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Bathurst and Melville islands, Northern Territory

Encounters. Indigenous contact and culture: a classroom resource

Caution: This website includes images and names of deceased people that may cause distress to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Tiwi country

Bathurst and Melville islands, Northern Territory

In the Arafura Sea, off the north coast of Australia, are the islands of the Tiwi people. For thousands of years the distinctive Tiwi culture has flourished. Explore the continuing tradition of making tunga (bark baskets).

  • Map of Australia showing location of Bathurst and Melville islands, Northern Territory.
    Bathurst and Melville islands, NT
  • Landscape photograph showing tall gum trees.
    Setting the scene
  • Basket made of folded bark with a geometric design painted with pigment.
    Old tunga (bark basket)
  • Basket made of eucalypt bark and natural fibre painted with natural ochres.
    New tunga (bark basket)
  • A photo compilation of a rock, disc, stick and brush
    Equipment for making tunga


Can you make a tunga?

Hint: Watch Kenny's video below.

What do you know about Tiwi country?

Video story

Learn how to make a tunga (bark basket)

Watch this video of Tiwi Elder and artist Kenny Brown explaining how to make a tunga (bark basket).

Activity: Examine the equipment used by Kenny in this video and the photo above. How do you imagine this equipment compares to the equipment used to make the tunga collected 100 years ago? What does this say about Tiwi cultural traditions?

More activities

Tunga (bark basket)

Activity: The knowledge needed to make tunga has been passed from generation to generation. Think of an activity you have learnt from someone passing on information. How did they pass it on? Draw a picture showing that activity. Label the parts of your illustration to explain the process.

Activity: Read the quotes from Tiwi men Gibson Farmer Illortamini and Glen Farmer Illortamini, with the old tunga image, above. Why do you think it is important to the Tiwi people that other people understand the purpose of the tunga and the meaning of the symbols?

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