The History of the Supreme Court Library

The Supreme Court Library was established in 1912 and accompanied Justice Bevan to Darwin from Melbourne on the SS Empire. It was housed in the original Courthouse on the Esplanade until 20 February 1942, the day after the first Japanese air raid on Darwin.

The practice of the early Judges was to restrict access to the library to legal practitioners, although special permission was granted to unrepresented litigants.

In 1922, the Commonwealth appointed a Crown Prosecutor for the first time, and the then Secretary to the Administrator, and head of the public service, C.B. Story, gave permission to the Crown Prosecutor to occupy the library as his chambers. This led to an acrimonious dispute between Judge Roberts, the Crown Prosecutor, and the government over control of the Courthouse and the Library. This dispute was never satisfactorily resolved until permanent accommodation for the Crown Prosecutor was found elsewhere, and the Judge's control over the library was recognised.

After the bombing of Darwin, the library (together with some of the more important Court records) was temporarily relocated in the Courthouse at Alice Springs, where it remained until well after the War had ended. In 1948 a Sydney Williams Hut on the Esplanade was converted into a Courtroom and used to house the Supreme Court. Two other Huts on the same site were converted to accommodate the library and the lower court.

In 1965 the Courts moved to a new building on the corner of Mitchell and Herbert Streets, which also provided adequate space for the library.

Prior to self-government on 1 July 1978, the library was run by the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department and staffed by a library clerk with visits periodically by professional library staff from Canberra. On 1 October 1979, responsibility for the courts was transferred to the Northern Territory Government and the library became a Territory institution. The first resident librarian began work in February 1980. That same year, a part time library officer was appointed in Alice Springs to service the library collection in the Alice Springs Courthouse.

The move to the new Supreme Court Building in October 1991 with its upgraded facilities enabled the library collection to be housed in a more appropriate manner; provided an improved work environment for staff and substantially improved customer service. The move to the new building also enabled a separate judges collection to be developed.

On 1 July 1991 the Supreme Court Library took over responsibility for the provision of library services to the Magistrates in the Northern Territory.

The Library in Alice Springs was split into 2 in April 2017. When the new Alice Springs Supreme Court building opened in May 2017 a collection was moved into the Judges' chambers for the use of the judiciairy. The remainder of the collection was moved into an area in the Law Courts building for use by the Local Court judges.