Territory Stories

Debates Day 4 - Tuesday 9 May 2017



Debates Day 4 - Tuesday 9 May 2017

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Parliamentary Record 5


Debates for 13th Assembly 2016 - 2018; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020




pp 1623 to 1686


Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES Tuesday 9 May 2017 1679 Mickey Dewar was born on the first day of 1956 in Melbourne to Elizabeth and Jeffrey Dewar. She has two sisters, Adrienne and Carol. Her parents were two very different people. Her father was Scottish protestant, driven by the ethic of hard work. Her mother was almost the opposite in character, very much a free spirit. Mickey embodied these two strong and contrasting influences. Mickey was 17 when she began her Bachelor of Arts at Melbourne University, but by the end of the 1970s the writer Xavier Herbert had woven his magic and the north of Australia beckoned. The ancient Greeks of her history honours thesis were abandoned forever. Mickey won a Commonwealth teaching scholarship and in 1980 studied a Diploma of Education at the Darwin Community College. One of her earliest postings was to teach post-primary girls at the Milingimbi bilingual school, and she spent a year in that beautiful community. Mickey married David Ritchie in 1980. Their son, Sam, was born in 1983, and their daughter, Susannah, two years later. It was while parenting two young children that Mickey completed her Master of History at the University of New England, then a PhD in History at the Northern Territory University. Mickey was not shy of hard work. It is an understatement that Mickey was passionate about stories from Northern Territory social and political history. She lived and breathed Territory history and was fully committed to promoting a more complex and nuanced understanding of our region with a national discourse. In 1994 Mickey became the Senior Curator of Territory History at the Museum and Art Gallery of the NT. Under her charge were six heritage-listed properties and the Northern Territorys regional museums. One of those properties was Fannie Bay Gaol, and she wrote its social history in 1999 in an excellent book called Inside-Out. The Cyclone Tracy gallery at MAGNT is a monument to the creative Mickey Dewar. As an exhibition it was ahead of its time in the way Mickey grounded it solidly in a social and architectural context. The exhibitions dark and small room, with the eerie sounds of the cyclone mixed with the midnight mass, is still a feature to this day. Mickey then had a change of vocation when the Labor government was elected under Clare Martin in 2001. She became one of Martins most trusted senior advisers. Later, when she worked in the Northern Territory Library, the bells calling members into the House would still fill her with delight at the promise of government. After politics Mickey went back to her true love, historical research, doing all kinds of consultancies for the government and non-governments sectors, and working on her own research projects. Mickey had published many journal articles, books, reviews and reports on Northern Territory history, literature, politics, heritage and collections development. She also won a long and impressive list of history awards, prizes and fellowships. Two of her books were shortlisted for the New South Wales Premiers History Awards for community and regional history. In 1998 she received the Jessie Litchfield award for literature, and in 2011 she received the Chief Ministers Northern Territory History Book Award for her book Darwin no place like home. Mickey had a real knack for finding a catchy a title. With Clare Martin, Mickey worked on a collection of oral histories from past Northern Territory Chief Ministers. Its title was Speak for Yourself. In Search of the Never Never and Snorters, Fools and Little uns were others. Mickey had a way with words. Her reputation as a writer was great. She had an enormous capacity to read widely, absorb information and then write coherently and engagingly on new insights. She felt the Territory was the only place in Australia where history was not segmented, that the natural, Indigenous and European were intertwined. Mickey did not specialise in one area of Territory history; she explored widely missionaries in Arnhem Land, social housing in Darwin, and Northern Territory literary fiction about explorers, World War I bicyclists and Victoria Cross winners. Mickey wrote numerous biographies of Territorians, and documented the histories of many of our significant public buildings. Mickey was not just a serious academic history writer; she was a great storyteller. Her many animated presentations on Territory history at conferences, workshops, lectures and in the media are memorable.