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Northern Territory

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(Prefecture Apostolic)

The Northern Territory, formerly Alexander Land, is that part of Australia bounded on the north by the ocean, on the south by South Australia, on the east by Queensland and on the west by Western Australia. It thus lies almost entirely within the tropics and has an area of 523,620 square miles. It is crown land, but was provisionally annexed to South Australia, 6 July, 1863. It is practically uninhabited; the population is roughly estimated at between 25,000 and 30,000, of whom less than a thousand are Europeans, about 4000 Asiatics mostly Chinese, the remainder being aborigines. There are but two towns, Palmerston at Port Darwin, with a population of 600, and Southport on Blackmore River, twenty-four miles south. There is transcontinental telegraphic communication (over 2000 miles) established in 1872, between Palmerston and Adelaide, but railroad communication extends only 146 miles south of the former town, a distance of over 1200 miles from the northern terminal of the railway. There are large navigable rivers in the north, and Port Darwin is probably surpassed in the world as a deep water port by Sydney Harbor alone. The annual rainfall varies from sixty-two inches on the coast, where the climate resembles that of French Cochin China to six inches at Charlotte Waters. Droughts, cattle disease, and the financial crisis of 1891 have combined to retard the development of the country. John McDouall Stuart, the pioneer explorer, and his successors declare that large tracts in the interior are suitable for the cultivation of cotton and the breeding of cattle, while the government officials at Port Darwin have grown spices, fibre plants, maize, and ceara rubber with great success. The crown lands (only 473,278 of the total 334,643,522 acres have been leased) are regulated by the North Territory Crown Lands Act of 1890-1901.

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Northern Territory has a varied ecclesiastical history. In 1847, by a decree of the Sacred Congregation (27 May), it was made a diocese ( Diocese of Port Victoria and Palmerston), Joseph Serra, O.S.B., consecrated at Rome, 15 August, 1848, being appointed to the see. He, however, was transferred in 1849 before taking possession to Daulia, and nominated coadjutor "cum jure successionis", and temporal administrator of the Diocese of Perth ; he retired in 1861 and died in 1886 in Spain. He was succeeded by Mgr Rosendo Salvator, O.S.B., consecrated at Naples on 15 August, 1849, but be was not able to take possession of his see, for in the meantime the whole European population had abandoned the diocese ; consequently he returned to the Benedictine Abbey of New Norcia in Western Australia where he resided as abbot nullius . Resigning the See of Port Victoria, 1 August, 1888, he was appointed titular Bishop of Adrana, 29 March, 1889. Seven years previously the Jesuits of the Austrian Province were commissioned to establish a mission for the purpose of civilizing and converting the aborigines; about sixteen members of the order devoted themselves to the work and stations were established at Rapid Creek (St. Joseph's), seven miles north-east of Palmerston, Daly River (Holy Rosary) and Serpentine Lagoon (Sacred Heart of Jesus). There were 2 churches, 1 chapel, and 2 mixed schools. In 1891 there were about 260 Catholics in the mission. However the work did not thrive and after about twenty years' labor the Jesuits withdrew, Father John O'Brien, S.J., being the last administrator. On their withdrawal the diocese was administered by Bishop William Kelly of Geraldton. Somewhat later the mission was confided to the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Issoudun and established in 1906 as the Prefecture Apostolic of the Northern Territory. Very Rev. Francis Xavier Gsell, M.S.H., b. 30 October, 1872, was elected administrator Apostolic on 23 April, 1906. He resides at Port Darwin. At present there are in the prefecture 3 missionaries, 2 churches, and 1 chapel.

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