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Carved Poles, Tiwi Island

The Tiwi Islands are a small archipelago in Australia's Northern Territory, 100 km north of Darwin.


The Tiwi Islands are composed of Melville Island and Bathurst Island, with a combined area of 8,320 They have a combined population of just over 2,000 people, over 90% of whom are Aboriginal. The largest settlement, Nguiu (pron. "new-you") on Bathurst, has a population of 1,500.

The Catholic mission established on the Tiwi Islands in 1911 greatly influenced the culture of the Tiwi Islanders. The Islanders also played a role in World War II, capturing Japanese pilots who were shot down during bombing raids on Darwin. Many Tiwi Islanders are prolific artists who produce distinctive art, pottery, sculptures and wooden carvings.


Unlike the rest of Australia, the Tiwi Islands speak Tiwi and not English. However, most people can speak an advanced level of Australian English while some of the younger generations may be near native at English. Some phrases:

ajurungwarri . ( )
How are you?
Awungana? (Awoo-n-gaa-na?)
pu. (pu)
Thank you.
nginja nguwuri. (ng-inja ngu-wuri)
kuwa. (koo-waa)
karluwu or arnuka. ( )
-wani! (waa-ni!)

Get in[edit]

Visiting the Tiwi Islands requires a permit from the Tiwi Islands Land Council. For casual visitors, the only way to arrange one is through one of two designated tour operators:

  • Tiwi Art Network, 1300 721 365 (local rate). Occasional tours geared towards visitors with an interest in Aboriginal art.
  • Tiwi Island Tour, 1300 721 365 (local rate). One-day tours from $465, including meals, return flights, tour guide and permits.

Once your permits are sorted out, there are two ways to reach the Tiwis from Darwin: 20-minute flights on Fly Tiwi (several times daily, from $120/one-way), or a two-hour catamaran journey on the SeaLink Ferry.

Get around[edit]


  • 1 Patakijiyali Museum, Lot 469 Puruntatameri Ln, Wurrumiyanga. M-F 9AM-2PM.


The biggest event of the year on the famously football-crazy (Australian rules, of course) islands is the Tiwi Islands Football League Grand Final in late March, which draws crowds above 3000 — more than the islands' combined population! Permits are no longer required but in any case you'll need to plan well in advance to secure your seats. The Tiwi Islands Art Sale is held at the same time.



  • 1 Frangipani Cafe, Puti Dr, Wurrumiyanga. Sa 9AM-noon.



  • 1 Mantiyupwi Motel, Lot 835, Wurrumiyanga, +61 8 8941 1162.


Go next[edit]

The only way out is back to Darwin.

This rural area travel guide to Tiwi Islands is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.