The second and larger territory on mainland Australia, the Northern Territory is located on the north central quadrant of the island country and is the third largest area with a land mass of over 1,329,000 square kilometres. However, with a population of less than 230,000 inhabits, the Northern Territory is the least populated.
Considered as Australia's 'true' Outback, population growth projections indicate this open territory may house well over twice its current population by the year 2050, making its four largest cities—Darwin, its capital city, Alice Springs, Katherine, Nhulunbuy, and Tennant Creek cornerstones of the territory's growth.
Unlike the rest of Australia, the population centres were developed not along the coastal areas but trailing inward along Stuart Highway, giving the area a ready-made inland route that is well-established and travelled.
As of 2007, Northern Territory adopted a school grades or levels structure that provides primary school from grades 0 to 6, middle school from grades 7 to 9—the new insertion, and high school from grades 10 to 12. Thereafter, tertiary schooling via universities and colleges emerge. The Northern Territory had only one public tertiary college, however—the Kormida College—until 1987 when Northern Territory University, now called Charles Darwin University, accepted its first student.
The territory's economy is driven primarily by mining, including minerals, petroleum, oil, and natural gas. The economic growth in this territory has been strong and constant; during 2007 through 2010, the area's gross national product contribution has risen 5.5% annually.