Whether you are visiting East Arnhem Land for holidays, making the big move north, or a contractor heading up for work, there are few things you will need to consider when planning your trip. We’ve got the basics covered here but you should take the time to check out Tourism NT, Northern Land Council and Anindilyakwa Land Council for further information.


Why do I need a permit?

Aboriginal land is privately owned. It is not Crown land, nor public land. Like other landowners in Australia, Aboriginal people have the legal right to grant or refuse permission to people wishing to enter or travel through their land.

A permit is a written permission from the traditional owners to enter the private land of a family or group of Aboriginal people. The permit system is designed to help protect the privacy of Aboriginal communities, preserve Aboriginal culture, safeguard the natural environment and promote visitor safety.

When will I need a permit?

In most circumstances you will need to apply to either the Northern Land Council or Anindilyakwa Land Council for a permit to:

  • Enter Aboriginal Land for any purpose

  • Travel by road through Aboriginal Land (Note: this does not apply to public roads)

  • Enter or visit an Aboriginal Community (Note: some exceptions apply)

Please note that permit requirements apply to all persons visiting Aboriginal communities for work or other purposes on a short- or long-term basis. This includes:

  • Travellers

  • Tourists

  • Contractors

  • Journalists

  • Hawkers

  • Representatives of any group, company agency or government department not covered by statutory permit arrangement

For more information contact:
Northern Land Council
Anindilyakwa Land Council
Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation

Getting to East Arnhem Land

Daily flights connect Nhulunbuy with Cairns and Darwin. The region can also be accessed by 4WD along the Central Arnhem Road which connects to the Stuart Highway south of Katherine. Access from Darwin to Jabiru is via the Arnhem Highway. Access from the south is via the Kakadu Highway.

For those with less time or when roads are closed and inaccessible, air charter companies operate throughout East Arnhem and can get you to each of our nine communities and outlying Homelands!

Contact them directly for more information:

Air North
1800 627 474

Air Arnhem
0415 210 410

Air Frontier
08 8945 0777 or 0437 450 777

Arafura Aviation
08 8987 6808

Black Diamond Aviation
0413 443 544

Hardy Aviation
8928 9230 or 0427 278 110

Katherine Aviation
08 8971 1277

Laynhapuy Aviation
08 8987 3155

Marthakal Yolngu Airline
1800 709 708

Mission Aviation Fellowship
08 8987 2777

Alcohol consumption

If you are travelling to East Arnhem Land, there are some important local alcohol rules that apply and are essential for you to comply with.

East Arnhem Land is a ‘dry area’. This includes Nhulunbuy and the surrounding communities. Drinking in public places is prohibited with the exception of some popular recreational areas that are sign posted.

The region has a strict liquor permit system where you can drink in a licensed premise, for example a hotel, club or restaurant. However, you need to obtain a liquor permit to buy takeaway alcohol and drink in a private home.

All nine of the communities which sit under Council are Restricted Areas and at no time should you bring alcohol with you when travelling to or visiting them. Strict penalties will apply for those caught not adhering to the rules.

More information and Liquor Permit applications can be obtained through the Northern Territory Department of Business or by calling (08) 8987 0451.

Volatile substances

Volatile substances give off fumes or vapours that when inhaled, can cause significant side effects and damage to the users brain over a period of time. Volatile substances can be in form of:

  • intoxicating fuels for vehicles (petrol)

  • butane gas (lighter fluids)

  • aerosol paints and sprays (spray paint)

  • glue

  • correction fluids

Effects of sniffing can be like alcohol in the first instance however the effects are usually felt more immediately than alcohol. The effects usually wear off after around 1 hour, with the 'high' usually lasting only a few minutes. Short term use has been found to cause little lasting damage, however long term use can lead to organ damage and cancer, and most significantly brain damage.

Under the Volatile Substance Abuse Prevention Act residents and community councils can request that the Minister declares an area a Management Area and approves a Management Plan for the area in order to control the possession, sale and supply, use and storage of volatile substances that can cause individuals and communities harm. Management Plans have been approved and are in force in four East Arnhem communities:


A Guide has been prepared for contractors who plan to visit and work at communities – ‘Contractors Guide for visiting communities’

Even if a Management Plan is not in force where people may live, visit or work it is important that they use volatile substances responsibly. The following practices are recommended:

  • Use Opal fuel when and where available

  • If Opal is not available use lockable fuel cap or diesel powered equipment

  • Secure inhalants and fuel powered equipment

  • Lock up aerosols, glues and other substances that may be abused

  • Remove (or safely dispose of) all glues, paints, aerosols and other inhalants when leaving the community