Ted Egan has a grand vision for Darwin, one of Australia's most isolated
The Administrator of the Northern Territory sees it as a
booming metropolis of "a couple of million people" by the end of the century,
as tropical Australia undergoes a radical transformation.
"I would hope that in the next 100 years there's a real move to
industrialise the north," the former singer told BBC News Online.
"It could be very, very exciting."
The Port of Darwin is actually nearer Jakarta than Sydney
Significant change is already on its way to this quiet cosmopolitan
outpost, which has a current population of around 100,000.
Darwin once had a reputation as a heavy-drinking haven for dreamers
and misfits, but it is now re-branding itself as Australia's commercial "Gateway
The capital of Australia's unforgiving Northern Territory is closer to Jakarta than it is to Sydney.
There has long been a familiarity and friendliness with its Asian neighbours to the north that is generally not
evident in other parts of the country.
"The beauty of living in a place like this is it's multicultural diversity,"
says Northern Territory government minister Marion Scrymgour.
"There are so many different cultures up here that make Darwin best able to have that
relationship with Asia," she said.
In recent years, the harbour city has been abuzz with the construction of new
suburbs and exclusive waterside retreats.
The notorious "strip and prawn" bars, where drinkers paid Aus$10 (US$7) for a beer, a serving of prawns and a
striptease show, have been replaced by a rich diversity of restaurants and
Such progress, however, has not dimmed the Northern Territory's adventurous
"Darwinites have always seen themselves as different from the rest of
Australia," explained Carole Frost from the Northern Territory Chamber of Commerce and
"We look north not south," she said. "We're a big defence centre, part of the oil and gas industry, and we have
a very good transport system with the railway and the port."
"We're very much on the world stage," the English-born chief executive added.
The region boasts a new giant liquid nitrogen plant as well as an ambitious trans-territory gas pipeline from Wadeye to Nhulunbuy.
Then there is the recently opened 3,000km north-south rail link between Darwin and Adelaide.
"I think the railway's made a huge difference," said Carole Frost. "Politicians have come up and have been blown away by what Darwin really
The city has been built on years of struggle. The discovery of gold at Pine
Creek to the south, in 1871, and the arrival of Chinese prospectors and
labourers accelerated Darwin's expansion.
Ted Egan believes those early hard-working pioneering days have left a
"We're blessed to have this long-standing Chinese population who have set the rules for other waves of migrants," he said.
But when the gold rush subsided, growth was slow and, at times, painful.
Ted Egan is optimistic for Darwin's future prosperity
Darwin was attacked more than 60 times by the Japanese during World War II.
In 1974, Cyclone Tracey sent a wrecking ball of wind and rain through
the Top End, leaving the city in ruins and dozens of its inhabitants dead.
The climate in Darwin is unpredictable. On average 1570mm of rain is dumped on
the city every year.
The high humidity and searing heat experienced in the weeks before the wet
season can lead locals to erupt with anger, or as they say in Darwin, "mango madness."
"The weather is not just hot, it's bloody hot," said Ted Egan.
But he said that the hardships endured by the people of Darwin would be the
foundations for a bright future.
"If you're not tough, you don't survive," he said.