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Jews of Australia - Northern Territory

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Land of Milk and Honey

A safe haven for Jews


From the 2011 Census

Naturalization Records


There has been a Jewish presence in Australia since the very beginning of white settlement. Eight of the 751 convicts on the First Fleet were certainly Jews and a further six may well have been. The Anglo-Jewish underworld continued to be represented in convict consignments until the end of transportation in 1852 – at least 1000 individuals came here involuntarily, most of them male, most of them from London's East End, at a time when London Jewry was only 30 000 at its peak.

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were a time of great devastation and fear for Eastern European Jewry. The pogroms caused untold suffering to countless Jewish communities and eventually led to mass emigration which vastly increased the Jewish population of the United States, Britain and some other countries, and even brought Jews to far-off Australia – not entirely to the pleasure of the existing Jewish communities.

Jews needed a homeland and it was decided in the interests of Australia to settle persecuted Russian Jews in the Northern Territory. Plans were drawn up to purchase a million acres of land in Australia in which to settle between 500,000 and a thousand jewish families, which however, did not go ahead.

The Kimberley Plan

This was a failed plan by the Freeland League to resettle Jewish refugees from Europe in northern Australia before and during the Holocaust. The League was a non-Zionist organisation and was led by Isaac Nachman Steinberg. Soon afterwards a pastoral firm in Australia offered the League about 16,500 square kilometres (6,400 sq mi) in the Kimberley region in Australia, stretching from the north of Western Australia into the Northern Territory.

  • In 1863 the Northern Territory was annexed by South Australia by letters patent.
  • Following annexation of the Territory by South Australia a fourth attempt at settlement occurred in 1864 at Escape Cliffs, about 75 km from present day Darwin.
  • There were numerous confrontations with the local Marananggu Aborigines, and in 1867 the settlement disbanded.
  • The construction of the Overland Telegraph led to more exploration of the interior of the Territory and the discovery of gold at Pine Creek in the 1880s further boosted the young colony's development.
  • In the late 19th century the Northern Territory was known as Alexandria Land.

// On 1 January 1911, a decade after federation, the Northern Territory was separated from South Australia and transferred to Commonwealth control as a result of the Northern Territory Surrender Act 1908 in South Australia and the federal Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910. The Northern Territory (Administration) Act provided that there shall be an Administrator appointed by the Governor-General to administer the Territory on behalf of the Australian Government, subject to any instructions given to him by the appropriate Minister from time to time.

Aboriginal Land Rights

Indigenous Australians had struggled for rights to fair wages and land. An important event in this struggle was the strike and walk off by the Gurindji people at Wave Hill, cattle station in 1966.

  • The Commonwealth Government of Gough Whitlam set up the Woodward Royal Commission in February 1973 set to inquire into how land rights might be achieved in the Northern Territory.
  • Justice Woodward's first report in July 1973 recommended that a Central Land Council and a Northern Land Council be established in order to present to him the views of Aboriginal people. In response to the report of the Royal Commission a Land Rights Bill was drafted, but the Whitlam Government was dismissed before it was passed.
  • The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 was eventually passed by the Fraser Governmenton 16 December 1976 and began operation on Australia Day, that is 26 January 1977.


In 1978 the Territory was granted responsible government, with a Legislative Assembly headed by a Chief Minister. The Country Liberal Party (CLP) was established in the Northern Territory in 1974 by supporters of the Liberal and Country Parties of Australia living in the Territory; thereafter it enjoyed considerable electoral success. The Party has contested general elections in the Territory since 1974 and saw unbroken electoral success from 1974 until 2001 when it lost office to the Australian Labor Party.

Clare Martin won a surprise victory at the 2001 territory election, becoming the first Labor Party, and first female Chief Minister. The ALP member for Arafura Marion Scrymgour, became the Labor Party Deputy Chief Minister of the Northern Territory from November 2007 until February 2009. She was the highest-ranked indigenous person in government in Australia's history. She was also the first indigenous woman to be elected to the Northern Territory Parliament.

Central Australia and WW11

Australia declared war on Nazi Germany following its invasion of Poland in 1939. // After Japan entered the war in 1941, the Northern Territory came under direct attack at Pearl Harbor (US Naval base in Hawaii) on December 8, 1941. The British battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battlecruiser HMS Repulse sent to defend Singapore were sunk soon afterwards. British Malaya quickly collapsed, shocking the Australian nation.

  • After the Fall of Singapore, Australian Prime Minister Curtin predicted that the "battle for Australia" would now follow and on 19 February, Darwin suffered a devastating air raid, the first time the Australian mainland had ever been attacked by enemy forces.
  • Over the following 19 months, Australia was attacked from the air almost 100 times.

The 2012 Northern Territory General Election ended 11 years of Labor rule and saw Terry Mills defeat the Incumbent Labor Government. The victory was also notable for the support it achieved from indigenous people in pastoral and remote electorates. Large swings were achieved in remote Territory electorates where the indigenous population comprised around two thirds of voters.


Darwin's population is notable for the highest proportional population of Indigenous Australians of any Australian capital city. In the 2006 census 10,259 (9.7 per cent) of Darwin's population was Aboriginal. The population changed after the Second World War as like many other Australian cities, Darwin experienced influxes from Europe, with significant numbers of Italians and Greeks during the 1960s and 1970s.

Darwin also started to experience an influx from other European countries, which included the Dutch, Germans, and many others. A significant percentage of Darwin's residents are recent immigrants from South East Asia and comprises people from many ethnic backgrounds.

Darwin has a youthful population with an average age of 33 years (compared to the national average of around 37 years) assisted to a large extent by the military presence and the fact that many people opt to retire elsewhere.

The most common languages spoken in Darwin after English are Greek, Australian Aboriginal languages, Italian, Indonesian, Vietnamese and Cantonese.

Naturalisation Records

Naturalisation records are among the most valuable sources of biographical detail on Jewish immigrants and settlers of non-British origin. As with other migrant selection, passenger and immigrant case records, the National Archives has substantial holdings of naturalisation and citizenship material. What follows is a representative sampling of series and items of likely use and interest to people searching for details about non-British Jewish immigrants. For a full description of series which contain naturalisation materials, researchers are advised to consult Finding Families: The Guide to the National Archives of Australia for Genealogists.

Although the naturalisation process has been a Federal responsibility since 1904, the National Archives holds records for the colonies of Victoria (1852–1903) and South Australia (1848–1903). Pre-1904 naturalisation records for New South Wales, Tasmania, Queensland and Western Australia are maintained by the appropriate State Government archives.

Notes for adding profiles:

- Profiles of Jewish people born, lived or deceased in the Northern Territoryshould be added to this project.

- If the state in which people resided is unknown, please add the profiles to - Jews of Australia

- Resided in Australia prior to 1901 should also be added to - The Jewish Faith in Colonial Australia 1788 to 1901

About location:

Please add people who also lived in states other than Northern Territories to the relevant project :

Profile bio's

- Add a link to the profile of prominent persons in the Jewish Community and a short bio on them. (Examples only (not meant to limit profiles)

- First Jewish settlers

- Significant member of Jewish society

First Fleet Convicts 26 January 1788

First Jewish Free Settler in Australia 26 January 1788

Convicts - 1818

Sir Saul Samuel - First Jew to become a magistrate, to sit in a colonial Parliament and to become a minister of the Crown. In 1854 he was appointed to the New South Wales Legislative Council and subsequently was an elected member of the Legislative Assembly. He also served periods as Treasurer and Postmaster General.

Isaac Nathan - Wrote the first Australian opera "Don John of Austria", premiered on 3 May 1847 at Royal Victoria Theatre in Sydney.

Queries, please contact Leanne M (Volunteer Curator - Australia) 🇦🇺