The Northern Territory occupies the centre and central northern regions of Australia and is bordered by Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland.
The NT, as it is commonly known, covers approximately 1,420,970 square kilometres which is about the size of France, Italy and Spain combined. It has a population of just over 233,000 people. The Northern Territory’s coastline extends for some 6200 km and is generally flat and characterised by swamps, mangroves and mudflats, rising to a plateau no higher than 450 metres.
There is a marked contrast between the dry, hot and arid southern parts of the Territory to the lush, tropical and rugged northern and coastal regions familiar to residents of the Territory’s capital city, Darwin.
This ruggedness and diversity of climate, along with the ever-present sense of space, are characteristics that make the NT so popular with the people who live in this unique part of Australia.
The southern region of the territory spread across central Australia is known for wide expanses of open desert country as well as breath-taking rocks and mountain ranges that rise out of the ancient and dry surrounds. It is crossed by the east-west ridges of the MacDonnell Ranges, reaching heights of more than 600 metres. Uluru or Ayres Rock, which rises out of the desert to a height of some 348 metres, is perhaps the best known of these formations and features.
The tropical north or “Top End,” as it is known, is a distinct region of savannah woodlands and pockets of rainforest. In the north-east, the Arnhem Land plateau rises abruptly from the plain and continues to the coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The Top End has two distinct seasons as would be expected with the dry season extending from around April/May through to September/October followed by the heavy monsoonal rains and humidity of the big wet. Some of the territories most iconic attractions including the famous Kakadu national park come bursting to life during this period.
Darwin, situated on north west coast, is the Northern Territory’s capital city and also its largest city. It has a population of approximately 130,000 people. Darwin is a very multi-cultural city and home to people of many different nationalities and ethnicities. It is also home to Australia’s largest indigenous population. People of aboriginal descent make up around 10% of Darwin’s total population.
After English, Greek, Italian, Indonesian, Vietnamese and Cantonese are the common languages spoken in Darwin. The rich cultural life of the city reflects these influences.
Darwin is one of Australia’s fastest growing cities. Since 2006, its population has increased by in excess of 2.5% per annum. The rapid development of Darwin city has to some extent been driven by this constant rate of population growth.
The port of Darwin is Australia’s gateway to south east Asia and with the Stuart Highway connecting Darwin to southern Australia and with a rail link now extending through Alice Springs and as far as Adelaide in South Australia, Darwin is perfectly positioned to act as a transport hub to serve Asian markets.
The Northern Territory has experienced a period of strong economic growth in recent years. Forecasters expect this growth cycle to continue with a growth rate of more than 6% expected for 2013/14.
Almost 95 per cent of businesses in the Northern Territory are small businesses, with the tourism sector which provides around 18,000 jobs the largest private sector employer.
Mining is the Territory’s most important industry. The Territory is rich in mineral deposits: gold, uranium, nickel, copper and many other minerals are either being mined or are under exploration.
Additionally, the Timor Sea is highly regarded as a prospective location for petroleum resources and contains large-scale oil and gas fields under various stages of operation, construction and consideration. The Northern Territory Government is working to secure and develop these resources.
The Territory’s horticultural sector is also significant and famed for its mangoes, but also produces melons, citrus fruit, bananas, pasture crops, cut flowers, peanuts, table grapes and a range of leafy greens and vegetables.
The Territory is home to approximately 10% of the Australian Defence Force combat personnel and has a long history of supporting Australia’s Defence Forces. Defence-related contracts continue to play a major role in the Top End economy. This includes the full range of supplies and services, from stationery through to ship and heavy machinery repair. Darwin-based companies have won a significant number of Defence contracts in recent years.
Housing affordability in the Territory has improved in recent years as the cost of housing finance, ie interest rates, has declined. The median price of a house in Darwin is currently approximately $592,000 while adult Average Weekly Earnings, on a seasonally adjusted basis, approximate $1540.00 per week.
The Northern Territoryis served by a comprehensive network of public and private pre-schools and schools. Many schools have been re-developed in recent years and the NT government places a high priority on ensuring the quality of the education services delivered by the Territory’s education sector.
The Northern Territory University in Darwin is the largest provider of tertiary education in the Territory and offers Bachelor, Master and Doctorate degree programs, Diploma and Certificate courses, general-interest programs and short professional development courses.
The University’s Institute of Technical and Further Education provides a wide range of trade and technical courses, as well as programs designed to develop managerial and supervisory skills.