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The Larrakia Aboriginal people lived for thousands of years in Darwin: hunting, fishing and foraging. In 1869 a permanent white settlement was established and the grid for a new town laid out. Originally called Palmerston, and renamed Darwin in 1911, the new town developed rapidly, transforming the physical and social landscape.

The discovery of gold at nearby Pine Creek brought an influx of Chinese, who soon settled into other industries. Asians and Islanders came to work in the pearling industry (documented at the Pearling Museum) and on the railway line and wharf. More recently, neighbouring East Timorese and Papuans have sought asylum in Darwin.

During WWII, Darwin was the frontline for the Allied action against the Japanese in the Pacific. It was the only Australian city ever bombed, and official reports of the time downplayed the damage – to buoy Australians’ morale. Though the city wasn’t destroyed by the 64 attacks, the impact of full-scale military occupation on Darwin was enormous. More physically damaging was Cyclone Tracy. Christmas morning 1974 saw only 400 of Darwin’s 11, 200 houses still standing.