Katherine has a long and fascinating heritage that combines ancient indigenous history, spanning tens of thousands of years, with subsequent European settlement to make it the special place it is today.
A meeting place
Marking the point where the traditional lands of the Jawoyn, Dagoman and Wardaman Aboriginal peoples converge, Katherine has been a meeting place for indigenous people for many thousands of years, and remains so today. This can be seen across the region, through the ancient art and sacred sites throughout the land, as well as information centres and tours telling of the stories and places of Aboriginal significance.
Early pioneer days
When explorer John Stuart passed through the region in 1862, it was only ten years before the Katherine Telegraph Station was built and the Overland Telegraph Line would be completed. The telegraph line bisected Australia and laid the groundwork for the Adelaide to Darwin railway.
Though construction on the railway began in 1878 in Port Augusta, the final Alice Springs to Darwin leg of the track didn't begin construction until 2001, and the first passenger train only arrived in Darwin in 2004. Much of Katherine's history is tied up in the railway – the site of Katherine itself had to be moved twice during the railway's construction, only finding its eventual home in 1926.
After encouragement from John Stuart, pastoralists began to arrive in Katherine, and in 1879 Alfred Giles came to town and built a homestead called 'Spring Vale', hoping to begin a pastoral empire. Now the oldest homestead in the Northern Territory, Springvale is open to the public and, along with museums and information centres across the region, is one of many sites that tell of Katherine's heritage, from its indigenous history and arrival of the railway, to involvement in WWII and the beginnings of the Flying Doctors.