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Newslines Radio: Strong futures for Tiwi Islands – part one


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Trevor Ellis

Gibson Farmer Illortaminni, Chairman, Tiwi Land Council
Walter Kerinaiua Jr, Tiwi Islander

7 May 2013

The Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin, are well known as the home of some of the country’s most successful Australian rules footballers, but sport isn’t the only great thing happening in the community.

With the help of Australian Government funding through the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory initiative, the Tiwi people have been kicking lots of goals recently in other areas, like job creation and business success and a flourishing art scene.

In this Newslines Radio program Tiwi Land Council chairman Gibson Farmer Illortaminni and Tiwi man Walter Kerinaiua Jr talk about their hopes for Tiwi Islands.


PRESENTER: Hi, I’m Trevor Ellis filling in for Nathan Ramsay and you’re listening to Newslines Radio, an Australian Government program on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues.

The Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin, are mostly known for the string of Australian rules footballers that have become renowned as some of the best players of all time, including champions like David Kantilla, Maurice Rioli, Michael Long and current Hawthorn star Cyril Rioli.

However, the Tiwi people have been kicking lots of goals recently in other areas, like job creation and business success and a flourishing art scene. 

Newslines recently visited the home of the Tiwi people to learn about its recent successes. 

Gibson Farmer Illortaminni is Chairman of the Tiwi Land Council. Gibson told Newslines about the Land Council’s priority.

ILLORTAMINNI: We’re trying to create more jobs for our young people to benefit everyone, our kids, grandkids and their grandkids as well. At the moment we’re training them in forestry and harvesting and how to look after our land and managing our land better to benefit our future.

PRESENTER: Gibson says that one of the important recent local developments is the construction of a new port that will allow Tiwi goods to be exported to Southeast Asia and beyond.  

ILLORTAMINNI: The port will do woodchips and maybe later on we might use it as a marine supply base, any ship from oil rigs can use the port and then go back to Singapore and China and supply Western Australia or anywhere around the world.

Hopefully it’s going to work and benefit everybody for employment and supply to the oilfields, out in the sea, in the oilrigs, anything to do with the marine.

PRESENTER: But Gibson is quick to point out that while the Land Council is thinking big, their main concern is always about community. 

ILLORTAMINNI: We’ve got a big college now, Tiwi College. We put our money there for our kids to learn and show other communities in Arnhem Land or anywhere what Tiwi people can do, like how to manage our money, how to live a better lifestyle for our young people.

PRESENTER: That was Gibson Farmer Illortaminni, the Chairman of the Tiwi Land Council.

Walter Kerinaiua Jr, son of one of the senior Tiwi elders, says that investment in the Tiwi Islands economy is important and he’s already thinking about future developments.  

KERINAIUA: Another thing I’d like to see in the community is building a carwash, and cinema; that’s what we need in the community. We’ve got a laundromat here, we’ve got machines for the kids, tyres and we’re thinking about building a petrol station for the community as well.

PRESENTER: And recently there has been a growing number of tourists to the Tiwi Islands, both from other areas of Australia and overseas, keen to experience Tiwi culture and art and see the pristine sights.

Walter says that the Tiwi people are encouraging tourism to help the local economy.

KERINAIUA: Tourism is not only for non-Tiwi’s, it’s to support our people. That’s why we got that new hotel here now that we own. Well, it’s going to be good for the community and our people.

PRESENTER: That was Walter Kerinaiua Jr, talking about his hopes for the Tiwi Islands. 

To find out more about the assistance the Australian Government is providing for the Tiwi Islands in areas like education, employment, art and culture and housing, check out the links on our website,

You can also follow Closing the Gap on Twitter, and like on Facebook.

I’m Trevor Ellis, thanks for listening to Newslines Radio.

Find out more

Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory is a $3.4 billion investment and responds directly to what Aboriginal people told the Government was important to them.

Stronger Futures is directed to improving the lives of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, particularly those living in remote communities and town camps, who experience much higher levels of disadvantage than anywhere else in Australia.

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