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Connection to country

Tiwi people are coastal Aboriginals with a culture different to those on the mainland. Their strong traditions, rituals and traditional foods are still a very important part of everyday life today and they appear to have successfully combined both traditional and modern lifestyles.


Just 80km north of Darwin lie Bathurst and Melville Islands, known collectively as the Tiwi Islands. Europeans first made contact with the Tiwi people in 1705. Then, 119 years later, the British established the first settlement in Northern Australia. This was at the short-lived Fort Dundas on Melville Island near where Pirlangimpi now stands.

You can visit the Tiwi Islands on a guided tour and experience life in a modern-day Aboriginal community learning about the rich and fascinating history and culture of the Tiwi people. Visitors either board a small plane in Darwin for the short flight to the Islands, or cruise the Timor Sea for around two hours on a ferry – check Top End Summer availability with the Top End Visitor Information Centre. Permits are only required if you intend to visit outside the main township of Wurrumiyanga, these permits are required before you travel to the Tiwi Islands. For more information please contact the Tiwi Islands Regional Council or your tour operator.

The Tiwi people are known around the world for their distinctive fabric prints, pottery, sculptures and carvings. There are several art galleries on both Melville and Bathurst Islands and visitors are more than welcome to purchase directly from the artists.

The Tiwi people are also famous for their love of sports, in particular Australian Rules football. The Tiwi Football Grand Final and Art Sale is held in March and is the one time when you can visit the island without a permit. The islands’ isolation and high rainfall means you will find many species not recorded elsewhere in the world. The islands are host to the world’s largest breeding colony of Crested Terns and a large population of the vulnerable Olive Ridley turtle.


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