Located on the Gove Peninsula and only 18 kilometres south of Nhulunbuy, Yirrkala was established by the Methodist Church of Australia in 1935.
The community became well known in 1963 when the Yolŋu traditional landowners sent a bark petition to the Australian Government to protest against a section of their land that would be sold for bauxite mining.
In the 1970s, several family groups set up outstation communities on their own lands. By the 1980s there were about 10 outstations, with a total population around 200.
Today, with a population of approximately 674 people (2016 Census), all clans have at least one homeland centre, and many people live partly in Yirrkala and partly in their homelands.