Melville Island, along with nearby Bathurst Island, is part of the Tiwi Islands, about 80 kilometres to the north of Darwin in the Arafura Sea. Melville Island is Australia’s second largest island after Tasmania. Melville Island isn’t open to the public for general tourism, but can be visited on an organised tour or fishing charter.
Melville Island was first sighted by Abel Tasman in 1644 on his way from Batavia. In 1818 Phillip Parker King explored the island (he named it after Viscount Melville) and was surprised to discover that the local Aboriginal people knew some Portuguese words. He deduced they had made contact with Portuguese sailors after a Portuguese ship had been wrecked nearby.
Ownership of Melville Island was returned to the Tiwi people in 1978, and like Bathurst Island, it is run by the Tiwi Land Council. Milikapiti, Pirlangimpi and Paru are the main communities, which are serviced by schools, sports ovals, museums and art and craft galleries.