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A Better Place to Live

Diana Giese

Freshwater Bay Press, 2009

Read further extracts in Google Books, http://books.google.com.au/books?id=DPBIn4_SCbAC&source=gbs_navlinks_s

under A better place to live: making the Top End a new kind of community

See launch pictures at www.territorystories.nt.gov.au/jspui/handle/10070/266576


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A better place to live, extracts

‘A really outstanding parliament of people who were devoted to the Territory’ Reg Marsh

Political change was a constant theme of the 50s and 60s. Territorians lobbied hard and long for more say in their own affairs. There were increasingly strident calls for real self-determination. According to official member, Assistant Administrator Reg Marsh, "the issue for judgment in debates was 'is it good for the Territory?' not whether it was in line with party policy."1  In fact, there were no political parties.

The Legislative Council met, symbolically, in its own parliamentary building on the site of the bombed post office. Although the seven official members could outvote the six elected ones on any issue, the Council nevertheless provided a showcase for campaigns and grievances that were enthusiastically taken up by The Northern Territory News. On the question of self-government, Canberra argued that the tiny population was insufficiently diverse, that there were too few revenue-raising industries, and that they could not afford to run public services themselves. But official members often, in private and sometimes in public, sided with their elected colleagues. Marsh, for instance, "showed his commitment to principle and to the Territory when he was the sole official member of the Council to sign the 1962 Remonstrance, stating elected members’ grievances, protesting the lack of progress towards constitutional reform, and seeking more say in local affairs".2  "A document was drawn up and debated and I had to lead the government to oppose it…Once it was passed it then became the document of the Council and I was asked if I’d sign it and I signed it," he remembered, with some satisfaction. An affronted Canberra mandarin said that he should be "harried" from the Public Service as a result.3

Two of the most effective elected members of the Council were N.C. Hargrave and R.C. Ward, both solicitors, from Alice Springs and Darwin respectively; the most colourful was pith-helmeted miner "Tiger" Brennan, with his spirited campaigns for the individual against the bureaucrats. Hasluck said later of Ward, Hargrave and Ron Withnall, a senior officer of the Attorney-General’s Department, that they were "the local Jefferson, Adams and Washington" of the campaign for political independence that he jokingly likened to that of the American colonies against Britain. "I was cast in the double role of George the Third and Lord North," he said, "a villainous opponent of freedom. Privately, however, I regarded the agitation as one of the most hopeful portents. At last the Territory was thinking of its future and not dwelling on the grievances of the past."4

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Reviews and responses to the book

‘This little book reminds me of one of those tiny electric torches, no bigger than a walnut; women often carry one attached to their handbag, and men to their key-ring. Small, yes, but they cast a brilliant light into a dark corner. Diana Giese, in plain language and from much personal knowledge, describes the heroic quarter-century of the Northern Territory’s effort to remake itself, following its total ruination during the Second World War.’
Peter Ryan, Quadrant, July-August 2009

‘This fascinating title looks at the emergence of Darwin post-World War II, from war-ravaged outpost to Australia’s fastest-growing city in the 1960s. Diana Giese draws on the experience of her parents to paint this essential piece of Australian history in vivid detail, capturing the voices and the personalities of our Top End pioneers.’
QBD The Bookshop

‘A little gem that blends authoritative information and lightness of touch with clarity of communication and humane values. In a spirit of generosity, people dominate this story, as they always should in a history, but seldom do.’
Helga Griffin, co-editor, Bougainville before the conflict, Pandanus Books, 2005, now working on the early history of Townsville

‘Giese has refreshingly matter-of-fact views on the desirability of economic development and social progress for Aborigines and for Territorians generally. She writes with a broad readership in mind rather than an academic audience, aiming to capture what life was like for people living in the Top End at the time…’
Christopher Pearson, The Weekend Australian, 23 May 2009

‘Giese describes the many colourful events that have shaped the development of Darwin since the War in areas such as education, sport, politics, entertainment and news reporting. She also describes how the multi-racial mixture of the Darwin community managed to co-exist years before the term "multicultural" came into common usage. The book also features a range of photographs from the PictureNT collection of the Northern Territory Library and from Giese’s own collection.’
Book of the Month, Northern Territory Library, July 2009

‘Ms Giese’s story honours the post-war pioneers who built community and culture in the Top End from the 1950s to self-government…the people of the Top End needed to invent for themselves a new kind of Australian community. There was a real identity of spirit and interest.’
The Darwin Sun, 27 May 2009

Sun Newspapers readers have put another piece in the puzzle of Darwin’s past. Author Diana Giese launched her book, A better place to live last Thursday, to a surprise visit from two women who identified the children in the cover photograph from a picture in last week’s Sun…
The Darwin Sun, 10 June 2009

‘Darwin has had its fair share of turmoil in Australia’s history. Thanks to the courage and resilience of its people, it has come a long way. I found reading A better place to live an enriching experience. There is a lot of valuable information detailing the history of Darwin’s struggle and emergence as a modern city.’
Francis Lee, SBS Radio, June 2009

‘Concise, informative and highly readable. It filled in many important gaps in my understanding of the era.’
Kerry Trapnell, Documentary Photographer, Northern Australia

‘Diana’s book takes the reader on a trip through Darwin’s history starting with the post-war town and following it through the granting of city status in 1959, becoming the fastest-growing city in Australia in the 1960s, the devastation of Cyclone Tracy in 1974, and finally to the culturally diverse city of the 2000s.’
Keith Suter, Radio 2GB Sydney, June 2009

‘Q: What is it about Darwin…keeps bringing people back, even after total devastation?
Diana Giese: This sense of being Territorians, able to work together to make something of their lives in a society where family, faith, voluntary association and culture flourish.’
Off the Leash, June 2009

‘Book tribute to NT pioneers…Ms Giese said, after the bombing of Darwin, there was very little left…"You had to start from nothing, and see how you can build up that sense of community," she said.’
The Northern Territory News, 4 June 2009

‘A valuable and most readable contribution to the history of Aborigines in the Northern Territory…particularly timely.’
Emeritus Professor Helen Hughes, Centre for Independent Studies

‘A really great book. You spoke the truth.’
Jimmy Anderson, one of the book’s ‘cover kids’

‘Interesting and enlightening—an informative summary. The timing is perfect. It allows people to make comparisons between the policies of her father’s time, the progress then, the regression, and the situation now.’
Joyce Cheong Chin, former Associate Dean, School of Fashion and Library Studies, Northern Territory University

‘It’s the Gieses of this country who build things or make them happen.’
Jim Bradridge, ex-Darwin Community College

‘I love the authority and integrity of the research blended with pacy narrative.’
Kay Comino, teacher, Sydney
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