Tiwi Land Council



Bathurst Island. Melville Island and the seas that surround them are the home of our TIWI people.

Before the time of modern transport the TIWI people were very isolated and knew very little of other worlds. As a result TIWI Culture developed independently from that on the mainland and reflected the world as we knew it the lands. shoals. reefs. sand bars and the sea to the distant horizon.


(Click Here to view creation story video - Tiwi Language .wmv)

... and then MUDANGKALA the old blindwoman arose from the ground carrying three babies in her arms. As she crawled in darkness across the featureless, landscape, sea water followed and filled the imprints made by her body. Eventually pools became one and formed a channel. The old woman continued her journey overland and once again the moulded earth filled with the flow of water.

Before she left, MUDANGKALA covered the islands she had created with plants and filled the land and sea with living creatures. Finally the land was prepared for her children and for the generation of TIWI who followed.

The rising seas, so significantly woven into the legend of MUDANGKALA approached their present level only 7000 years before present. In the centuries prior to this the Coast was up to 300km seaward of the current coastline and the island formed part of mainland Australia. There is some evidence to suggest the seas are continuing to rise. The highest point on the Tiwi Islands is a little over 200 metres above sea level.


Our first record of contact was with Dutch sailors, under the command of Commander Maarten van Delft who took three ships into Shark Bay on Melville Island and landed on 30 April 1705. The Commander records that our people were vigorous in inviting these intruders to leave. We had earlier seen the ships of another Dutch navigator Pieter Pietersz in June 1636 but these ships did not land on our Islands, although they sailed close in shore and anchored in our north coast bays.

Form more information read:
Tiwi Meet the Dutch:
The First European Contacts
(PDF - 1.5mb)

It was not until May 1818 that Captain Philip Parker King from Sydney mapped our Islands and gave them the names they have today. In 1824 British soldiers established a military post at Fort Dundas near Pirlangimpi (For more information about the fort Dundas and recent research click here). The soldiers left in 1829 noting the proud independence of the Tiwi and their prowess as warriors. The remains of the Fort can be seen adjacent to the community airfield.

Buffalo shooters came to our Islands in 1895, the buffalo having been introduced by the British soldiers in 1824. Shortly afterwards Francis Xavier Gsell established the Roman Catholic Mission at Ngiui in 1911, and this continues to the present day.

More about Tiwi history and culture can be found here at the Tiwi Art Network web site.