Yunupingu, chief of the Gumatj clan and historic leader of the aboriginal civil rights movement, died in April 2023. By preserving its identity, Arnhem Land has become a cultural and political bastion for the Aboriginal Australians, particularly in the fight for territorial rights. In Gunyangara, the Gumatj clan obtained management of its own territory like other clans after them, and set up direct access to the land and local reinvestment in a closed loop.
There is no official recognition of aboriginal people in Australia like the First Nations in Canada or New Zealand. Proposed on 14 October 2023, the referendum on extending Aboriginal rights and enshrining them in the Constitution would have obliged the State and Parliament to consult Aboriginal communities on legislation that could have an impact on them, via a representative body. Australian voters voted against by a large majority of just over 60% nationally and in each of the six states.
Nhulunbuy's biggest employer, a now mothballed Rio Tinto alumina refinery, shut its doors and bid farewell to hundreds of staff in 2013. Rio Tinto runs a bauxite mine near the town, but the company has publicly flagged that the operation will be ceased by 2030 – if not sooner.