Alice Springs

city in the Northern Territory, Australia

Alice Springs (Eastern Arrernte: Mparntwe) is a city in the Northern Territory of Australia. It is 200 km south of the centre of mainland Australia. It is about halfway between Darwin in the north and Adelaide in the south.

Alice Springs
Northern Territory
View of Alice Springs CBD from Anzac Hill.
Alice Springs is located in Northern Territory
Alice Springs
Alice Springs
Location in Northern Territory
Coordinates23°42′0″S 133°52′12″E / 23.70000°S 133.87000°E / -23.70000; 133.87000
Population23,726 (2016 census)[1]
 • Density72.446/km2 (187.63/sq mi)
Area327.5 km2 (126.4 sq mi)[2] (2011 urban)
Time zoneACST (UTC+9:30)
LGA(s)Alice Springs Town Council
Territory electorate(s)
Federal division(s)Lingiari
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
28.8 °C
84 °F
13.2 °C
56 °F
282.8 mm
11.1 in

In 2005 there were 26,486 people living in Alice Springs.[3] This makes it the second largest town in the Northern Territory.

Alice Springs is often called "the Alice" or simply "Alice". It is called Mparntwe by the Arrernte. The Arrernte people are the Aboriginal people who have lived around Alice Springs for more than 60,000 years.



Indigenous History

Aboriginal Sand Drawing, Alice Springs Desert Park

According to the Arrernte traditional stories, the land around Alice Springs was shaped by caterpillars, wild dogs, travelling boys, two sisters, euros and other ancestral figures. There are many sites of traditional importance in and around Alice Springs. These include Anthwerrke (Emily Gap), Akeyulerre (Billy Goat Hill), Ntaripe (Heavitree Gap), Atnelkentyarliweke (Anzac Hill) and Alhekulyele (Mt. Gillen).

Early city

"Springs" that gave the town its name

In 1862, John McDouall Stuart led an expedition into Central Australia and the area where Alice Springs is located. Until the 1930s the town was known as Stuart. The Australian Overland Telegraph Line that joined Adelaide to Darwin and Great Britain was completed in 1872. It followed Stuart’s route. It opened up the interior for permanent European settlement. When surface alluvial gold was found at Arltunga, 100 km east of Alice Springs, in 1887 many people began to move into the area.

The telegraph station was built near a waterhole in the normally dry Todd River. It was thought to be a permanent source of water, and was named Alice Springs. Alice was the wife of the former Postmaster General of South Australia, Sir Charles Todd. The Todd River was named after Sir Charles.

The original method of travel in the outback were camels. These camel trains were run by people from Pathan tribes in the North-West frontier of India and Pakistan. They were wrongly called ‘Afghans’ in Australia.

In 1929 the Palmerston and Pine Creek Railway was built from Darwin as far as Birdum, Northern Territory. The Great Northern Railway had been built in 1891 from Port Augusta as far as Oodnadatta, South Australia. The lines wouldn’t meet until 2003. On February 4, 2004, the first passenger train arrived in Darwin.

During the 1960s Alice Springs became an important defence base. About 700 people work at the US/Australian Pine Gap joint defence satellite monitoring base.

The major industry in recent times is tourism.

Geography and climate


Topography and climate


The town of Alice Springs built on the banks of the usually dry Todd River. It is on the northern side of MacDonnell Ranges. The region where Alice Springs is located is known as Central Australia, or the Red Centre. It is a very dry region, made up of several different deserts.

Temperatures can vary by up to 28 °C. In summer the average highest temperature is in the high 30s. In winter the average lowest temperature can be -7.5 °C.

The rainfall can vary quite a lot from year to year. The annual average rainfall is 286 mm. In 2001 741 mm fell, but in 2002 only 198 mm fell.[4]


This view shows the road and railway passing through Heavitree Gap in the MacDonnell Ranges found next to the town

Alice Springs began as a town to supply the cattle farms that first came to the area. The arrival of the railway increased its economy and productivity. Today the town supplies a region of 546,046 square kilometres. There are 38,749 people living in the region. The region includes a number of mining and farm communities, the Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap and tourist attractions.

The people


In June 2004, 38,749 people lived in the region. There were 26,058 people living in the city of Alice Springs. Aboriginal people made up about 37% of people in the Alice Springs region in 2001.

Aboriginal population


According to the 2001 census, Australian Aborigines are about 17% of the people in Alice Springs, and 29% of the people in the Northern Territory.[5] Alice Springs is the business centre of Central Australia. Aboriginal people come from all over the region to use the town's services. Aboriginal residents usually live in the suburbs, on special purpose leases (or town camps). Some live farther out at Amoonguna to the south. Many live on the small family outstation communities on Aboriginal Lands in surrounding areas.

The traditional owners of the Alice Springs area are the Central Arrernte people. As it is the largest town in central Australia, there are also speakers of at least thirteen other languages.[6]

American influence

The road to Pine Gap - traveling any closer is prohibited!

The American influence in Alice Springs comes from Pine Gap, a US satellite tracking station. It is 19 km south-west of Alice Springs. Pine Gap employs 700 American and Australians. There are about 2,000 people in the Alice Springs region who are US citizens.

American influence can be seen throughout Alice Springs. The Americans still celebrate all major festivals, including Halloween, Independence Day and Thanksgiving. A number of Australians also join in the festivities from time to time. There is also American sport, including baseball, basketball, and American football.[7]



Alice Springs has a large number of visitors up of:

  • Tourists
  • Residents of Pine Gap
  • Australian Aborigines visiting from nearby Central Australian communities
  • Australian or international workers on short-term contracts (locally called "blow-ins")



Alice Springs has 19 public and private schools and colleges. This includes 2 for aboriginal students, 7 pre-schools and the Alice Springs School of the Air. The School of the Air provides education to students in remote areas. The Alice Springs Campus of Charles Darwin University offers courses in TAFE and Higher Education. The Centre for Appropriate Technology was established in 1980. It has a range of services to encourage and help Aboriginal people improve their quality of life on remote communities.

Traeger Park, Alice Springs

Australian Rules Football is a popular sport in Alice Springs. The Central Australian Football League has several teams and many people play. The sport is very popular in Indigenous communities. The local stadium, Traeger Park, can hold 10,000 people. It was built to hold national AFL and international cricket matches. In 2004, an AFL pre-season Regional Challenge match between Collingwood Football Club and Port Adelaide Football Club filled the stadium.

Cricket is also a popular sport in Alice Springs. The Imparja Cup Cricket Carnival started in 1994. Teams from Indigenous communities come from all across Australia. A unique sporting event, held every year, is the Henley-on-Todd Regatta. This is also known as the Todd River Race. It is a sand river race with bottomless boats. It is the only dry river regatta in the world. Another unusual sporting event is the Camel Cup. This is also held every year at the local racetrack, Blatherskite Park. It is a full day event with races using camels instead of horses.


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Alice Springs (Urban Centre)". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 18 December 2017.  
  2. "2011 Census Community Profiles: Alice Springs". ABS Census. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  3. Australian Bureau of Statistics Archived 2008-11-19 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 25 September 2006
  4. "Alice Springs' Climate". Archived from the original on 2005-06-16. Retrieved 2007-04-16.
  5. "About Alice Springs". Archived from the original on 2007-03-12. Retrieved 2007-04-16.
  6. "Alice Springs - Aboriginal Culture". Alice Springs Town Council. 2006-06-08. Archived from the original on 2006-12-18. Retrieved 2006-11-25.
  7. "The American Connection". Archived from the original on 2005-04-06. Retrieved 2007-04-16.