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The Beetaloo Sub-basin is approximately 500km south-east of Darwin in the NT. It lies between Katherine, 100 km to the north, and Tennant Creek, 250 km to the south. The Stuart Highway bisects the sub-basin from north to south (Figure 1).

The sub-basin covers 28,000 km2 and comprises mainly of vast, rolling plains. It sits within the larger 180,000 km2 McArthur Basin which covers the majority of the north-east of the NT.

A map of the Beetaloo Sub-basin in the NT.

Figure 1: Beetaloo Sub-basin. Source: Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

The population is relatively sparse. Fewer than 1500 people reside in the rural communities which border or lie within the Beetaloo.

These communities include:

  • Mataranka
  • Jilkminggan
  • Larrimah
  • Daly Waters
  • Newcastle Waters
  • Elliott

The majority of land in the Beetaloo is for cattle grazing and Indigenous land practices.

Perpetual pastoral leasehold covers most of the Beetaloo region. Native title exists for the majority of these leases. The rest are under application.

There are a number of Aboriginal Land Trusts within the region.

Approximately 10,000 people live in Katherine. Of these people, 25% are Indigenous. Katherine is the gateway to the region from the north and Tennant Creek from the south. Katherine has a strong tourism sector, and several education and health facilities. The Tindal RAAF Base is just outside Katherine.

Tennant Creek is the key service centre in the Barkly region. With a population of 3200, the town has a long history of mining and cattle grazing. Tennant Creek has a strong Indigenous presence, comprising 51% of the population.

Historically there have been few labour market opportunities outside of the pastoral industry in the Beetaloo region.

In 2016, the region’s unemployment rate was almost double the Territory’s rate (Figure 2). This likely understates the real jobless rate in the region with only half of all people of working age in a job or actively looking for one.

Graph showing the Beetaloo's unemployment rate is significantly higher than the NT and Australia employment rate.

Note: Beetaloo refers to the Barkly, Katherine and Roper Gulf local government areas. Source: ABS 2016 Census. 

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