Eighty kilometres north of Darwin, the Tiwi Islands cover 7460 square kilometres. They are home to the Tiwi people, whose ancestors have managed the land and the adjoining waters for thousands of years since the islands became separated from the mainland. There are eight Tiwi landowning groups and about 2500 people live on the islands.
In 2003, the Tiwi Land Council produced the Tiwi Islands Regional Natural Resource Management Strategy. The two underlying thrusts of this Strategy are to create an independent Tiwi economy not reliant on welfare, and to provide long-term protection of Tiwi natural resource and cultural values.
20 years ago, Tiwi leaders decided that they would use up to 10% of their land to create an economy, with real jobs for their children and grandchildren, and to remove Tiwi people from reliance on welfare and its associated poverty.
Tiwi leaders determined to establish a number of commercial businesses and enterprises in order to create jobs and income for their people. One of these independent business enterprises is Tiwi Plantations Corporation.
The eight Tiwi landowning groups are shareholders in this enterprise, managed by a Board comprising all Tiwi members. Throughout the process, advice has been obtained from the best lawyers, accountants, environmental experts and forestry consultants on the business structure to drive growth and safeguard Tiwi interests.
The Tiwi Vision
In 1996, Tiwi leaders advised the Northern Territory Government of their determination to establish commercial industries in forestry, fishing, tourism and mining, and to remove Tiwi people from dependency on welfare and government grants. They also advised of their determination to establish their own private College, Tiwi College at Pickataramoor, to provide education for younger generations of Tiwi.
They plan to establish a Tiwi Industry Training Centre of Excellence at Yapilika Forestry Centre, working through Tiwi Plantations Corporation; Plantation Management Partners, the tropical forestry specialists working on the Tiwi islands; Tiwi College and Xavier College, and the Tiwi Islands Training and Employment Board to recruit, employ and train Tiwi people to work in forestry. The training will include plantation, fire and environmental management; harvesting, wood chipping and export, leading to supervisory and managerial positions within the forestry industry.
While they wait for their forestry business to provide much-needed jobs and income, Tiwi continue to plan. They send their children to the Tiwi College for a good education. They are investing in new industries, such as trials of oysters with the Darwin Aquaculture Centre and luxury fishing lodges that attract a high end tourism segment. Tourism has been boosted by new ferry operator SeaLink.
They have set up Tiwi Enterprises to get Tiwi workers into jobs. It has invested in small businesses such as a garage and motel in Wurrumiyanga and a farm and nursery in Milikapiti, which is successfully growing and selling horticultural produce.