Place Names Committee


Greater Darwin Area | Darwin City | Hundred
The three Palmerstons | from Palmerston to Darwin
Centre of Australia

The Change of "Palmerston" to "Darwin" in 1911

Whilst there has been some confusion over the years as to when the change from "Palmerston" to "Darwin" occurred, a proclamation was made on 3 March 1911 (gazetted on 18 March 1911) and merely followed a request of 17 November 1910 by the Government Resident, Justice S J Mitchell, at Palmerston, to the Hon E L Batchelor in Melbourne to change the "most unsuitable" name of Palmerston.

Reason for the Change

The basic reason for the change was that people were almost universally using "Darwin" for the name of the town. This was derived from "Port Darwin" which had originally been named after Charles Darwin by the discoverer of the Harbour, Captain J C Wickham of the HMS Beagle in 1839. Justice Mitchell stated that there were then several other Palmerstons, notably one in New Zealand and one in Queensland. Mr Attlee Hunt, Secretary of External Affairs, advised the Government Resident, Justice Mitchell, in a reply of 20 February 1911, that Mr Batchelor, his Minister, had agreed to the change, and then taking steps to arrange it. Legal advice was provided by Mr R R Garran, Secretary of the Attorney General's Department, that no ordinance was necessary to effect this change.


The proclamation agreed to by the Executive Council was endorsed by Senator G F Pearce, for the Governor General on 27 February 1911, recommended to the Governor General by Mr E L Batchelor, Minister for External Affairs, and approved by William Humble, Earl of Dudley Governor General on 3 March 1911.

Postal Notifications

The Deputy Postmasters-General of the States were advised in April 1911 that the proclamation had been made in March and were advised of the change from Palmerston to Darwin. Despite this effort in April 1911, some Australians continued to assert in 1934 that the chief port of the Territory was Palmerston, not Darwin, and continuing advices had to be issued to correct this assumption.

City of Darwin

Darwin was constituted a “City” with the assent of the Status of Darwin Ordinance, 1959 on the 26 January 1959 (NT Government Gazette 3A, 26/1/1959).