History of the Tiwi Land Council

In accordance with section 21 of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth) (‘ALRA’), the Tiwi Land Council (‘Council’) established by the then Minister of State for Aboriginal Affairs Robert Ian Viner established the Tiwi Land Council by notice published in the Gazette on 18 August 1978.

Following the establishment of the Tiwi Land Council, Minister Viner visited Bathurst Island on 7 September 1978 for a special gathering marking the establishment of the Council.

The establishment of the Council was a significant milestone for Tiwi people and a culmination of years of work seeking recognition as the custodians of the Tiwi Islands and the keepers of Tiwi cultural identity.

The Council is a corporate commonwealth entity under the ALRA and is responsible for a number of key functions under the ALRA. Whilst the Tiwi Islands are vested in the Tiwi Aboriginal Land Trust, it is the Council that carries the responsibility to ensure compliance with the ALRA and that, amongst other things, activities on the Tiwi Islands are undertaken only after proper consultation with the relevant Tiwi clan group(s) and with the consent of the traditional Aboriginal owners of that land.

Currently, the Council is made up of 40 members (including the Trustees of the Tiwi Aboriginal Land Trust). The 40 members are comprised of four (4) council members plus one trustee from each of the eight (8) clan groups of the Tiwi Islands.

In 2023 by resolution of the full Tiwi Land Council a new method of choice for Land Council membership selection was agreed to. Tiwi Land Council membership positions are now decided by an externally conducted ballot, run by the NT Electoral Commission with 50% of Councillor positions now required to be women.

The Trustees of the Trust are nominated by their respective clan groups and appointed by the Minister for Indigenous Australians. In 2023 the Northern Territory Electoral Commission facilitated an election process for each clan group. Subsequently the Minister appointed 8 Trustees for a term of 5 years.

In December 2023 and January 2024, the Northern Territory Electoral Commission facilitated further elections and subsequently 4 council members were elected for each clan group for a 3 year term commencing March 2024.

The full Council meets regularly (almost on a monthly basis) and the Council facilitates regular clan group meetings for the purpose of ensuring compliance with its obligations under the ALRA and to ensure the Council is actively present in the Tiwi community.

Timeline of Council’s Chair:

  • Cyril Kalippa, Inaugural Council Chairman, 1978 to 1981.
  • Jimmy Tipungwuti, 1981 to 1991.
  • Walter Kerinaiua, 1991 to 1994.
  • Matthew Wonaeamirri, 1994 to 1997.
  • Marius Puruntatameri, 1997 to 2000.
  • Matthew Wonaeamirri, 2000 to 2003.
  • Frederick Mungatopi, 2003 to 2006.
  • Robert Tipungwuti, 2006 to 2012.
  • Gibson Farmer Illortaminni, 2012 to 2024.
  • Leslie Tungatalum, 2024 to date.