NLC information on accessing Top End communities

Date: Mar 18, 2020

Subject: Permits, Coronavirus

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The NLC has suspended all permits to enter Aboriginal land for non-essential travel in response to COVID-19

Remote communities in the Northern Territory have been closed to all non-essential travel in response to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

What is essential travel?

Essential travel is travel to transport individuals or goods that are necessary to keep the community operating. This means that following people may continue to travel for work purposes:

• doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers and council workers;
• workers making deliveries of food or medical supplies by barge, air or road; and
• workers who are building or repairing essential community infrastructure such as housing, police stations, health centers, and power and water infrastructure.

In addition, the NLC's Nhulunbuy office will issue permits to residents to travel directly to Katherine and vice versa for essential purposes only.

All individuals visiting and working in remote communities are asked to observe safety precautions to prevent the risk of transmission and take all possible steps to minimise contact with community residents.

If you are unsure of whether you should travel to a remote community, please ring the NLC on 1800 645 299 or email at

What if I already have a permit for remote travel?

The NLC has suspended all existing permits to Aboriginal communities for non-essential travel, for example, travel to Gunbalanya to visit the Injalak Arts Centre. 

No new permits for non-essential travel will be granted until further notice.

Does the suspension apply to significant family or community events?

Any events planned which involve a number of people coming together in a confined area for an extended period of time should be postponed.

Are the requirements likely to change?

Yes, expert advice about the appropriate response to COVID-19 is constantly changing.