BackgroundIn the decades prior to 1970, the Yolngu people in the East Arnhem region were congregated in various missions, the most easterly of which was Yirrkala on the Gove Peninsula. In April 1972, partly in response to the establishment of the nearby mining town of Nhulunbuy, senior Yolngu leaders resolved, with their extended families, to move back to their traditional clan lands and sea country over an extensive area to the south-west.
Yolngu cleared their airstrips mainly by hand and built their early houses using homeland timber, with supervision of qualified builders and working together with the assistance of a development worker from the Mission. In 1985, in order to further their wish to live on their country and develop their homeland communities through the provision of service and infrastructure, they established the Laynhapuy Homelands Aboriginal Corporation. (LHAC or 'Laynha', previously known as Laynhapuy Homelands Association Inc).
Laynha nowThe Laynha Board are Barayuwa Mununggurr (Chairman), Waka Mununggurr (Vice Chairman), Djipu Burarrwanga, Waturr Gumana, Yananymul Mununggurr, Yangipuy Wanambi, Mayila Wunungmurra, and independent directors Leah Fricke and Bill Gray.
Laynha is member-owned, with no statutory or other powers. The homelands are on Aboriginal land held as inalienable freehold title by the Arnhem Land Aboriginal Lands Trust established under the Commonwealth’s Aboriginal Land Rights Act (Northern Territory) 1976.
Laynha now services some 30 homeland communities, with a population of about 1100 Yolngu residents across the region and approximately 1400 including regular visitors (Morphy, 2010).
The Laynha GIHS department maintains houses, airstrips, water and power systems, provides municipal services and operates a mechanical workshop in Yirrkala, and is also responsible for some 540km of minor roads connecting homelands to the Central Arnhem Highway. Health and Community Services provide primary health care and also Youth and Money Management programs across the homelands. The Yirralka Rangers deliver land and sea management programs throughout the Laynhapuy Indigenous Protected Area (IPA). Laynha Air is a light aviation company supporting homelands travel.
Each year Laynha holds the Waanga Wartangu Gathering of mala (clan) leaders, to talk together about aspirations and priorities across the homelands. Board and staff travel extensively in the homelands to work with leaders and communities, according to community action plans. Laynha works closely with other organisations in the region with shared interests in benefiting Yolngu communities and the homelands.