Groote Eylandt

Groote Eylandt

[groot ahy-luhnd]
Groote Eylandt [Du.,=large island], 950 sq mi (2,461 sq km), Northern Territory, N Australia. It is the largest island in the Gulf of Carpentaria and part of the Arnhem Land Aboriginal Reserve. Manganese ore is mined there.

Groote Eylandt is the largest island in the Gulf of Carpentaria in northeastern Australia. It is the homeland of, and is owned by, the Anindilyakwa people (who still speak the isolated Anindilyakwa language).

Groote Eylandt lies approximately 50 km from the Northern Territory mainland and eastern coast of Arnhem Land (approximately 630 km from Darwin). The island measures approximately 50 km from east to west and 60 km north—south, a total area of some 2,260 km². It is generally quite low-lying, with an average height above sea level of 15 m. Its geographic coordinates are . It was named by the explorer Abel Tasman in 1644 and is Dutch for "Large Island" in a now-archaic spelling.


Groote Eylandt is part of the Arnhem Land Aboriginal Reserve. GEMCO, a BHP Billiton subsidiary, operates a large manganese mine near the community of Angurugu, paying royalties to the traditional owners. In operation since the early 1960s, the mine produces more than 3.8 million tonnes annually - about 25 percent of the world's total.

The island has until recently been open to the public only with permission, and the local Aboriginal Land Council has not encouraged tourism. Typically, a permit from the Anindilyakwa Land Council office is required to visit the island. There is now a resort style hotel and a sportfishing lodge on the island. The island is becoming renowed for is fine aboriginal rock art sites,arts and crafts and outstanding sportfishing including Sailfish, Marlin, Spanish Mackeral, Giant Trevally, Queenfish and Coral Trout.


Groote Eylandt was first sighted by Europeans in 1623, by the Dutch ship Arnhem, under Willem van Coolsteerdt. However, it was not until 1644, when Tasman arrived, that the island was given a European name. The first European settlement on the island was established at Emerald River in 1921, in the form of a Christian mission by the Church Missionary Society. During World War II, in 1943, the mission moved to Angurugu, as the RAAF required the use of the mission's airstrip. The ruins of the RAAF base are still evident today. The island was also used as a flying boat base by Qantas for a period of time. In 1979, control of the island was transferred to the local Aboriginal Town Council.

Groote Eylandt was converted to Aboriginal freehold title land following the passing of the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act of 1976.

On May 20th, 2008, the Federal Government signed a deal with local Aboriginies from Groote Eylandt, to lease land to the Government for 40 years. In return the government will spend money in the community with the aim of improving housing, education and health in the area.


The Eylandt Echo newsletter is produced each fortnight. The newsletter's goal is to keep the community up to date on local news, events and recreation. The Eylandt Echo is sponsored by GEMCO as a community service. Issues can be downloaded from here.

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