of 20,000 people, a self-contained community with a distinctive image and separate identity, and probably drawing on the style, management and concepts of comparable communities in the United States.  It was suggested the Territory Government would provide a master plan for the selected area, basic engineering works and essential services, and necessary social infrastructure such as health and welfare services.  Special infrastructure such as golf courses or other active recreational facilities would be provided by developers.

A research consultancy was proposed, with the intention of producing an interim report on the project for the Minister for Lands in May 1986.  A final report on the feasibility of the project together with a cost/benefit analysis and an assessment of its social and economic impact on the Territory was anticipated by the end of 1986.

Cabinet noted the information.   Read the Cabinet decision - submission No. 3876 and decision No. 4527 PDF (2.1 MB) of 11 March 1986

Commission of Inquiry (Chamberlain Convictions) Bill

On 29 October 1982, Alice Lynne Chamberlain was convicted in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory on a charge of murdering her daughter Azaria at Ayers Rock on 17 August 1980 and Michael Leigh Chamberlain was convicted of being an accessory after the fact to that murder.

Doubt subsequently arose as the guilt of the Chamberlains following the discovery in February 1986 of a baby's matinee jacket and other items at the base of Ayers Rock not far from the place where clothing, identified as that of Azaria Chamberlain's, was found in August 1980.   Mrs Chamberlain had maintained that the infant was wearing a matinee jacket at the time of her disappearance and it was considered that the discovery of the jacket and other items could throw additional light upon the circumstances of the child's disappearance.

As a result, the Northern Territory Attorney-General decided that an inquiry should be held as to the relevance of the jacket, the other items and related matters. At the same time the balance of Mrs Chamberlain's term of imprisonment was remitted and she was released from prison so that she could have unfettered access to her legal advisers for the purposes of the inquiry.

In the absence of suitable legislation in the Northern Territory for such an inquiry, a Bill was developed specifically to establish a Commission of Inquiry into the convictions of the Chamberlains. The Bill set out the terms of reference for the Commission and the powers and functions of the Commissioner, who was required to be a judge or former judge of a state or territory Supreme Court or of the Federal Court.  The Commission was required to report to the Administrator on the conclusions drawn from the evidence and the material information received by the Commission.

Cabinet approved the Commission of Inquiry (Chamberlain Convictions) Bill for introduction in the March 1986 sittings of the Legislative Assembly. Read the Cabinet decision - submission No. 3892 and decision No. 4530 PDF (2.5 MB) of 18 March 1986

Lindy Chamberlain Azaria

Image courtesy of NT News 1986 various editions, Northern Territory Library, Lindy Chamberlain with daughter Azaria, Uluru

NT News

Image courtesy of the Northern Territory Library, NT News, Saturday 8 February 1986

Control of Cane Toads

The cane toad invasion of the Northern Territory received considerable attention from the local, national and international media during the early 1980s and the Northern Territory Government's cane toad research and management efforts had received wide public support.

In September 1984, the Northern Territory Government decided to approach the Premiers of Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales with a view to making a joint proposal to the Commonwealth to fund a research program into the biological control of cane toads.

This proposal had recently gained the support of all those jurisdictions, each of which was to contribute to the cost of the program on an equitable basis. Funding was to be for an initial period of three years at the end of which time the results would be evaluated, with a possible additional three year program to investigate actual biological control. Projected costs to the Northern Territory were approximately $25,000 for the remainder of 1985-86 and $45,000 per year for the remainder of the three year program.

The research was to be planned and coordinated by a special management committee led by
the School of Tropical Veterinary Science at the James Cook University in Townsville.  The research was intended to focus on the population biology of cane toads in the Queensland/Northern Territory Gulf region and around Townsville, and investigate pathogens which were infecting cane toad populations in Australia at that time.

Cabinet noted the information in the Submission.

Read the Cabinet decision - submission No. 4002 and Decision No. 4679 PDF (2.4 MB) of 16 June 1986

Cane Toad

Image courtesy of the Parks and Wildlife Commission NT Cane Toad

NT Government position on Statehood issues

In August 1986, Cabinet was asked to approve a position on Statehood issues which had been identified as requiring intergovernmental negotiation in the bid for Northern Territory Statehood.

The Submission noted that the objective of Statehood for the Northern Territory was to ensure that those people who have chosen to live in or visit the Territory enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as other Australians.

The recommendations to Cabinet were put forward on the basis that the route to Statehood would be through a grant of Statehood under section 121 of the Australian Constitution. On this basis, the Northern Territory Government would need a firm position on a number of issues which would feature in the terms and conditions which the Federal Parliament might set.

The Submission discussed a range of matters including the Territory’s constitutional disadvantages, what would be required to achieve constitutional equality with the States, and options for NT representation in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Cabinet approved the following objectives in respect of Statehood for the Northern Territory -

  • the attainment of a status which provides constitutional equality with other States, and its people having the same constitutional rights, privileges, entitlements and responsibilities as the people of the existing states
  • political representation in both Houses of Federal Parliament which will result in the people of the Territory enjoying the same political consideration as the people of the States
  • the secure settlement of financial arrangements with the Commonwealth as similar as possible to those which apply to the States particularly in respect of loan raising and revenue sharing.

Read Cabinet decision – submission No. 4074 and Decision No. 4764 PDF (6.6 MB) of 12 August 1986

Australian Bicentennial Authority Northern Territory Commemorative Program

1. Restoration of the Hermannsburg Mission Settlement

This Cabinet Submission sought approval for a project to restore the Hermannsburg Mission Settlement to be included in the Commonwealth/Northern Territory Bicentennial Commemorative Program.  The Hermannsburg mission settlement was noted as being a unique example of mission contact and influence on Aboriginal life in Australia from 1877. Its national importance as a historic site was reflected by its listing in the Register of the National Estate and its classification by the Northern Territory Branch of the National Trust of Australia.  The project aimed to -

  • restore seven historic structures according to approved conservation plans
  • remove two recent structures from the historic site
  • interpret the historic structures and history of the settlement through a series of displays in the restored structures.

Cabinet approved the restoration project as an Australian Bicentennial/ Northern Territory commemorative project for submission to the Commonwealth Government and allocated $500,000 to the project from the Commemorative Program funds.

Read the Cabinet decision - submission No. 4162 and Decision No. 4867 PDF (2.5 MB) of 14 October 1986

2. Ghan Restoration and Alice Springs Telegraph Station Living Heritage Experience

The Submission sought Cabinet approval of two additional projects as recommended by the Northern Territory Council of the Australian Bicentennial Authority for inclusion in the Northern Territory Bicentennial Commemorative Program, being -

  • The Ghan Railway Preservation Project
  • Alice Springs Telegraph Station Living Heritage Experience.

The Ghan Railway Preservation Project involved reconstructing a 30 kilometre section of the old Ghan railway between Macdonnell Siding and Ewaninga Siding, south of Alice Springs.  It was proposed to develop the Macdonnell Siding by establishing at the site a small railway museum, souvenir/coffee shop and restaurant facilities, a barbecue picnic area, and locomotive and rolling stock repair and maintenance sheds.

The proposal to develop the Ewaninga Siding included establishing a barbecue picnic area and camping grounds and operating an historic old Ghan service between the two sidings.

The Alice Springs Telegraph Station project proposed a 24 hour authentic live-in experience for school classes at the old Telegraph Station, with related historical activities. 

Cabinet approved $800,000 for The Ghan Preservation project and $100,000 for the Alice Springs Telegraph Station project as Bicentennial projects for submission to the Commonwealth Government.  In doing so, Cabinet noted that, in addition to meeting the Commonwealth guidelines for Bicentennial Commemorative Programs, the Northern Territory Council had taken into account -

  • an equitable regional distribution of projects
  • the interests of all sections of the community including those of Aboriginal people and scope for their participation
  • projects to be broadly consistent with Northern Territory development objectives and priorities
  • each project is to provide something of lasting value as a commemoration of 1988.

Read the Cabinet decision - submission No. 4218 and Decision No. 4931 PDF (4.1 MB) of 14 November 1986