The East Arnhem region is one of the last pristine, natural environments on earth. Most major services are found in the town of Nhulunbuy on the Gove Peninsula, which supports a network of regional communities and homelands.
The regional hub of Nhulunbuy is located on the north-eastern tip of the Gove Peninsula and is flanked by the Yolŋu communities of Yirrkala and Gunyaŋara. This regional economic hub is 600 kilometres east of Darwin (approximately 1,000 kilometres by road) with regular non-stop flights from both Darwin and Cairns.
The East Arnhem region is 33,606 square kilometres1 and is entirely Aboriginal land. The East Arnhem mainland and adjacent Elcho and Crocodile Islands are managed by the Northern Land Council on behalf of Yolŋu traditional owners.
Since the establishment of Nhulunbuy in the 1960s to service bauxite mining on the Peninsula, Nhulunbuy has become the fourth largest regional town by population in the Northern Territory. Equipped with a district hospital, schools, shops and restaurants, local investment has turned the town into a vibrant community with a high standard of services. The focus for the next 10 years is to diversify industry and provide opportunities for residents and future growth beyond the cessation of Rio Tinto’s mining operations around 2030.
There are several unique characteristics that make East Arnhem a competitive location for diverse industry investment, living and working, not least of which is the long history associated with mining operations, which has seen significant infrastructure investment at a level and scale not typically found in other comparative locations.
East Arnhem is in close proximity to thriving APAC markets, giving it a geographical advantage and facilitating international trade. The natural deep-water port in Melville Bay, which is the second deepest in the Northern Territory, also boasts a strong geographical advantage as the next natural link between closest major ports in Cairns and Darwin.
The region is also steeped in a history of trade and entrepreneurship. For thousands of years and prior to Federation, Yolŋu traded with the Macassan people from Sulawesi, Indonesia who were seeking trepang (sea cucumber), which they valued as a medicine and as a food. In return for access to certain fishing areas, Yolŋu received goods such as cloth, tobacco, rice and knives.
East Arnhem is now looking to the future, a future of which you could be a part. Many exciting new industries are aspiring to call this part of Northern Australia home. East Arnhem is uniquely positioned for growth with valuable resources, with priorities around diversifying industry, advancing new opportunities and pursuing the long-term sustainability of the region.
Outside the Yolŋu region of East Arnhem, to the east of Nhulunbuy, located in the Gulf of Carpentaria, is the Groote Archipelago, home to the Anindilyakwa people. Groote Eylandt and Bickerton Island are represented by the Anindilyakwa Land Council (ALC). The sub-regional hub of Alyangula supports neighbouring communities and the island’s manganese mine. While this guide does not cover the Groote Archipelago, Anindilyakwa people are also committed to industry diversification and share similar visions to Yolŋu on sustainable development. To learn more about Groote Eylandt, please ask DEAL to facilitate introductions with the ALC or visit anindilyakwa.com.au/contact-us