Oenpelli, Northern Territory

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Gunbalanya (also spelt Kunbarllanjnja, and historically referred to as Oenpelli) is an Aboriginal community in west Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory of Australia. The main language spoken in the community is Kunwinjku.[1] [2] At the 2006 census, Oenpelli had a population of 881.[3]

A view of Oenpelli from nearby Injalak Hill

Access[edit]

The sealed Arnhem Highway links Darwin to Jabiru, the town within Kakadu National Park. About four kilometres before Jabiru, the sealed road turns off to Ubirr, the Border Store, Cahills Crossing on the East Alligator River and Oenpelli. The road is dirt from the East Alligator to just before Gunbalanya, a distance of about 16 kilometres. While this road is generally navigable by four wheel drive vehicle, the river crossing is a causeway which is closed by flooding during the wet season (November to April) and at high tides.

Dry season travellers are able to drive the 300 km from Darwin in about three hours and 60 km from Jabiru in under an hour. Northern Land Council permits are required to cross the East Alligator River, the western boundary of Arnhem Land, and travel east to Oenpelli.

Oenpelli has a sealed all weather airstrip.

The local radio station is called "RIBS" for Remote Indigenous Broadcasting Service.

Climate[edit]

Climate data for Oenpelli
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Record high °C (°F)38.1
(100.6)
39.0
(102.2)
38.8
(101.8)
38.8
(101.8)
37.0
(98.6)
37.5
(99.5)
36.5
(97.7)
39.0
(102.2)
39.7
(103.5)
42.2
(108)
41.9
(107.4)
39.9
(103.8)
42.2
(108)
Average high °C (°F)33.1
(91.6)
32.5
(90.5)
32.9
(91.2)
34.0
(93.2)
33.3
(91.9)
32.1
(89.8)
32.1
(89.8)
33.7
(92.7)
35.9
(96.6)
37.5
(99.5)
37.1
(98.8)
34.9
(94.8)
34.09
(93.37)
Average low °C (°F)24.5
(76.1)
24.5
(76.1)
24.4
(75.9)
23.6
(74.5)
21.9
(71.4)
19.7
(67.5)
18.3
(64.9)
18.5
(65.3)
20.1
(68.2)
22.4
(72.3)
24.1
(75.4)
24.5
(76.1)
22.21
(71.97)
Record low °C (°F)17.5
(63.5)
21.0
(69.8)
17.9
(64.2)
17.0
(62.6)
10.0
(50)
10.0
(50)
4.4
(39.9)
9.2
(48.6)
11.1
(52)
13.1
(55.6)
18.0
(64.4)
12.5
(54.5)
4.4
(39.9)
Rainfall mm (inches)340.9
(13.421)
335.2
(13.197)
279.6
(11.008)
83.6
(3.291)
14.0
(0.551)
1.6
(0.063)
2.2
(0.087)
1.0
(0.039)
4.7
(0.185)
25.8
(1.016)
110.1
(4.335)
224.7
(8.846)
1,414
(55.669)
Avg. rainy days20.519.518.16.91.70.40.30.20.72.69.316.496.6
Source: [4]

Tourism[edit]

Permits for road travel into Arnhem Land can be organised at the Northern Land Council offices in Darwin or Jabiru and may take up to two weeks to finalise. Many visitors prefer to see Arnhem Land through an organised tour operation.

The Stone Country Festival (formerly Gunbalanya Cultural Open Day) is held in August each year and access for this is allowed without permit.

Rock Art[edit]

Western Arnhem Land is home to some of the most significant rock art in the world. It has arguably the world's longest continuing artistic traditions - with rock art dating back thousands of years and still being produced today.

Local artistic traditions are continued and adapted by the Injalak Arts Centre.

History[edit]

Oenpelli was established as a mission in 1925 by the Church of England's Church Missionary Society, on a former cattle station.[5] It was run in its earlier years by the founder, the Rev Alfred Dyer, and his wife Mary. They established a typical mission station, with church, school, dispensary, garden and store, to which they added pastoral work with feral cattle and horses.[6] Among those who attended the mission school was the celebrated Gagudju elder and interpreter of culture, Bill Neidjie.[7] A later CMS missionary at Oenpelli was Steve Etherington, who has worked on translating the New Testament into Kunwinjku, and has argued that many problems of indigenous communities arise from lack of access to mainstream jobs.[8]

Oenpelli remained a mission until 1975, when responsibility was transferred to an aboriginal town council.

The 1948 American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land visited Oenpelli for three months and collected a large array of local artefacts, art, and specimens.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 12°19′S 133°03′E / 12.317°S 133.050°E / -12.317; 133.050