In January my kids, my mum and I visited my brother and his family in Nhulunbuy on the Gove Peninsula in far north east Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. Geographically and culturally, this is about as far as you can get from Melbourne and still be in Australia.
It was deep wet season so we were expecting rain, but we got more than we bargained for with a cyclone watch and continual torrential downpours for the first few days. The radar image over the north of Australia was a serious mess of spiralling clouds, but the weather wasn’t a problem; I love a good thunderstorm and the rain kept the temperature down (relatively speaking).
The town of Nhulunbuy was established in the 1960s to house workers in a new alumina refinery. The red, pebbly soil of the peninsula is bauxite, and my brother, along with a large proportion of Nhulunbuy’s 4,000 residents, works in the refinery which processes the ore into alumina. Rio Tinto recently announced the closure of the refinery (bauxite will still be mined for export), so the town is going through an immense upheaval.
Our visit took in a drive out to the refinery, where we saw huge tanks of caustic and the steaming-hot water outlet gushing into the sea; vast empty beaches; the view from Mount Nhulun; daily visits to Woolies, where meat and fresh produce sell out between shipments; the local pool and library (I’m a library tourist – a professional fixation my family has learned to live with); and a couple of trips out to Yirrkala, the Yolngu Aboriginal art centre, where I bought a beautiful bark painting by Djirrira Wunungmurra.
Here are a few snippets of our time in Gove.