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Developing the North, Defending the Nation? The Northern Australia Development Committee, 1945–1949


  • Archival research for this article was funded by a Northern Territory History Grant. I thank the Northern Territory Archives Service for their generosity.


The Northern Australia Development Committee (NADC) was established in late 1945 to coordinate the efforts of the Commonwealth, Queensland and Western Australian governments in developing the north of the continent. At the outset, defence considerations were uppermost. However, the NADC soon became entangled in disputes among Commonwealth departments and personalities over the relevance of northern development to national defence. Some — notably the Department of Defence — insisted that northern Australia no longer possessed special strategic significance. Others — notably the Department of External Affairs — argued that northern development must be conceived within a broader geo-political context. This paper examines the NADC's entanglement in these disputes, and explains how this entanglement contributed crucially to the committee's ineffectualness and early demise.