Daly River Roadside Inn
|Population||127 (2016 census)|
4 April 2007 (locality)
|Time zone||ACST (UTC+9:30)|
Daly River is the name of a river and a town in the Northern Territory of Australia. At the 2006 census, Daly River had a population of 468. The town is part of the Victoria Daly Region local government area. Settlement on the river is centred on the Aboriginal community of Nauiyu, originally the site of a Catholic mission, as well as the town of Daly River itself, at the river crossing a few kilometres to the south. The area is popular for recreational fishing, being regarded as one of the best places to catch Barramundi in Australia. The Daly River is part of the Daly Catchment that flows from northern Northern Territory to central Northern Territory.
European settlement of Daly River began in 1865 with the arrival of Boyle Travers Finniss, the first Premier of South Australia and the first Government Resident of the Northern Territory. Finniss named the river after Sir Dominick Daly, the Governor of South Australia, since the Northern Territory was at that time part of South Australia. The region lay untouched by Europeans until 1882 when copper was discovered.
Daly River town was the scene of some particularly bloody exchanges between the local Aborigines and the miners. In 1884 three miners were killed. The miners in the town wreaked vengeance on the local Aborigines out of proportion to the perceived crime. A year later, probably aware of the tensions in the area, the Society of Jesus order of the Roman Catholic Church established a mission in the town, introducing Christianity and farming techniques to the local Aboriginal population. The original mission endured until 1899, when following a significant flood the missionaries were withdrawn.
In 1954, contact between traditional Malak Malak elders and the then bishop of Darwin led to the mission being reestablished. In 1955, the church purchased 4,000 acres (1,600 ha) of land and the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart helped to establish a school and a clinic for the community. The mission was later renamed Nauiyu and with the exception of the church, convent, school and associated residences transferred to community ownership. Due to the influence of the mission in the town, 75% percent of the population identify as Roman Catholics.
Through the twentieth century there were a number of attempts to settle the town without real success. In 1911 the Commonwealth Government tried to convince people to move to the town. By the 1920s there were plans for crops of peanuts and tobacco which came to nothing. Cashews and sugar cane were also planted unsuccessfully. In 1967 the Tipperary Land Corporation cleared large tracts of land around the settlement and started growing sorghum but the operation was closed down in 1973.
Like other rivers of the top end, the Daly is prone to seasonal flooding and this has had a significant impact on the small community throughout its history. Major flood events devastated the town in 1899 and 1957, causing widespread property damage. On 28 January 1998, a major natural disaster saw every building in the town inundated and the entire population airlifted to Batchelor during the emergency evacuation. The floodwaters, fed by heavy rainfall in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Les continued to rise until 3 February, reaching a peak of 16.8 m (55 ft), the highest level recorded to date.
Daly River is considered a remote community, and is primarily accessed via the Daly River Road which was sealed as far as the river crossing in 2007, providing all weather access to Darwin. A sealed airstrip at Nauiyu provides for charter and medical evacuation flights, however there are no scheduled air services to the airport, or aircraft regularly based in the town.
Other public facilities at Daly River include a public library, swimming pool, school and health clinic. There is a Catholic church, St Francis Xavier located in Nauiyu. The Victoria Daly Regional Council maintains a regional office in the community, contributing more than 40 jobs to the local economy. Public Administration is by far the largest employment industry, accounting for over half of the workforce.
The town and surrounding district are served by a modern police station, built in 1994. Two members of the Northern Territory Police are based here. The area serviced by the station is 33,000 km2 (13,000 sq mi), and the responsibilities of the Daly River members include Emergency Management and boat access to the communities when the roads are cut by seasonal flooding.
Today the town is little more than a pub with a few motel units, a police station, and a free caravan park. It is located on the banks of the river a couple of kilometres from the Daly River Crossing, now by sealed road from the main tourist route, the Stuart Highway. The settlement is a centre for visitors to explore the Daly River Nature Park and fishermen after barramundi. The park is home to saltwater crocodiles, reptiles, spiders, cockatoos, wild pigs, feral Water Buffalo, mangroves, giant bamboos, pandanus and Kapok trees.
The Daly River is famed for its large barramundi and is one of the more popular waterways for recreational fishing. It hosts two major fishing competitions annually, the "Barra Classic" and the "Barra Nationals". The best barramundi fishing is generally just after the wet season when the flooded river is falling fast and clear water is pouring in off the floodplains. The floodwater carries baitfish which in turn attracts predatory barramundi.
On the road 5 kilometres (3 mi) east of Daly River is a turnoff to Woolianna, a camping and caravan park on the banks of the river, one of several such parks. Just before entering the town there is a turnoff to the Nauiyu Aboriginal Community, home to the Roman Catholic Mission and Merrepen Arts Centre where Aboriginal artifacts are sold.