Arnhem Land (East)

Bay in Eastern Arnhem Land © Peter Eve

Arnhem Land is located in the Northeast of the Northern Territory, around 500 km east of its capital Darwin. It covers around 97,000 square kilometer of land and extends all the way from the Kakadu National Park in the west to the Gulf of Carpentaria in the east and down to Ngukurr in the south. The name derives from the Dutch sailing ship „Arnhem“ that first passed the cost line here. It is home to about 19,000 people, split up between 15,000 Yolŋu (indigenous people) and around 4,000 white men, that are still called Balanda (Dutch people) up here.

The service hub for Arnhem Land is Nhulunbuy in the east, a mining town, that was founded in the 1970´s when white people started to process bauxite in the area. Other centres are Yirrkala (close by),‒ where Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka, the art centre for Eastern Arnhemland is situated, ‒ Milingimbi and Ramingining (in Central Arnhem Land) as well as Gunbalanya (former Oenpelli) and Maningrida (in Western Arnhem Land).

In the 1980´s, when the homeland movement started, most of the Yolŋu decided to live in small outstations on traditional land in order to escape problems of the city and to be able to live a traditional way of life. Arnhem Land is one of the very few regions of Australia, where the indigenous population can still live on an off the land.