19 Jan 1989 cabinet documents show alarming lack of rights for…
Whether flush with newlywed bliss, raising a young family, or in the twilight years of a long union, all married women in the Northern Territory decades ago had something in common.
- Cabinet documents are unsealed after 30 years
- Documents from 1989 reveal discussions about greenhouse gas and its feared impacts
- The Territory also overturned archaic laws about married women
When you tied the knot, you also technically signed away your rights to property and your independent legal capacity.
No, we’re not talking the turn of the century, the Depression era or even post-World War II. In the Northern Territory, this was the reality only 30 years ago.
The archaic legislation governing these matters was only rewritten by the Northern Territory Government in 1989, after an inquiry into de facto relationships discovered several ‘anomalies’ in the way Territory law treated married women.
Cabinet documents from that time, unsealed today, recognised how out of step the loopholes were with the reality of daily life in the late 1980s.
“The complex legislative provisions dealing with the capacity of a married woman are an historical anomaly and inconsistent with modern conditions,” the papers say.
During the 1989 parliamentary debate, the married politician Noel Padgham-Purich confessed she hadn’t known some of the rights she wasn’t entitled to.
“I had assumed that, in law, I had equality in all things with my husband. I am finding out now that I did not have complete equality,” she told the Legislative Assembly.
“I am therefore very pleased that the government has introduced this legislation to remedy the situation.”
The changes were quietly passed in 1989, but much more public battles were being fought that year.
The battle for Nitmiluk National Park
It was the year the area now known as Nitmiluk National Park was officially handed back to the Jawoyn, who then leased it back to the Northern Territory Government for 99 years — creating a highly successful co-management venture.
At the time, Ray Fordimail from the Nitmiluk Park Board reflected on the long and at times divisive battle for the area with some humour.
“Many people have worries that the Jawoyn were trying to take the (Katherine) Gorge away,” he told a celebration in 1989.
“I don’t know where we were supposed to take it; but that’s what they said. As you can see, it’s see there.”
The Tindal RAAF base was opened at an airfield outside Katherine, named after Wing Commander Archie Tindal, who was killed in action during the Japanese bombing raid on Darwin in 1942.
It was the first manned base established since World War II and drew dignitaries like then-prime minister Bob Hawke — seen in an ABC story at the time crowing over the value of the jets escorting his VIP plane.
“That’s $34 billion worth there,” Mr Hawke enthusiastically told the cameras as he leaned across a row of seats to watch the escort out the window.
A government-funded CSIRO climate study
Some of the issues are still familiar. The cabinet documents reveal internal discussions over a Northern Territory Government submission to a federal inquiry into the impact of greenhouse gases.
“International debate has confirmed there is irrefutable scientific evidence that the composition of the atmosphere has been, and continues to be, altered significantly by human activities,” the papers say.
“Changes that are likely to occur as a result cannot be established precisely. Scientists predict, however, that a warming of between 1.5 and 4.5 degrees centigrade will occur by the year 2030.”
Thirty years later, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is warning that avoiding dangerous warming beyond 1.5 degrees will take a huge transformation, beyond just switching to renewable energy.
That same year the government funded a CSIRO study to try to learn more about the impact of climate change on the NT.
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