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Galiwin'ku Gapuwiyak Minjilang Milingimbi Ramingining

Galiwin'ku Community

Galiwin'ku is the major community on Elcho Island 550 kilometres northeast of Darwin (1.5 hour flight) and 150km north west of Nhulunbuy (45 min flight). Elcho Island is part of the Wessel Island group located in the East Arnhem Region of the Northern Territory.

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 directly or via the Galiwin'ku Council. Total alcohol restrictions apply.  

All freight for the ALPA store is barged to the community on a weekly service. The barge landing is located on the south east coast 5 km from the community. The barge road is gravel and is accessible all year round.


Galiwin'ku Store contact details

PMB 175, Winnellie NT 0822
Ph 08 8987 9036
Fax 08 8987 9066


Buthan Store contact details

PMB 313 Winnellie NT 0822
PH: 08 89445940
Lot 606 Elcho Island
(Buthan is a subdivision on Elcho Island alongside the airport, with the ALPA Buthan store opened in 2016)


East Arnhem Shire - Local Government for the area
Elcho Island Arts Centre - Situated on Galiwin'ku community
Shepherdson College - Local School



Galiwin'ku is the largest community in East Arnhemland with a base population of 2200 people. The population of Galiwin'ku varies during the seasons, with many of the outstation residents migrating to the community during the wet season due to inaccessibility.  

There are a large number of tribal groups, with up to 22 different dialects being used in the community.  The main tribal and clan groups are Yirritja: Wulkarra, Wangurri, Golpa, Guyamirrilil, Gumatj, Birrkili, Daywurrwurr (Gupapuyngu), Warramirri, Dhalwangu, Ritharrangu and Ganalbingu.

Dhuwa tribes include Golumala, Marrangu, Wawilik, Datiwuy (Naymil ), Liyagawmirr or Dambugawmirr, Galpu, Guyula Djambarrpuyngu, Dhunli Djambarrpuyngu, Ngaladharr Djambarrpuyngu and Manabalpuy. 


Contact History

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, Elcho Islanders and other Yol?u living along the coastal edges of Arnhemland had regular contract with sea traders passing through the great trading route between China and Europe.

In the 17th Century Dutch Portuguese and Spanish are known to have charted the Arnhemland coast. The impact of any possible contacts with these traders is not known.

Trepang fishermen had been coming each year to the Northern Territory coastline from Macassar for many generations, beginning several hundred years ago. Records indicate that thousands of Macassan came to the coastal areas each year. Trading activities existed between the visitors and the local Yol?u and provided a significant economic contribution to the region.

In 1921, Elcho Island was selected in preference to Milingimbi by the Rev. J.C. Jennison for the siting of a second Methodist Overseas Mission (MOM) after the establishment of Goulburn Island in 1916. However in 1922 the Elcho Island Naphtha Petroleum company began drilling for oil close to the mission site, and the mission was relocated to Milingimbi.

During World War II, with the establishment of a RAAF base at Milingimbi came the increased risk of Japanese attack.  In 1942, Harold (‘Sheppy’) and Ella Shepherdson relocated the Milingimbi sawmill and other valuable equipment to Galiwin'ku. MOM commenced the building of a permanent mission at Galiwin’ku in 1947.

In the 1950s a viable fishing industry and an active building program were established. The ‘60s saw further development and the establishment of outstations. Sheppy used light aircraft to service these remote locations with stores, medical visits and to conduct church services.