Remote Aboriginal communities

This page is a work in progress. We want to explain what distinguishes a remote Aboriginal community from a township. But it’s not straightforward.

In 2007 the Australian Government staged what it called the ‘Northern Territory Emergency Response’. More commonly known as the Intervention, it brought sudden changes, restrictions and initiatives to dozens of remote Aboriginal communities. The land under 65 Aboriginal communities was compulsorily acquired, and tenancy arrangements for the residents changed.

There are now 73 remote Aboriginal communities that receive essential services via the NT Government – see the map below. They are very diverse in terms of their size, origins and circumstances:

  • Some are big towns – Maningrida, Galiwin’ku, Wadeye.
  • Others are small settlements – Tara, Amanbidji, Wallace Rockhole.
  • Some started or grew a lot with the founding of a religious mission – Hermannsburg, Yirrkala, Santa Teresa, Ngukurr, Angurugu, Wadeye, Galiwin’ku, Millingimbi, Gunbalanya, Numbulwar.
  • Some began as a government-run reserve, when groups of Aboriginal people were forcibly moved from where they had been living – Areyonga, Maningrida, Lajamanu, Yuendumu, Ali Curung, Barunga.
  • Fifteen were established by Aboriginal people as a community living area – for example Jilkminggan, Yarralin, Laramba, Alpurrurulam.
  • Some are on Crown land, as non-Aboriginal townships are – Kalkarindji is an example.
  • Some were established as a pastoral station – Willowra.
  • Some started out as an Aboriginal homeland and, over time, developed into a community – Nyirripi.
  • Apatula Aboriginal Corporation has freehold title to Apatula (Finke).


As well as providing water, power and sewerage services, the NT Government offers housing to residents of these communities.

Photo credits: Elcho Island houses, 1965 – Library and Archives of the Northern Territory, ph0048-0519 / Houses at Oenpelli (Gunbalanya), 1974 – National Archives of Australia, A8739, A4/6/74/25

This is Aboriginal land

We work with deep respect for country and its rightful owners, ancestors and elders, past and present.
Please be aware that our site includes names and images of people who have passed.

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