Homelands

Laynhapuy homelands service area map
See complete list of Laynhapuy homelands and find out more about the homelands below.


About the homelands

Homelands comprise members of related clan groups living on their traditional clan estates, where Yolngu rom (law) is still the foundation of social and property relations, interests and responsibilities.

Homelands people have a strong connection to their land, and retain their traditional language and cultural values. They choose to live on their traditional country to maintain these spiritual connections, maintain their social well being and to provide a positive future for their children and their families.

By living on their own country, homelands people retain a degree of autonomy and control over their destiny. They are empowered to manage their own land, resources and affairs, have the power to
make decisions affecting their lives, and reduce their dependence on government. The result of this is a healthier, happier and safer living environment.

While homelands members prefer to live away from the temptations and the widespread problems in large communities, they still want to have the ability to interact as equals with mainstream society. Access to quality education and training are fundamental to their ability to do this.

The most important difference between homelands and communities is that homelands are 
extended traditional kinship groups with well defined social and authority structures. There are 
numerous examples of the positive lifestyles homelands Yolngu lead:
  • Laynhapuy homelands have always been alcohol free (voluntarily).
  • Crime statistics show there is minimal alcohol related violence and anti-social behaviour in homelands.
  • As alcohol and illicit substances are banned by the homelands, gambling and substance abuse are not significant problems, as they are in some communities.
  • Crime rates are very low. During 2007, there were only eight incidents where police presence was required in any of the Laynhapuy homelands.
  • According to the NT Department of Education and Training, in 2008 the Yirrkala homelands School had 253 enrolments and an attendance rate of 82.7%.
  • Health and wellbeing is better than in larger communities. A recent study (Burgess et al 2009) found that  Indigenous Australians living and working on their traditional homelands are significantly less likely to  develop diabetes and chronic heart and kidney disease due to more frequent exercise, a better diet, and  less psychological stress. Homeland residents continue to rely on hunting, fishing and the harvesting of  bush foods for essential components of their diet. 
  • Many residents are actively engaged in employment and participation activities to benefit their communities, through the Remote Jobs and Communities Program or RJCP (which in July 2013 replaced the Community Development Employment Projects or CDEP). 
  • Many homelands residents contribute to the economy through customary activities such as traditional  hunting and food collection, tourism and production of traditional arts and crafts.
  • Many residents pursue economic activity through traditional hunting and food collection, tourism and  production of traditional arts and crafts. Jon Altman (2007) highlights the contribution homelands Yolngu  make to the economy through customary activities.
  • Until 2009, there weren't any non-Indigenous people living in any of the Laynhapuy homelands. In 2009, two non-Indigenous teachers moved to Yilpara, the largest of the homelands, in response to the community’s request for improved access to education.
  • Suicide among the young is very rare in homelands compared to other regions (Morphy 2005).
  • In 2004, the Select Committee on Substance Abuse in the Community (2004) found that homelands have the greatest chance of solving the problem of petrol sniffing. Homelands provide strong leadership,  community commitment and revitalise connections to country, traditions and culture.
In addition to the benefits for people who live on their homelands, homeland living also reduces pressure
on many Indigenous communities that are already stretched to breaking point. If homeland residents were to relocate to towns, this would add significant pressure on housing, health, education and the social wellbeing of residents in the communities, exacerbating the existing problems. As existing funding to homelands is not being increased, people are being forced to make choices under pressure.

Laynha supports the recommendation made by Socom and DodsonLane (2009) that the Northern Territory Government undertake a thorough cost/benefit analysis to determine the economic effects of homelands investment. The report recommended the analysis include the losses incurred through noninvestment, such as loss of health and wellbeing, and increased infrastructure and social costs of moving 10 000 homelands people into larger communities.

It is also recommended in the report that accurate analysis should account for the significant contributions
that homelands make to the cultural, social, health, environmental, economic and security values of Australians. This information will provide a clearer picture regarding the advantages of homelands to the Yolngu people, the economy, and the environment, and the disastrous and wide-reaching effects of non-investment in homelands.