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East Arnhem LGA - Nhulunbuy - Alyangula

About the area

Current area:

Key Statistics

Initial Note

This area is Aboriginal freehold land held by the Arnhem Land Aboriginal Land Trust (represented by the Northern Land Council), with the exception of the mining lease that the town of Nhulunbuy is located on.


The East Arnhem LGA and Nhulunbuy area is located in the north-east corner of the North Territory, about 1,000 kilometres east of Darwin. The East Arnhem LGA and Nhulunbuy area is bounded by the Arafura Sea in the north, the Gulf of Carpentaria in the east, the Roper Gulf Regional Council area in the south, and the West Arnhem Regional Council area in the west.

Included Areas

The East Arnhem LGA and Nhulunbuy area includes the townships, localities and communities of Alyangula, Angurugu, Anindilyawka, East Arnhem, Galiwinku, Gapuwiyak, Gunyangara, Milingimbi, Milyakburra, Nhulunbuy, Ramingining, Umbakuma and Yirrkala.

Land Use

The East Arnhem LGA and Nhulunbuy area is a rural and wilderness area, with special purpose townships at Alyangula (Groote Eylandt) and Nhulunbuy, and remote indigenous communities at Angurugu, Galiwinku, Gapuwiyak, Gunyangara, Milingimbi, Milyakburra, Ramingining, Umbakumba and Yirrkala, and numerous outstations. The East Arnhem LGA and Nhulunbuy area encompasses a total land area of over 33,000 square kilometres. The main industries are bauxite and manganese mining, with fishing and tourism also being important industries.

Name Origin

East Arnhem Land is named after the Dutch ship Arnhem which explored the coast in 1623.

Indigenous Meaning

The original inhabitants of the East Arnhem LGA and Nhulunbuy area were the Yolngu Aboriginal people who continue to live throughout the area and have strong traditional ties with the land.


Traditionally, indigenous people lived in the area, and continue to do so, mainly in small communities. European settlement dates from the early 1900s, when several mission stations were established. Cattle grazing, fishing and timber milling also developed at this time. In 1931 Arnhem Land was declared an Aboriginal Reserve. During World War II, the Gove Peninsula was a RAAF base, with over 5,000 servicemen stationed in the area. In 1963 manganese mining began on Groote Eylandt, which resulted in the establishment of the special purpose township of Alyangula. In the late 1960s a bauxite mine and deep water port were established on Gove Peninsula, followed by an alumina refinery. The special purpose township of Nhulunbuy was established in 1972 to service the needs of the nearby Nabalco (now Rio Tinto Alcan) bauxite mining operations. Rapid population growth took place in and around Nhulunbuy during the 1970s and early 1980s. The population of the Region increased from about 10,000 people in 1991 to over 13,000 people in 2006 as new dwellings were added to the area, and then was relatively stable to 2011. It is anticipated that the population will be impacted by the closure of the alumina refinery in 2014.

Major Features

Major features of the area include Arnhem Land, Gove Peninsula, Groote Eylandt, Elcho Island, numerous small islands, BanuBanu Wilderness Retreat, Groote Eylandt Lodge, Walkabout Lodge, Gove District Hospital, Captain Cook Shopping Centre, Endeavour Square Shopping Centre, Arafura Swamp, Gove Aquatic Centre, Gove Country Golf Club, Gove Boat Club, Anindilyakwa Arts and Cultural Centre, Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre, Bula’Bula Art Centre, Elcho Island Arts, Gapuwiyak Culture & Arts, BHP Billiton - Groote Eylandt Mine, Rio Tinto Alcan - Gove Mine, Milner Bay Port (Groote Eylandt), Port of Gove, numerous beaches, Hindle Oval, Mt Saunders, Gayngaru Wetlands Walk and Nhulunbuy Training Centre.


The East Arnhem LGA and Nhulunbuy area is served by Central Arnhem Road and Gove Airport.

Last Note

In many Aboriginal communities, population figures can fluctuate dramatically, due to a number of factors including seasonal changes (wet and dry seasons) and ceremonial activity.

RDA Northern Territory

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