Savanna Explorer > Arnhem Land

Arnhem Land

Aboriginal land

This region, of around 70,000 square kilometres, covers the low-lying parts of Arnhem Land in the Top End of the Northern Territory, east of the stony escarpment. (Note that this landscape-defined region is smaller than Arnhem Land proper which extends further west to Kakadu National Park and further south-east towards the community of Ngukurr.)

The region is almost all Aboriginal land and has some areas leased for other purposes such as Gurig (Coburg) National Park and the mining operations near Nuhlunbuy (Gove) and on Groote Eylandt. There is a small area of pastoral land in the south-west of the Central Arnhem biogeographic region.

Because the region is Aboriginal land, together with the neighbouring Kakadu national park, it forms the largest block of land not given over to cattle gazing in the tropical savannas.

Land use is Aboriginal land (tan) except for Gurig National Park in the west (dark brown) and some pastoral land in the south (white).


This region's tropical climate, influenced by its proximity to the coast, is characterised by hot, wet, humid summers and mild, drier winters. The north-west monsoons deliver much of the 800 mm to 1600 mm of the area's annual median rainfall which comes from occasional tropical cyclonic activity, tropical depressions or scattered thunderstorms. The generally cloudy days of summer produce an average maximum temperature of around 33ºC. During the dry winters minimum temperatures range between 15ºC and 21ºC in July and are coolest inland on cloudless nights.

Biogeographic region

This area is defined by the biogeographic regions Central Arnhem and the western half of Top End Coast.

For more information on the biogeographic regions go to the Department of Environment and Heritage's Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia (IBRA).


Total Population

Indigenous Population



















Table is based on 2001 Census Urban Centres and Localities figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.


Population snapshot

The population figures are based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics census of 2001 which is conducted in early August. These more standardised Urban Centres and Localities figures replace earlier ones  on this site based on Statistical Local Areas (SLAs) and Census Collection Districts.

Up until the early decades of this century Aboriginal people occupied and managed the entire area of the region. They were then moved into the coastal towns like Maningrida and Milingimbi leaving the inland areas almost deserted and consequently unmanaged. The outstations movement of recent decades has changed this distribution somewhat with more people periodically occupying small inland outstations.