National Library of Australia

Teachers notes: List of Darwin Evacuees

Writing

A student:

  • writes sustained texts using formal language and construction on a range of complex subjects and purposes.
  • selects subject matter, language and text type suitable for specific purposes and audiences.
  • knows and uses the spelling, grammar and punctuation required to write most complex tasks, e.g. writing dialogue, using complete footnotes and bibliographies, writing essays with thesis statement.
  • critically evaluates others’ writings and uses this knowledge to reflect on and improve own writing.

If there is a single item that symbolises the chaos caused by Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Day in 1974, it is the List of Darwin Evacuees. The two-kilogram, 733-page document could be described as Darwin’s own Doomsday Book. It contains the names, ages and destinations of the 32 862 residents who were compulsorily evacuated from the city in the days following the cyclone (25 628 by air and 7234 by road). By July 1975, Darwin’s population had recovered to 33 000, most of whom were newcomers. Less than three years later, it had reached the numbers that were living in the city just before the cyclone. In 1980, the electoral rolls showed that 60 percent of those entitled to vote in 1974 were no longer living in Darwin. The destructive winds of Cyclone Tracy had reshaped not only a city, but also thousands of lives.

Activity

Research and write an essay on the following topic:

  • In 1974, 32 862 residents were evacuated from Darwin following Cyclone Tracy. Over 19 000 never returned. Why do you think they didn’t go back home?
  • Having completed the essay, read and critically evaluate each others’ work, and write a review of another’s essay.

Extension

  • Write journal or diary entries for a one week period. Imagine you are being evacuated from a disaster area (cyclone, war, earthquake, tsunami). What is your response? How do you react? What do you take? What do you leave behind? Will you ever go back? Why?