Fixing the CBD has been about plan saturation and what often turns out to be wasted money on half baked ideas for years and years and years. The mall has been modified in a ‘tinsel and glitter’ sense by modification after modification … at least four times. The CBD situation has been about wasted money and the place is getting worse and worse.

We have lived in Darwin for 31 years and before that elsewhere around the NT. In that time, the city has turned into a place of atmospheric decrepidness. I would no more take our grandchildren into the CBD, other than for medical appointments, than fly in the air.

But don’t fret! The older suburbs have suffered similar demise. The integrated housing policy has played a part in this, along with the city council paying scant attention to the appearance of street verges, most parks and the majority of public spaces. Of course, the itinerant invasion has not helped when it comes to public spaces and parks, but government at both local and territory level is unable, unwilling ore not wanting to do anything about alleviation and fixing the issues.

The city, suburbs, shopping centres, schools, commercial, industrial, retail businesses or areas helped by being broken into nights on end.

THERE IS MORE to this issue and the NT News regularly calls the problems out. We have lived in the same house in the same street since arriving in Darwin and the issues of itinerancy, vagrancy, integrated housing policies, run down public housing (three houses within a radius of 400 metres from where we live) are alive, ‘well’ and growing all around us in the Northern Suburbs. These issues are not seen or understood by most of our politicans, many of our aldermen , the majority of our senior public servants, nor our lawmakers. These people move into the new suburbs, into city apartments, down to Cullen Bay, Bayview, upmarket Larrakeyah and scattered, gated pockets of exclusive residential living.

From a ‘living’ point of view, they have no clues about life and living in the older suburbs – which were once comfortable and decent with well kept yards and street frontage. They have ‘escaped’ and the matters of which I speak confront them only when it comes to election time. And then I am convinced they visit into their electorates and briefly as possible and often with closed eyes of mind and awareness.

The city centre, immediate surrounds and suburbs have issues that no amount of capital works injection will fix.

A sad misnomer is the belief that tou will fix the city. It can’t and it won’t. The city and suburbs have to be places that appeal to long term people in a ‘I WANT to be here’ sense. Tourists – and fewer and fewer of them – flit into and out of Darwin and the Territory, often with tales of being bailed up by itinerants or robbed and often with stories of being bemused by vacant shops, little shopping and so on. Long term territory residents are regarded as second class citizens. It is the atmosphere of this place that is all wrong. It is the look and the appearance of this place that has gone to pot.

Too often visions look beyond and overlook reality. Big picture stuff does not hide the present issues confronting this place. Those issues COULD AND SHOULD be addressed, but decision makers and law creators are not game. It’s time for them all to read a copy of Frederick Wirt’s (circa 1992) paper, or to reflect upon his writing (of) ‘will the centre hold’.




I wanted to raise an idea that was discussed with me a number of months ago. It transpired that we (the other person and I) were both concerned about the number of new beaut ideas for Territory development being articulated, that are a revisitation of what has already been tried and discarded.

The Issue

The rebirth ‘as new’ of old and dispensed with ideas occurs in large part because of ignorance about our history. One of the standout examples to illustrate my point is that of the CBD and particularly the mall having been re-visited at least four times during my time in the Northern Territory. There are other examples to do with our infrastructure development that have been similarly revisited.

Within departments, the same sort of thing happens. I’m most familiar with education. The idea of regionalising (decentralising function) educational management has been tried at least three times. When revisited nobody takes account of what has gone before. They often don’t know that ideas have been previously tried. That’s because we have a very poor record of recording history in the NT.

Another reason for regurgitation is that people in high level decision making positions often come and go after fairly short periods of time. People new to these positions often don’t know what has gone before. As well, they are often interested in adding their own “personal touch” for the sake of building curriculum vitaes. which will then be used to gain positions elsewhere and generally not in the Territory. The Territory is used as a stepping stone.

The Fix Idea

It seemed as we spoke about this issue, that the Northern Territory Government might give consideration to establishing a group of people who are long-term residents in the Northern Territory. This group might be asked if there is any previous history about ideas being flashed out as “new beaut schemes“.

Our thought was this group might comprise people with background into the operation of various departments and with experience in life and living in the Northern Territory in general terms.

Neither might it be necessary for people to meet physically to consider every issue, rather being asked for feedback by email or by phone on occasion. This will enable people living out of Darwin and Palmerston to be involved.

Our thought wasn’t that this group should be remunerated; that’s not the motivation f everybody who wants to support our territory and see it is a better place. The thinking was that in the interests of avoiding mistakes, particularly where those mistakes might arise from revisiting previous policy that had been discarded, a group of such a nature could lend itself to the betterment of the Territory.

I wanted to share this with you and wondered what you might think about such a development.



* As a school principal, I learned a lot about what to do, by learning a lot about what not to do. Poor leaders can make excellent teachers for those following, because their actions and outcomes inform the way in which those observing and following will make their decisions in the future.

The key is not to make the mistakes you saw them making. The key is to learn and to remember that learning when you get into a leadership role and decision making position.


* When in a subordinate position, one learns of things that she or he would do differently if elevated into a leadership role. When arriving, people tend to act in a way that shows they are either ignoring their previous thinking on change needs. Or have forgotten about it altogether.
Follow through on earlier resolutions and don’t shelve them as irrelevant. Remember why you thought the change was necessary. The reason will still be current.