Arnhem Land

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Arnhem Land is an area of 97,000 kmĀ² in the north-eastern corner of the Northern Territory, Australia. Until the mid-1950s under direct rule from the territory capital Darwin, it is now controlled by the Northern Land Council on behalf of the local Aboriginal inhabitants. It extends from Port Roper on the Gulf of Carpentaria around the coast to the East Alligator River where it adjoins Kakadu National Park. The major centres are Jabiru on the Kakadu National Park border and Maningrida on the Liverpool River mouth. The region was named by Matthew Flinders after the Dutch ship Arnhem which explored the coast in 1623.

The climate of Arnhem Land is tropical, with a wet and dry season. Temperatures range from overnight lows of 15 degrees Celsius in the dry season (April to September) to daily highs of 33 degrees Celsius in the wet season (October to March).

Arnhem Land also contains the Gove Peninsula on its north east corner. Gove is the site of large scale Bauxite mining with an associated Alumina refinery. Its administrative centre is the town of Nhulunbuy, the fourth-largest population centre in the Northern Territory.

Arnhem Land is notable for its Aboriginal rock-art, at Ubirr Rock and in the Canon Hill area. Some of these record early presence of Europeans, sometimes in such detail that Martini-Henry rifles can be identified. Other items depicted include axes, detailed paintings of aircraft and ships. In one remote shelter, several hundred kilometers from Darwin, there is a depiction of the whole wharf at Darwin, including buildings and boats, the Europeans themselves being painted, with their hats and pipes, some without hands (which they have in their trouser pockets); one human figure near the East Alligator River crossing is painted with a gun and long pigtails down his back, identifiable as one of the Chinese labourers brought to Darwin in the late 19th century.

Arnhem Land is also the home of the members of the influential rock band Yothu Yindi, many of whose members are Indigenous Australians.

Arnhem Land is notable also for the temporary ground paintings ritualistically created by indigenous inhabitants of Arnhem Land.


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Arnhem Land

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