Elcho Island
Elcho Island is an island off the coast of Arnhem Land
Arnhem Land
The Arnhem Land Region is one of the five regions of the Northern Territory of Australia. It is located in the north-eastern corner of the territory and is around 500 km from the territory capital Darwin. The region has an area of 97,000 km² which also covers the area of Kakadu National...

, Northern Territory
Northern Territory
The Northern Territory is a federal territory of Australia, occupying much of the centre of the mainland continent, as well as the central northern regions...

, Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. It is located at the southern end of the Wessel Islands
Wessel Islands
The Wessel Islands are a group of islands belonging to the Northern Territory of Australia. They extend in a more or less straight line from Buckingham Bay and the Napier Peninsula of Arnhem Land, and Elcho Island, to the northeast. Marchinbar Island is the largest of the group...

 group located in the East Arnhem Region. The island's largest community is the settlement of Galiwin'ku.


Elcho Island is approximately 55 km long and 6 km across at its widest point. It is bounded on the western side by the Arafura Sea
Arafura Sea
The Arafura Sea lies west of the Pacific Ocean overlying the continental shelf between Australia and New Guinea.-Geography:The Arafura Sea is bordered by Torres Strait and through that the Coral Sea to the east, the Gulf of Carpentaria to the south, the Timor Sea to the west and the Banda and Ceram...

 and on the east by the Cadell Strait. Elcho Island is a short distance away from the mainland and Howard Island
Howard Island
Howard Island is an island in the Arafura Sea, Northern Territory, Australia. It belongs to East Arnhem Shire, and is evenly divided between Gumurr Gatjirrk Ward in the west and Gumurr Marthakal Ward in the east. The only settlements are two family outstations...


Galiwin'ku, located near the island's southern tip, is the main community on the island. It is the largest Aboriginal
Indigenous Australians
Indigenous Australians are the original inhabitants of the Australian continent and nearby islands. The Aboriginal Indigenous Australians migrated from the Indian continent around 75,000 to 100,000 years ago....

 community in northeast Arnhem Land, the second largest Aboriginal community (in terms of concentrated population) in the Northern Territory, and ranks eleventh in population of the 69 local government bodies in the Territory. There are a large number of tribal groups, with up to 22 different dialects being used in the community. The people of Galiwin'ku retain their tradition and culture for future generations by strict traditional methods, and through education, embrace the wider Australian community.

The island is home to the largest Aboriginal community in northeast Arnhem Land, with approximately 2,000 residents living in the main settlement of Galiwin'ku and across many outstation
Historically, an outstation was a subsidiary homestead or other dwelling, on Australian sheep or cattle stations which were large enough to have more than a day's travel between different parts of the property....

s including Inglis Island
Inglis Island
Inglis Island is the largest of a group called The English Company's Islands, Northern Territory, Australia. It is 23.4 km long and up to 7 km wide. Its area is 83.5 km², and it reaches a height of 70 meters...

 on the namesake island and Matamata, Maparru, and Gariyak on the mainland. The island has a base population of 2,200 people, including 70 non-Aboriginal people. It is the home of the Aboriginal folk musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu is an Indigenous Australian musician, who sings in the Yolngu language.He was born in Galiwin'ku , off the coast of Arnhem Land, Northern Australia about 350 miles from Darwin. He is from the Gumatj clan of the Yolngu and his mother from the Galpu nation...

. The population of Galiwin'ku varies during the seasons, with many outstation residents migrating to the community during the wet season due to inaccessibility. The community also serves approximately 25 outstations with a total population of approx. 450 people, with 12 of the outstations on Elcho Island, which are listed from north to south:
  1. Nanyingburra
  2. Gawa (Gäwa)
  3. Banthula (Gampura)
  4. Djurranalpi (Djanalpi)
  5. Dharawa
  6. Gitan
  7. Gulmarri
  8. Watdagawuy
  9. Dhayirri
  10. Ngayawilli (First Creek)
  11. Dhudupu
  12. Galawarra

Forty-eight per cent of the population is under 20 years of age, with 7% over 50.

Galiwin'ku is a traditional Aboriginal community with restricted access; permission to visit is required by law and can be made through the Northern Land Council
Northern Land Council
The Northern Land Council is in the Top End of the Northern Territory of Australia. It has its origins in the struggle of Australian Aboriginal people for rights to fair wages and land. This included the strike and walk off by the Gurindji people at Wave Hill, cattle station in 1966. The head...

 directly or via the Galiwin'ku Council. Total alcohol restrictions apply and there is no gasoline available on the island; all gasoline-powered vehicles use the low-aromatic petrol "Opal
Opal (fuel)
Opal is a variety of low-aromatic 91 RON petrol developed in 2005 by BP Australia to combat the rising use of petrol as an inhalant in remote indigenous Australian communities....

" as a fuel substitute.

The settlement was originally established as a Methodist mission in 1942, with the arrival of Harold Shepherdson, a lay associate of the Methodist Overseas Mission from Milingimbi. It remained under Church direction until 1974 when it became self-managed. Eighteen connected clan groups within the Elcho Island locale have close cultural ties with mainland Arnhem Land clans and language groups. The most commonly spoken languages are Djambarrpuyngu and Gupapuyngu (both Yolngu Matha languages). However, there are at least twelve more languages in use in the region.

Another settlement is Gäwa
Gawa, Elcho Island
Gawa is a place on Elcho Island in the Arnhem Land of Northern Territory, Australia.Elcho Island is situated about 90 kilometres west-north-west of the Gove Peninsula in the Arafura Sea. Approximately 60 km long and 6 km wide, it is home for some 1,000 Indigenous Australians whose...

, which is located on the northern tip of Elcho Island.

The island is served by Elcho Island Airport
Elcho Island Airport
Elcho Island Airport is an airport in Elcho Island, Northern Territory, Australia.-Airlines and destinations:*...


Elcho Island Chooky Dancers

In 2007 a group of local Elcho Island dancers choreographed and performed a dance routine to Zorba the Greek
Zorbas is a song by Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis. It is based on two traditional Cretan songs, "Armenohorianos Syrtos" and "Kritiko syrtaki", composed by Giorgis Koutsourelis. The song featured in the 1964 film Zorba the Greek, for which Theodorakis wrote the soundtrack, and become extremely...

. The performance was recorded and uploaded to the popular video sharing website, YouTube
YouTube is a video-sharing website, created by three former PayPal employees in February 2005, on which users can upload, view and share videos....

. In under 12 months the video received more than 850,000 views. Due to this success the group toured parts of Queensland and performed in the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney in June 2008. They also appeared as the opening act at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Melbourne International Comedy Festival
The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is the third-largest international comedy festival in the world and the largest cultural event in Australia. Established in 1987, it takes place annually in Melbourne over four weeks in April typically opening on or around April Fool's Day...

 Gala 2009.

Cultural references

Elcho Island was the inspiration for the song My Island Home
My Island Home
"My Island Home" is popularly believed to be a song about Australia. However, it was written by Neil Murray and originally performed by his Warumpi Band in reference to their lead singer's home up at Elcho Island off the coast of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory as said by...

 originally written by Neil Murray
Neil Murray (Australian musician)
Neil Murray is an Australian musician and writer. He was a founding member of the Warumpi Band that formed in the early 1980s, the first major Aboriginal rock group and influential Aboriginal rock band.-Biography:...

 for the Warumpi Band
Warumpi Band
The Warumpi Band is an Australian band from the bush, coming from Papunya, Northern Territory, Australia.The band was formed in 1980 by Neil Murray, a Victorian "whitefella" working in the region as a schoolteacher and labourer, George Burarrwanga, from Elcho Island, and local boys Gordon and...

. The song was later covered by Christine Anu
Christine Anu
-Early life:Anu was born in Cairns, Queensland to a Torres Strait Islander mother from Saibai and Mabuiag Islands.-Career:Anu began performing as a dancer and later went on to sing back-up vocals for The Rainmakers, which included Neil Murray of the Warumpi Band. Her first recording was in 1993...

 and she performed her rendition at the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games
2000 Summer Olympics
The Sydney 2000 Summer Olympic Games or the Millennium Games/Games of the New Millennium, officially known as the Games of the XXVII Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event which was celebrated between 15 September and 1 October 2000 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia...


A memorial ceremony for George Burrarrawanga, one of the founding members of the Warumpi Band, was performed on the island.

The island is the birthplace of blind singer Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu is an Indigenous Australian musician, who sings in the Yolngu language.He was born in Galiwin'ku , off the coast of Arnhem Land, Northern Australia about 350 miles from Darwin. He is from the Gumatj clan of the Yolngu and his mother from the Galpu nation...


External links

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