MAF begins regular flight transport for Aboriginal people

Published: 26 Jan 2017

MAF begins regular flight transport for Aboriginal people

MAF has received permissions for indigenous communities in Australia's Arnhem Land to book individual seats on their flights.

While MAF has served the Yolŋu people with a flight service since 1973, our new Air Operator's Certificate means that individuals or small homeland groups can now book seats on regular scheduled flights to popular destinations. This had not been possible during the last eight years, during which they had to book and charter an entire aircraft.

'The people of Arnhem Land have been asking MAF for this Regular Public Transport (RPT) service daily for many years,' says MAF Operations Manager Roland VanDerVelde.

'It will make remote communities more accessible... whilst also saving costs for MAF and the people we serve.'

Overcoming isolation

Around 16,000 Yolŋu people live in tiny communities – or homelands – across a vast area the size of Wales. With barely any roads in the entire area, homelands are incredible isolated from even obtaining the basics supplies needed for daily living or getting medical care.

'The people of Arnhem Land have been asking MAF for this service daily for many years.'

Roland VanDerVelde, MAF Operations Manager, MAF Arnhem Lan

While the Yolŋu people receive funding from the Australian government for living and providing services, the pressure for reduced budgets means that being able send one or two people from point A to point B at a fraction of the cost of chartering a whole aircraft enables them to do more to serve the Yolŋu people of Arnhem Land. They can visit communities more often for the same travel budget or reduce their travel budget and put extra funds into the services that they deliver.

Yolŋu especially will now have more freedom and the ability to move around Arnhem Land in smaller groups, making air travel accessible to some that it was not accessible to before.

As a Yolŋu elder said to us, 'the single best thing that MAF could do for Arnhem Land is to re-launch the RPT service'.

The first flight

November 2016, up until the middle of January the RPT service has managed to allow over 500 people to travel and over 35 organisations to make use of the service. This will only increase in time, as the service becomes more publicly known.

The first Regular Public Transport flight took off from Gove on 22 November and went to Elcho Island via Lake Evella. Between then and mid-Janaury, over 500 people and 35 organisations have used the service.

'As an organisation we have celebrated the launch of the new RPT service in Arnhem Land in November, after 5 years of complex negotiations, and it is already proving popular with local Yolŋu people,' says Chris Lukkien – CEO of MAF International.