Gunbalanya Settlement, NT, Australia
Gunbalanya is the Aboriginal name for the Oenpelli settlement (which was originally a mission). The area includes the flood plains of the East Alligator River that are covered by water from December to April and a rocky sandstone plateau rising up to 200 metres above the plains. Local artists work is displayed in the Injalak Art and Craft Centre. Walking tours are also available around Injalak Hill, a site rich in ancient Aboriginal rock art paintings.
Gunbalanya / Oenpelli is an Aboriginal community on the eastern border of World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park at the base of the Arnhem Land escarpment. Being part of Arnhem Land, travellers wanting to visit Gunbalanya / Oenpelli require a permit before visiting. Permits can be obtained from the Injalak Art and Craft Centre. An open day is held annually in August or September, when travellers can visit freely and enjoy cultural activities without a permit.
The drive in itself is worth the trip, with brilliant green wetlands and spectacular escarpments all around. Road access is only possible between May and October: check the tides at Cahill’s Crossing on the East Alligator River before setting out so you don’t get stuck on the other side.
A permit is required to visit the town, usually issued for visits to the Injalak Arts & Crafts Centre. At this centre, artists and craftspeople display traditional paintings on bark and paper, plus didgeridoos, pandanus weavings and baskets, and screen-printed fabrics. Artworks are produced either at the arts centre itself or on remote outstations throughout Arnhem Land.