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Tiwi Islands, wild paradise of Australia

The remote Tiwi Islands are part of the Northern Territory of Australia, 80 km to the north of Darwin where the Arafura Sea joins the Timor Sea. They comprise Melville Island, Bathurst Island, and nine smaller uninhabited islands, with a combined area of 8,320 square kilometres (3,212 sq mi).

Inhabited before European settlement by the Tiwi indigenous Australians, there are approximately 3,000 people on the islands. Non-Aboriginal people require special permission to visit and the culture is very rich and traditional.

Tiwi legends, passed down through the generations in story, song, dance, sculpture and painting, tell of the Dreamtime creation of the the islands by Mudangkala, a blind female woman. Mudangkala came from the earth with three babies in her arms. She crawled across the dark, unformed landscape, and the seawater followed the imprints left by her body. This created the islands and the straits between them. Mudangkala then populated the islands with plants and living creatures. Lastly she prepared the land for her children, from whom the Tiwi people descend.

Prior to contact with Europeans, the Tiwi people remained largely geographically isolated and developed independently from their Aboriginal relations on the mainland. Tiwi refer to themselves as Tiwi first and Aboriginal second. The foundation of their culture centres around the sea, reflected in the shoals, reefs and sand bars on their horizons. The islands also produce many internationally respected Indigenous artists and Australian Rules Football players.

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