Our Country

The Location of Groote Eylandt and Bickerton Island are situated in the NT on the western side of Arnhem Land in the Gulf of Carpentaria; approximately 640km east south east of Darwin and 50km off the Arnhem Land coast. Groote Eylandt is Australia’s third largest island; named by explorer Abel Tasman in 1644 and is Dutch for “Large Island”.

The Groote Eylant area holds some of the richest manganese deposits in the world.

The climate on Groote Eylandt is tropical with hot humid and wet summers marked by thunderstorms. Summer temperatures range from 25 to 40 degrees Celsius. The winters are dry and mild with temperatures from a rare 10 to 30 degrees.

The vegetation is mostly tropical savannah woodland (stringy-bark eucalypts and Darwin woolly-butt), with patches of monsoon vine forest, areas of pandanus and paperbark wetland and stands of cypress pine. Casuarina and banyan trees give shade along sandy beaches. Animal life is prolific. The land is not used for primary production and there are no cattle nor cane toads on the islands.

The marine environment around Groote Eylandt is close to pristine. The environment features clear waters, abundant marine life, easy access, large animals such as dugong, crocodiles, turtles, and manta rays. The area is particularly well known for its fishing and several charter boats operate around the islands and the Groote archipelago. There is commercial fishing in the sea adjacent to Groote Eylandt however there is no economic impact on the island as commercial fishermen and their operations are based elsewhere.

Our People

The Anindilyakwa people have inhabited Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria with an unbroken human tradition extending over an estimated 40,000 years. The 14 clans now represented on the Eylandt are therefore among the most ancient and authentic remaining living cultures remaining on earth today.

The Anindilyakwa people were brought to Groote Eylandt on a series of song lines which created the land, rivers, animals, and people and which named everything pertaining to the region. The language, Anindilyakwa, is spoken by all the clan groups that make up the two moieties on Groote Eylandt.

Surrounding Groote Eylandt is a marine environment with fabulous reef systems and rich, Indigenous, commercial and recreation fisheries. Importantly, the sea country of the Anindilyakwa people is crossed by song-lines associated with male ceremonial law, which is the basis for the authority of senior Traditional Owners. The song-lines provide spiritual links among the islands within the Groote archipelago as well as from the Groote archipelago to the mainland. The song lines are also the basis for social and ceremonial links between Anindilyakwa people and their neighbors.