The Northern Territory Government's release of previously secret Cabinet documents from 1982 offers a rare insight into the events and issues of 30 years ago.

It was the year Lindy Chamberlain was found guilty of murdering her baby Azaria, the Country Liberals' Paul Everingham was the Territory's first Chief Minister, and the Territory and federal governments undertook one of the most expensive animal brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication programs in the world.

Under Territory laws, most public sector records, including those of Cabinet, are required to be transferred to the Northern Territory archive service no later than 30 years after the record was created.

"These documents make for some very, very interesting reading," the Leader of Government Business, John Elferink, says.

"What is surprising is the number of issues that they cover which continue to be of interest to the people of the Northern Territory."

The Dingo did it:

Trial of Lindy Chamberlain

The trial of Lindy Chamberlain was no doubt one of the most notable events of 1982 and was dubbed the Territory's "trial of the century".

In 1980, Ms Chamberlain told the world media "a dingo took my baby", after her three-month-old daughter Azaria disappeared from a tent at Uluru in central Australia.

The first coronial inquest took place the following year, where an Alice Springs Coroner found it was, in fact, a wild dog or dingo that took baby Azaria.

At the second inquest, Ms Chamberlain was charged with murdering her baby daughter and was committed to stand trial.

Her trial began in the Northern Territory Supreme Court in September 1982.

"It was an important trial for the history of the Northern Territory," Mr Elferink says.

"The Chamberlain trial would have to be, if not the most, one of the most well-documented trials in Australian history."

Ms Chamberlain's then husband Michael Chamberlain has described 1982 as the worst year of his life.

"Despair, chaos, a family smashed up for no good reason and I guess it was the age of knowing who you have to fight, and the political jungle warfare was now on," Mr Chamberlain said.

"The whole case was not just traumatic for us, but for our family for our children, for our friends, for the Seventh Day Adventist church.

"It just brought to bear a whole lot of very nasty agendas which somehow had to be unravelled."

That same year, a heavily pregnant Lindy Chamberlain was found guilty of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Ms Chamberlain gave birth in prison that same year to her second daughter Kahlia.

Cabinet documents from the time record that the decision was made that the baby could not stay with her in Berrimah prison.

"It was probably the only proper decision the Northern Territory government had made that year about us," Mr Chamberlain said.

"I had an awful fight to get in to see the birth and we actually did get a photograph of Lindy, but it was a horrendous moment because we knew the baby would be taken off her very shortly afterwards."

A third coronial inquest into the death of Azaria Chamberlain, in June this year, found a dingo took Azaria.

A formal death certificate for baby Azaria was finally issued.

Michael Chamberlain is still seeking a formal apology from the Territory Government.

Cattle Country:

Battle against disease

In 1982, there were an estimated 1.6 million to 1.8 million cattle in the Territory.

But more than 300 herds were infected with Tuberculosis and almost 100 herds with brucellosis and tuberculosis.

Cabinet implemented the brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication campaign (BTEC), which aimed to have Australia free of both diseases by 1992.

The initiative was a co-operative effort between producers and the Territory and federal governments, and was one of the most expensive programs in the world.

The total cost of the BTEC was $94 million, more than half of which was funded by the Territory government and a levy on producers.

"It was a very expensive program for the day," Mr Elferink says.

"But the foresight and the courage that was displayed in the making of these decisions ended up making sure that the Territory cattle product remained an exemplary product into the future," Mr Elferink said.

Hundreds of thousands of infected cattle and buffalo had to be rounded up and shot.

"You had to separate herds and it meant culling animals, and, of course, it upset a lot of people at the time," Mr Elferink said.

"But with a clear lens of history you look back and you realise they were probably the necessary decisions which had to be taken and, as a consequence, we now have a cattle product here in the Northern Territory, which is second to none in the world."

Yellow Cake rises:

Uranium mining approved

The year 1982 was also monumental for the Territory's uranium mining industry.

Miner Pancontinental was given approval for the development of a $600 million uranium mining venture at Jabiluka.

The then Country Liberals government, led by Mr Everingham, granted the company and Getty Oil Development Corporation a 42-year mining lease.

The traditional owners of the area around the Jabiluka mine site also received the deeds to their land, the result of the second stage of the East Alligator land claim.

This was also the year the township of Jabiru was officially opened.

Cracker nights:

Passion for fireworks

Territorians are just as fond of their fireworks as they were three decades ago.

Prior to 1982, Territorians could buy and let off fireworks on two occasions each year, on Territory Day on 1 July, and Guy Fawkes Night on 5 November.

"In those days we had fireworks twice a year, Guy Fawkes Night and Territory Day; one was about blowing up a parliament, one was about creating one," Mr Elferink said.

But Cabinet made the decision in 1982 to limit the sale of fireworks to Self-Government Day on 1 July each year.

The decision was sparked by a submission from the Northern Territory Police, the Fire Brigade and the Department of Mines and Energy.

Those organisations had received a number of complaints about people using fireworks outside the designated hours of the two celebrations.

Some things don't change.

Other 1982 highlights:

IN OCTOBER, the Larrakeyah Naval Patrol Base was opened by Queen Elizabeth II. Her Majesty also presented 13-year-old Peta Lynne Mann with the Royal Humane Society's Gold Medal for bravery for saving a 23-year-old man from a crocodile attack.

TERRITORIAN Graeme McGufficke wins a gold medal in the 4 x200m freestyle relay.

PARAP MARKET begins in Darwin

THE SONG 'Solid Rock', exploring Aboriginal land rights, is released by Shane Howard.

THE FIRST 356 housing lots are released in the newly established town of Palmerston, selling for about $17,000 each.

 

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