Pristine ARNHEM LAND is geographically the continuation of Kakadu eastwards to the Gulf of Carpentaria, but without the infrastructure and picnic areas. Never colonized and too rough to graze, the 91,000-square-kilometre wilderness was designated an Aboriginal reserve in 1931 and has remained in Aboriginal hands since that time. In 1963 the Yirrkala of northwestern Arnhem Land appealed against the proposed mining of bauxite on their land. It was the first protest of its kind and included the presentation of sacred artefacts and a petition in the form of a bark painting to the government in Canberra. Their actions brought the issue of Aboriginal land rights to the public eye, paving the way for subsequent successful land claims in the Territory.
Independent tourists are not allowed to visit Arnhem Land without a permit, and the twelve thousand Aborigines who live here prefer it that way. Little disturbed for over forty thousand years, Arnhem Land, like Kakadu, holds thousands of rock-art sites and burial grounds, wild coastline, rivers teeming with fish, stunning stone escarpments, monsoon forests, savannah woodlands and abundant wildlife. In recent years, the mystique of this “forbidden land” has proved a profitable source of income for Arnhem Land’s more accessible communities, and tours, particularly to the areas adjacent to Kakadu, are now offered in partnership with a select few operators.