The Bungalow float in the first Bangtail Muster, Alice Springs, 1951
Arrernte Aboriginal people call the area where Alice Springs is today Mparntwe. The country continues to hold spiritual and cultural significance for the Arrernte as part of a wider creation site complex stretching across Central Australia.
Alice Springs takes its name from Alice, the wife of Charles Todd, the man responsible for building the Overland Telegraph Line in Central Australia. The Springs are next to the Telegraph Station north of the present day town. The little town was originally called Stuart and not officially named Alice Springs until 1933.
In the 1880s, the pastoralists brought stock from the south and east to establish pastoral holdings. This was a time of conflict as pastoralists and Aborigines competed for land and water. Some pastoralists walked off their land, defeated by poor economic times and harsh droughts, but some of these families remained and continue to work the stations even today.
In 1913, in accordance to federal policies of the time, Aboriginal children of ‘mixed descent’ were taken to basic accommodation behind the Stuart police station known as the ‘Bungalow’. In 1928 the ‘Bungalow’ was moved to Jay Creek, 45 km west of Alice and in 1932 brought back to the Alice Springs Telegraph Reserve.
Until Alice Springs was connected by rail in 1929, the town was dependent upon the ‘Afghan’ traders (who actually originated from the area now modern-day Pakistan) who brought goods and supplies north by camel from the railhead at Oodnadatta.
During World War II, the capital of the Northern Territory moved to Alice after Darwin was bombed and the town grew in size, swelled by the numbers of troops stationed there.
In the 1950s the region became famous in the title of Neville Shute’s novel A Town Like Alice describing Alice Springs as the best outback town in Australia. Tourism began and this is still a major industry.