About three fourths of the population live in the Darwin and Alice Springs metropolitan areas. Australian aborigines represent nearly one fourth of the Northern Territory's population and own the land of 15 reservations with a total area of 94,000 sq mi (243,460 sq km); the Arnhem Land preserve is the largest. Much of this land is important to the uranium mining and tourist industries.
The territory's economic development has been accelerating in recent years. Gold is worked to a small extent; uranium, bauxite, manganese, iron, lead, and zinc deposits are increasingly exploited. Stockbreeding, encouraged by government development projects, is the major rural activity. There is very little farming in the territory. Peanuts, pearl shell, and trepang are the principal exports.
Northern Territory's first settlement was established at Port Essington in 1824 in an attempt to forestall French colonization. The settlement failed, and permanent settlement did not resume until 1869. Northern Territory was part of New South Wales from 1825 to 1863 and of South Australia from 1863 to 1911. Transferred to direct rule by the commonwealth in 1911, it was divided into two territories in 1926 but was reunited in 1931.
In 1974, the commonwealth-appointed Legislative Council was replaced by a fully elected Legislative Assembly. In 1978, full self-goverment was granted to the Territory, and in the 1990s statehood became a prominent political issue. Also politically important in recent years has been the issue of the treatment of and opportunities for the aboriginal population. The Northern Territory elects a member with full voting rights to the Australian House of Representatives.
The Chief Minister is appointed by the Administrator of the Northern Territory, who in normal circumstances will appoint the head of whatever party holds the majority of seats in the legislature of the territory (in the Northern Territory, the Legislative Assembly). However, in times of constitutional crisis the Administrator can appoint someone else as Chief Minister.
|Chief Minister||Party||Period in office|
|Dr Goff Letts 1||Country Liberal Party||1974 - 1977|
|Paul Everingham||Country Liberal Party||1977 - 1984|
|Ian Tuxworth||Country Liberal Party||1984 - 1986|
|Stephen Hatton||Country Liberal Party||1986 - 1988|
|Marshall Perron||Country Liberal Party||1988 - 1995|
|Shane Stone||Country Liberal Party||1995 - 1999|
|Denis Burke||Country Liberal Party||1999 - 2001|
|Clare Martin||Australian Labor Party||2001 - 2007|
|Paul Henderson||Australian Labor Party||2007 - present|