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The Northern Territory

The Northern Territory is the largest and most sparsely populated of the Australian Territories.

As the name suggests it is located in the countries North and is bounded by the states of Queensland on the East, Western Australia on its West and South Australia to its South with the Tiwi Islands 60 km to its North.

It is also known as the “Top End” and its residents are known as Top Ender's or Territorian's.

Its area is 1349 sq Kilometers or 520sq miles and the population is 233,000.

This population is concentrated in the cities and towns.

The capitol is Darwin connecting to Palmerston, the population of Darwin and its surrounding suburbs is around 160,000.

The other towns along the Stuart Highway “the track” that runs from the south to the north and through the middle.

Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Katherine account for another 50,000 people.

The rest of the population is scattered in a few smaller towns, Aboriginal communities and cattle stations.

Aboriginal people make up about 35 % of the population and own and control 40% of the land area.

The Northern Territory was part of New South Wales from 1825 till 1863 when its administration was passed to South Australia from 1863 to 1911.

In 1911 it was passed to Federal Control until 1978.

In 1978 responsible government was granted with an elected Chief Minister and Legislative Assembly with the powers delegated from the Australian Commonwealth.

The first settlers were the Indigenous Aboriginals who arrived as long as 40,000 years ago.

No one knows for sure how they got to Australia but it is thought they may have walked or navigated small boats between the Islands to Australia’s north when the seas were much shallower.

The Aboriginals were left to live relatively undisturbed until the 19th Century.

The people living near the sea did have contact with Maccassan traders who sailed from Indonesia to collect trepan(sea cucumber) for at least 300 years prior to European settlement.

European settlement of Australia took place in 1788 when the British set up a penal colony in New South Wales in the countries South.

The British felt that the land in the countries North was vulnerable to being claimed by other countries and sent soldiers to set up forts and trading posts.

The first three attempts Fort Dundas 1824, Fort Wellington1827 and Fort Essington 1836 failed due to the isolation, harsh conditions and frequent attacks from the native people.

The settlement at Port Darwin, Northern Territory in 1869 was successful.

The construction of the overland telegraph line in 1870 using camels from Afghanistan and the under sea cable connected Darwin and Australia with the rest of the world.

This led to further exploration of the center of the country and helped the growth of the fledging colony.

The discovery of gold at Pine Creek in the 1880s led to a mini gold rush and many people of a variety of nationalities came to the Territory to try their luck.

Because of its remoteness and distance from the rest of Australia the Northern Territory developed slowly and with a frontier like mentality and its own unique style.

Its main economy was based on mining and cattle stations.

It was not until the Second World War and the Bombing of Darwin that it became recognized for its strategic importance and the Australians and their government became more interested in what peril lay to their North.

Darwin was bombed in February 1942.

It was Australia’s Pearl Harbor more bombs were dropped on Darwin than during the Pearl Habour attack, 250-300 people were killed, planes, ships and houses were destroyed.

It was the first of 100 raids by the Japanese on Darwin and The Northern Territory.

Darwin's Second Coming

Darwin the capital of the Northern Territory was also destroyed once again in 1974 when Cyclone Tracey struck on Christmas Eve.

Seventy people were killed and 80% of the housing was destroyed.

Thirty six thousand people had to be evacuated.

Darwin was rebuilt and is now the vibrant multi cultural capital with a strong Asian influence.

The economy is booming and is based on mining (gold, uranium, bauxite, tin, iron ore) the Inpex natural gas project, tourism and agriculture (cattle for live export and tropical fruits).

Darwin is closer to Singapore than it is to Sydney and Melbourne and Dili is one hour away and Dempassar two hours.

The food stalls at the Mindle Beach markets that are held during the dry, (winter and spring) are a reflection of the many cultures that make Darwin and the Territory their home.


The Northern Territories climate ranges from Tropical in the North with a distinct Wet and Dry season.

The Wet lasts from November thru to May.

During the Wet, cyclones can form and strike the coastal communities.

Further to the south the climate is Semi Arid Desert.

This is also the centre of the continent and called the Red Centre because of the colour of the dirt.

The art style of the two regions also varies

The Aboriginals who live in Arnhem Land, (the northeastern part of the Northern Territory) by the ocean, and with the wet lands where wild life is prolific paint fish, crocodiles, birds, kangaroos etc.

They use traditional colours and use crushed ochre in white black and yellow and use a fine cross hatched style known a rarrk.

They also use an x ray style that shows the animals internal organs.

Some of the communities still paint on bark whilst others paint on heavy art paper.

The desert artists live in a much harsher environment where the knowledge of how to find food and water is a necessity for survival.

Their paintings cover hunting and gathering bush foods tracking animals and finding water.

The desert artist’s paint using dots to tell their stories and in some cases conceal what is considered secret or sacred in the dots.

They paint on canvas and use acrylic paints and whilst some artists still use the traditional earth toned colors some use a much wider palette on canvas.