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Who are the traditional owners of Arnhem Land?

Arnhem Land is a beautiful part of the Northern Territory, categorized by its many different ecosystems and fascinating landscapes, as well as its rich history and cultural significance to the First Nations Peoples of Australia. This fascinating region is not only home to some of this country's best Aboriginal artists but is also where a lot of Australia's heritage-listed rock art sites are located. It's even the place where the famous Aboriginal instrument, the didgeridoo, was first created so it's little wonder Arnhem Land remains a place of spiritual importance, especially when it comes to connecting with country. 

The traditional owners of Arnhem Land

The traditional owners of Arnhem Land vary depending on which area of this fascinating region you're in, as the land is divided into different Aboriginal countries and language groups. The traditional owners of North-eastern Arnhem Land are the Yolngu Peoples, who have lived and worked on this land for over 60,000 years. In fact, Arnhem Land has a total population of around 16,000 people, of which 12,000 are Yolngu Peoples. Due to their large population, the Yolngu Peoples have been able to maintain a traditional culture; crafting, hunting, painting, and living (for the most part) exactly as their ancestors did before them. 

The Aboriginal group located in western Arnhem Land identifies as the Bininj, with two spiritual moeities, Dhuwa and Yirritja. Like their eastern counterparts, the First Nations Peoples of West Arnhem Land have lived in this region for over 60,000 years and still enjoy a traditional lifestyle with hunting and harvesting a big part of their daily routine. 

When did Arnhem Land become an Aboriginal reserve? 

Arnhem Land became an Aboriginal reserve in 1931 when it was granted by the government. This was a landmark win for the Indigenous community, becoming one of Australia's largest pieces of land to officially and lawfully have Aboriginal owners. 

Arnhem Land still has traditional owners to this day, and because of this, you need a permit to travel to this breathtaking country. 

Still want to learn about Arnhem Land? Return to Arnhem Land FAQs

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