Highlight information about some key moments and events that happened locally in the NT, across Australia and internationally in 1989.
1 January – The first concert of the Darwin Symphony Orchestra takes place in Darwin.
17 February – Agreement is reached between the Northern Territory Government and the Jawoyn people for the lease back of Katherine Gorge National Park an area of land encompassing a series of gorges on the Katherine River and Edith River, 244 km southeast of Darwin. On the 10 September 1989 it is officially handed back to the Jawoyn, and the name changed to Nitmiluk National Park.
31 March – Stage 1 of the Tindal Royal Australian Air Force Base, new home for No.75 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force re-equipped with FA-18 fighters, is officially opened by the Prime Minister Bob Hawke.
28 April – The Northern Territory University, formed on 1 January 1989 by the amalgamation of the Darwin Institute of Technology and the University College of the Northern Territory, is officially opened.
25 May – The Northern Territory Legislative Assembly passes the Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act (NT) 1989, replacing the 1979 legislation and introducing new procedures for site registration and protection.
1 July – The Honourable James Muirhead QC is appointed Administrator of the Northern Territory.
13 August – Thirteen people die in a hot air balloon accident near Alice Springs, Northern Territory.
9 September - Marks 150 years since the HMS Beagle sailed into Darwin Harbour, then named by John Clements Wickham & John Lort Stokes for their former shipmate Charles Darwin.
28 September – The Territory Wildlife Park, Berry Springs south of Darwin, is opened.
30 November – The Legislative Assembly meets for the last time in the building on Mitchell Street that was due for demolition to make way for the new Parliament House building.
1 January – Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) came into effect with the commencement of the Higher Education Funding Act 1988.
10 January – Assistant Australian Federal Police Commissioner Colin Winchester is shot dead in the driveway of his home in Canberra.
9 May – Andrew Peacock deposes John Howard as Federal Opposition Leader and Leader of the Liberal Party by a clear vote of 44 to 27.
15 May – Australia's first private tertiary institution, Bond University, opens on the Gold Coast, Queensland.
3 July – Findings from the Commission of Inquiry into Possible Illegal Activities and Associated Police Misconduct (the Fitzgerald Inquiry) into Queensland Police corruption are released.
July - Interest rates on home mortgages reach 17%.
22 August - The damaging 2-month airline pilots' strike over a 30% pay rise begins in earnest. A dramatic turn in the dispute over wages and conditions sees all of Australia’s 1,645 domestic airline pilots resign. The dispute disrupts domestic air travel and has a detrimental impact on tourism and related industries.
29 August – The Australian Cricket team regained The Ashes on English soil for the first time in 40 years defeating England 4-0 in the 6 test series.
24 September – New South Wales Rugby League team Canberra Raiders upset Balmain Tigers, 19-14 in extra time at the Sydney Football Stadium (now Allianz Stadium) to win one of the most dramatic & exciting grand finals ever & take the NSWRL premiership outside Sydney for the first time.
10 November – Gaby Kennard becomes the first Australian woman to fly non-stop around the world.
2 December – The 1989 Queensland state election is held. After 32 years in power, 19 of those years under leader Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, the National Party government is voted out of office amid widespread allegations of corruption, and is replaced by the Australian Labor Party, led by Wayne Goss.
22 December - Two tourist coaches collide on the Pacific Highway north of Kempsey, New South Wales, 35 are killed and 39 injured. This follows the 20 October Grafton bus crash where 21 people are killed and 22 are injured when a tourist bus collides with a semi-trailer on the Pacific Highway. Both the Grafton and Kempsey bus crashes led to calls to make the Pacific Highway dual carriageway.
28 December – A magnitude 5.6 earthquake hits Newcastle, New South Wales, killing 13 people.
20 January – George HW Bush is sworn in as the 41st President of the United States.
2 February - The last Soviet Union armoured column leaves Kabul, ending nine years of military occupation of Afghanistan since 1979.
1 March - After 74 years, Iceland ends its prohibition on beer; celebrated since as bjórdagur or beer day.
7 March – Iran breaks off diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom over Salman Rushdie’s 1988 novel 'The Satanic Verses'.
13 March – Tim Berners-Lee, English engineer and computer scientist, produces the proposal document that will become the blueprint for the World Wide Web.
24 March - The Exxon Valdez spills 240,000 barrels (38,000 m3) of oil in Alaska's Prince William Sound, after running aground.
1 April – Margaret Thatcher's new local government tax, the Poll Tax, is introduced in Scotland. It would be introduced in England & Wales the following year.
15 April - The death of Hu Yaobang in China sparks the beginning of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
June - Revolutionary change begins in Poland, filtering to countries across Central and Eastern Europe that resulted in the end of communist rule and eventual dissolution of the Soviet Union (1991). Symbolising this change was the destruction of the Berlin Wall, which had separated East and West Germany. Media across the world showed images of East Germans as they and climbed onto the Wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere. The Brandenburg Gate in the Berlin Wall was opened on 22 December 1989.
3 -5 June – Students protesting for democracy in China clash with Chinese military in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. An unknown Chinese protestor, 'Tank Man', stands in front of a column of military tanks on Chang'an Avenue in Beijing, temporarily halting them, an incident which achieves iconic status internationally through images taken by Western photographers.
6 June - The Ayatollah Khomeini's first funeral is aborted by officials after a large crowd storms the funeral procession, nearly destroying Khomeini's wooden casket in order to get a last glimpse of his body. At one point, Khomeini's body almost falls to the ground, as the crowd attempt to grab pieces of the death shroud.
21 June – British police arrest 250 people for celebrating the summer solstice at Stonehenge.
5 July - State President of South Africa PW Botha meets the imprisoned 70-year-old Nelson Mandela face-to-face for the first time.
20 July– Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is placed under house arrest. She is released in 2010.
23 August - Two million indigenous people of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania join hands to demand freedom and independence from Soviet occupation, forming an uninterrupted 600 km human chain called the Baltic Way.
25 August – Voyager 2 makes its closest approach to Neptune and its moon Triton.
23 September - A cease-fire in the Lebanese Civil War stops the violence that had killed 900 people since March.
5 October – The Dalai Lama wins the Nobel Peace Prize.
6 November - The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is founded.
12 November - Brazil holds its first free presidential election since 1960. This marks the first time that all Ibero-American nations, except Cuba, have elected constitutional governments simultaneously.
3 December - In a meeting off the coast of Malta, US President George HW Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev release statements indicating that the Cold War between their nations may be coming to an end.
According to the NT News of 6 January 1989, the population of Australia was approximately 16.3 million people. Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that in 1989 the population of the Northern Territory was around 160,000.
In 1989 a three bedroom home in Sabine Road, Millner on a 1,240 m2 block with spa and outdoor entertainment area in a shady tropical garden was for private sale at $85,000. A two bedroom townhouse in Larrakeyah was selling for $72,000, and a three bedroom ground level home on five acres in Humpty Doo was selling for $105,000.
At the grocery store, Darwin residents were paying $3.10 per kilo for BBQ lamb chops, and $6.40 per kilo for whole rump steak. Baked beans were 59 cents per tin on special, a packet of family assorted biscuits was $1.59, and a box of Weeties $1.99. Granny Smith apples were $1.99 per kilo, and a celery bunch $1.99. A carton of full strength beer was $21.00 and light beer $19.99. A roll of Kodacolor Gold 100 camera film cost $3.89.
Dick Smith Electronics was selling an Acer 500+ computer system for $995, providing 512K memory, single floppy disk drive, special colour emulation hardware/software which enables colour programs to be run on the mono monitor, selectable 4.778MHz clock speed and a real time clock.
Television viewing on Channel 8 commenced at 12:30pm daily with Fat Cat and Friends. The ABC television program offered In the Wild with Harry Butler, Geoffrey Robertson’s Hypothetical and the Australian mini-series Return to Eden staring Rebecca Gilling, James Reyne and Wendy Hughes.
At the movies Territorians were watching Dead Poets Society starring Robin Williams, Mississippi Burning starring Gene Hackman and Willem Defoe, Rain Man starring Dustin Hoffman, Dangerous Liaisons starring Michelle Pfeiffer, and Australian film Young Einstein starring Yahoo Serious.
Topping the Australian Recording Industry Association charts for 1989 was Like a Prayer by Madonna, The Look by Roxette, and I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers. Australian artists making the charts included Tucker’s Daughter by Ian Moss, Especially for You by Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, and If I Could by 1927.
Office of the Administrator 1999, Northern Territory Chronicle 1974-1998
NT News, various editions 1989
Last updated: 14 April 2021
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