Place Names Committee

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History of place naming laws

Despite places across the Northern Territory (NT) having held Aboriginal names long before European exploration, names were only recorded in writing in journals and maps as European explorers progressed through the Australian landscape.

In the large majority of cases, the names recorded by the explorers, and subsequently by governments, were not the names used by Aboriginal people.

In the NT there was no Act or Ordinance of Parliament related to place naming until 1945 when the Nomenclature (Public Places) Ordinance was enacted.

In 1966, the 1945 Ordinance was amended to allow the Administrator of the NT instead of the federal Minister to officially name places in the NT.

In 1967, the previous Ordinances were repealed and a new ordinance enacted. The Place Names Ordinance 1967 changed the composition and operation of the Place Names Committee for the NT.

In 1973, the 1967 Ordinance was amended, changing the definition of a ‘public place’ and introducing the ability of the Committee to recommend the alteration of the name of a ‘public place’.

In 1980, following self-government in 1978, the Place Names Act 1967 was passed by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly and commenced following ascent by the Administrator. This Act repealed the previous Ordinance but was basically the same.

In 1983, the Act was amended with changes to the definition of ‘public place’ and to allow the Minister to approve a place name, instead of the Administrator. It also changed the composition of the Place Names Committee to include a representative nominated by the Local Government Association of the Northern Territory instead of a local member.

In late 2004, the Legislative Assembly passed the Place Names Amendment Act which:

  • removed the definition of a ‘public place’ and inserted a definition of a ‘place’;
  • allowed for the Minister to delegate the power to approve the naming of a place in some circumstances;
  • required the Committee to create a publicly accessible Place Names Register; and
  • removed the requirement to publish new or amended place names in the Government Gazette in all circumstances.

These amendments commenced in July 2005.