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Tropical winners

On 1 January 2021, I shall celebrate having lived for 50 years in Darwin, the Top End capital of the Northern Territory. Just a year to go!

I left snow on the ground at London Airport on 29 December, 1970 (it was a 24+ hour journey in those days!) when our 3 children and I flew to our new home in Darwin to join their father, who had taken up a position there a few months earlier.

Clearly the children are now in their mid-life, their father moved on to a new relationship a few decades ago and I now enjoy living on my own, in independent living, in a delightful retirement resort, within walking distance of the beach!

As a child, once WWII, with all the rationing and shortages, air raids and broken nights, was over, we were able to buy petrol again, put the car back on the road (you would not believe how many punctures we had to mend on our first long drive in 1947, after the car had been laid up for 8 years!) and head off – that moment when we crested a rise and saw the sea for the first time – that was the real beginning of our first real holiday since 1939!

Every day, here in Darwin, when I have occasion to leave home, I repeat that experience of glimpsing the sea, several times a day! Magic!

I arrived in the middle of the Wet, and yes – it was warm – but by the middle of my first Dry season, I was complaining of the cold when the temperature dropped below 20 deg C! While I do not enjoy continuously sweating, I really would much rather be too warm than too cold, and, now that I have installed rooftop solar (it is pretty standard here to have rooftop solar hot water systems anyway), I have cheap air conditioning available when I need it.

If you do not really enjoy cold weather and you have never been to the Top End, you are missing out on a gem!

We have probably the most non-racist, cosmopolitan population anywhere in Australia. There are frictions from time to time – nowhere on earth is Paradise! – but in general you will meet people in a social setting from an amazing range of nationality backgrounds.

About 30% of our population is composed of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders people and a high proportion of them live in remote communities. Because that provides us with a large number of Aboriginal rangers, with Indigenous knowledge of land management, added to the nature of the flora in the Top End, we suffer few, serious bush fires. People living on rural blocks are usually dependent on bore water, need to maintain fire-breaks and do experience an occasional bush fire situation.

Like the rest of Australia, our rainfall levels, together with our water table, are below average – which is a concern.

The fact that our government has just opened the door to fracking in the Beetaloo Basin is further cause for concern.

To look at a locality, and changes in its climate conditions over time, is not a scientific way of establishing the existence (or not) of climate change. Nevertheless, recent trends do arouse suspicions that our average temperatures are increasing and our wet season rainfall is also increasingly more variable.

We have recently experienced a significant fall in population numbers. For a great many reasons, our population and workforce are both decreasing and we need to regenerate.

Self-government has, IMHO, been a mixed blessing – apart from anything else, we have a small population from which to choose our representatives and, like everywhere – since politicians are not highly regarded – the most suitable potential candidates do not necessarily step up to offer themselves as candidates.

Reading of the horrendous bush fires, in virtually every State, with lives and property – and livelihoods – destroyed, I wonder whether the NT government should not be discussing, with other governments, ways in which industries involved in renewable energy and waste disposal could be established in the NT – we have superabundant quantities of solar energy available to supply power to manufacturing facilities – and those displaced and not wanting to re-establish in their original locations would be welcomed with open arms!

If we had a half-way competent Federal government, its leader would by now have established an oversight body to plan for recovery and for avoidance of repeat disastrous situations.

Given that the Commonwealth government seems to be fixated on religious issues and blind to urgently needed policy development, we have to put on our thinking caps to bridge the void!

My deep sympathy goes out to all those who have lost family members, their means of supporting themselves and their hopes and plans for the future.

We all need to help – we are, after all, a nation which once prided itself on its mateship.

We must now all pool resources and ideas and try to bring something good out of cataclysmic disaster.

Here’s wishing that the New Year brings healing and hope fulfilled.

My New Year’s Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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  1. George Swalwell

    Thank you for telling us more about your coming to settle in Darwin nearly 50 years ago. I’m sure many will wish you a great celebration of that next year. Thank you also for your wise and pertinent observations and comments on the seemingly rudderless government we have since the last federal election shock. Like you I was a teacher, this time from Australia in Aberdeen and then in London for the years 1965-1975. I taught music though I also have a maths and science background. I missed the dramatic changes brought in by Gough Whitlam’s reforming government. I arrived back in Australia on the same day that Whitlam was dismissed.
    We share many of the same observations about Australia and it’s treasurable attitudes about mateship, a fair go, social justice and compassion. Happy New Year! and here’s to a big change in attitude by our so-called leaders to start to cope with huge challenges

  2. Matters Not


    probably the most non-racist, cosmopolitan population anywhere in Australia

    Not sure about the non-racist bit. Or have they rescued the long grass population (for example only) from their obvious misery?

  3. RosemaryJ36

    MN – we don’t like humbugging , nor antisocial behaviour – whatever the skin colour. And every population has its share of misfits,

    George S- thank you for your kind words. Many people shun the tropics without realising that we actually have a more constant climate than do the other State capital cities!

  4. New England Cocky

    Aw Rosemary, you may me mourn a passed up opportunity to work in NT after graduation in the late 60s. Still, there remains the opportunity to sample the NT in my new job as 4WD chauffeur for the boss. Several Armidale notables have moved to the NT, never to return south. One you may remember was Byrnes the former NT Minister for Education.

    I do not share your enthusiasm for NT legal process because there are too many examples of the racist application of white laws against Aboriginal people.

  5. johno

    Well done on your New Year resolution Rosemary. I shun the tropics because of the humidity. Prefer hot dry to hot wet.

  6. Rosemary J36

    Johno: Humidity only applies for part of the year and with air conditioning in all cars, all business premises and rooftop solar power keeping air con costs down in many homes, life is very pleasant.

  7. johno

    Our house is made of straw bales with big eaves. Easy to keep cool and warm, no air conditioning, just a couple of fans. Very comfortable.

  8. Matters Not

    RosemaryJ36 your response caused me to ‘look back’ to an earlier time. But first some clarification of a term or two.

    … concerns from Aboriginal groups about what they call ‘humbugging’, in which people are forced to share earnings with family members. …

    The time was 2012 and then we had:

    An income management strategy for people in South Australia’s remote Aboriginal lands should not be restricted to those out of work, the Greens say. … the strategy would benefit not only those receiving welfare payments and should be available to anyone who wants it. …

    … spoken to particularly Aboriginal women who would like to have a form on income management so that they don’t have the pressures of humbugging and that they continue to hold down a paid job and all the pressures of that without getting the added difficulties of having to tell family members ‘no’ when they ask them for money

    One wonders what The Greens’ position is to-day? (Note the article is 7/8 years old.)

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