Defending the northern gateway

Author/s (editor/s):

Peter Donovan

Publication year:


Publication type:

Policy paper

Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No. 52

Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory, is close to the major population centres of south-east Asia than those of Australia, and for a long time was the only town of any size in Australia's sparsely populated north. This apparent vulnerability of the far north of Australia became a matter of increasing concern to many Australians because of the shifting balance of military power in the region during the early twentieth century; more particularly, the scaling down of the Royal Navy presence and the emergence of Japan as a modern military power. However, little was done to address this concern because those responsible for formulating and implementing Australian defence policy remained convinced of the efficacy of the policy which had persisted virtually unchanged since the mid-nineteenth century. This meant that the sense of alarm in Australia was all the greater when the weakness of this policy became apparent soon after the entry of the Japanese into the war. 

This monograph seeks to provide a historical overview of the development of Australia's defence policy and the role in it ascribed to Darwin and the Northern Territory up to and including World War II. It also includes a brief history of development in the Northern Territory, because throughout the period the notion of development and defence were closely allied.

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