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In the decades prior to 1970, the Yolngu people in the East Arnhem region had been congregated in various missions, the most easterly of which was Yirrkala on the Gove Peninsula. In April 1972, partly in response to the establishment of the nearby mining town of Nhulunbuy, senior Aboriginal leaders resolved, with their extended families, to move back to their traditional clan lands and sea country over an extensive area to the south-west.

Working together with the assistance of a development worker from the Mission, they cleared their airstrips mainly by hand, and built their early houses using homeland timber and the residents’ own labour under the supervision of qualified builders. In 1985, in order to further their wish to live on their country and develop their homeland communities through the provision of service and infrastructure etc., they established Laynhapuy Homelands Association Inc. (LHAI).

LHAI is a member owned Association, it has no statutory or other powers, and the homelands are on Aboriginal land held as inalienable freehold title by the Arnhem Land Aboriginal Lands Trust established under the Commonwealth’s Aboriginal Land Rights Act (Northern Territory) 1976.

The Association now provides services and support to18 homelands with a collective population of up to 800 residents during the dry season and about 600-700 during the wet. Some 15 airstrips, 92 houses, as well as bores and tanks are maintained. The Association is also responsible for some 540km of minor roads connecting homelands to the major regional road, the Central Arnhem Highway.

The Association has a Resource Centre which administers a range of services to the homeland communities including: Community Development Employment Program (CDEP), health service, essential services, housing management, training, Indigenous natural resource management, aged care service, and development support for homelands.

In 1987, LHAI began providing logistical support and passenger transport by air to our homelands with a helicopter service. This was followed by the commencement of the fixed wing aircraft operation in 1989.

Primary school education is delivered to 5 homelands by the NT Education Department. Secondary School Education is carried out at one homeland (Garrthalala) for all homeland secondary school students.

In addition to the Resource Centre operations, the Association has two fully owned businesses - Laynhapuy Aviation (Balamumu Mungurru Pty Ltd.) and Ganybu Wholesalers which imports and wholesales kava. Although the Association also holds a kava retail license, this is effectively franchised out to the five participating homelands, which run the retail operation as a homeland business.

Since early 2004, three of the homelands have conducted their day to day business from Community Offices situated in the homelands. These offices are supported by satellite connections and generators and have access to modern communications (phone, fax, internet) and to computer and information technology. A further two Community Offices are expected to be operating this financial year.

In December 2004, Yilpara Homeland, the largest of the Laynhapuy homelands, became the first to have a homeland-wide, reticulated 240 V power generation system. Appropriate power systems will be installed in other homelands as funds become available.

A very important development in the Association’s work was the auspicing of the Indigenous Protected Area project in 2001 and the subsequent establishment, in 2003, of the Yirralka Ranger land and sea resource management program in response to traditional owners desire to manage their country and to deal with threats to cultural and environmental values.

The accompanying map (see below) shows the proposed Laynhapuy Indigenous Protected area and the location of the eighteen Laynhapuy Homelands and the location of Yirrkala where the Laynhapuy Homelands Association is based - some 18 km from the regional center of Nhulunbuy, and 7 km from Gove Airport.

Bukudal
Barraratjpi
Barrkira
Bawaka
Buymarr
Dhuruputjpi
Djarrakpi
Galkila
Gangan
Garrthalala
Gurrumurru
Gurrkawuy
Gutjangan
Rurrangala
Wandawuy
Yangunbi
Yilpara
Yudu Yudu

* Information and photos supplied by Laynhapuy Homelands.

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