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The Chamber in East Arnhem
The following information is profiled on the East Arnhem region and the Chamber of Commerce's activities within the region. Please click on the relevant hyperlink of interest to you.
Regional Information and History
A vigorous small business sector has developed to serve the town and surrounding Aboriginal communities. The Chamber of Commerce NT has become a strong voice for the community through its Regional Manager and elected Executive Committee and provides support for local member organisations.
East Arnhem Land is the most eastern extremity of the Northern Territory mainland. This vast tract of nearly 100,000 square kilometres of Aboriginal owned land is one of Australia's last strongholds of traditional Aboriginal culture. East Arnhem Land is part of the Aboriginal Land Trust, and is held under inalienable freehold title by the Aboriginal traditional owners (with the exception of some mining leases). The township of Nhulunbuy is the largest town in the region with a population of around 4,000 people and is located on a special purpose lease area.
In 1973, Nabalco, a Swiss/Australian consortium started mining and processing a 250 million tonne (one of the world's largest) bauxite deposit and established the new town of Nhulunbuy. The local Yolngu clans had been opposed to this development and made their concerns known in the now famous 'Bark Petition' sent to the Commonwealth Parliament in 1963. This led to the first major legal action over land rights and although the Yolngu case was lost, it led to the introduction of the 1976 Northern Territory Land Rights Act. Under this Act, Arnhem Land was returned to its Aboriginal owners along with other traditional lands in the Northern Territory. Mining is expected to continue until the middle of the twenty-first century.
Located approximately 50 km from the Northern Territory mainland in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Groote Eylandt has an area of 2,260 km2 and is wholly owned by the Anindilyakwa Aboriginal people. Semancor Mining Company (formerly Groote Eylandt Mining Company, GEMCo) mines manganese from a number of leases on the western coastal plain of Groote Eylandt.
The ore is shipped from the harbour at Alyangula, a modern town where most non-Aboriginal employees of the mine live. On the east coast is the small Aboriginal community of Umbakumba.
Yirrkala is the largest Yolngu community on the peninsula some 15 km southeast of Nhulunbuy with a population of around 800 people. Many of the Yolngu in the region live in small communities located on the traditional homelands of the various clans. The large number of different clan groups and some 40 clan-languages in northeast Arnhem Land alone reflects the richness and diversity of culture.