Oenpelli. NT

Aboriginal owned  and operated abattoir through ILC. Domestic abattoir that processes cattle from Indigenous land corporation properties with sale of product into local aboriginal communities. Employs 13 people directly and another 12 on properties, provides training and important income for members of the indigenous communities.

Other names

  • Oenpelli abattoir is also known as Gunbalanya abattoir as it is located on Gunbalanya station

Current Operation

  • Closed December 2017.


  • East Arnham Land, 320km east of Darwin,  Gunbalanya station

Aust. OenpelliPic. Location of Oenpelli (Gunbalanya) abattoir east of Darwin.

Other Australian abattoir locations


  • Indigenous Land Corporation2
  • Manager – Dion Henderson2
  • Gunbalanya Meat supply Pty Ltd1.
  • Gunbalanya community is owned by the Kunwinjku people20


  • Small plant. Capacity to kill 50 head per week1.
  • Cattle and Buffalo – kills 50:501
  • Supplies local indigenous communities1
    • Supplies meat to six grocery stores4
  • Gunbalanya station receives other cattle from ILC properties and finishes also for LE1
  • Employs 25 at the meatworks and Gunbalanya station2
  • PIC TEDG06923



  • established by community to service local demand4
    • had limited financial success4


  • Oenpelli abattoir was first registered20


  • July. At this time there are 2 other Aboriginal abattoirs operating in communities of the NT13.
  • Oenpelli Manager at this time – Jim Allison13
  • Operation process of the facility13
    • Cattle are shot outside in a stockyard and bled13
    • Carcase is lifted with a chain hoist to the bleed-out over a second drain13
    • Whole carcase is laid on a bed (frame) and skinned there13
    • Carcase is re-lifted to allow hide removal completely13
    • Carcase is processed further in boning room after gutting13.
    • Meat is packed into bags13
  • Local aboriginal men are employed under ‘Work for the dole’ program13
  • 3-4 bodies are processed a week13
    • 3 bodies can be processed in one morning13
  • Abattoir supplies local store, service station, women’s resource centre and nearby stores and bakeries13.
    • Meat is sold for $8/kg13
      • Retailed at $13/kg13
  • September. Since 1995 the Indigenous Land corporation (ILC) have acquired 221 properties across Australia14
    • ILC now manage 70,000 cattle on various Aboriginal-held properties14
  • ILC have leased one property – Wliburru, formerly known as Hodgson Downs Station in the Roper gulf for 11 and a half years14.
    • ILC will invest heavily to improve the property14
    • ILC will turnoff cattle from Waliburru to have cattle fed on grassplains at Oenpelle to supply the abattoir and live export trade14


  • ILC are in the process of acquiring the abattoir to cater to both local and interstate markets15
  • Expansion of Oenpelli abattoir facility is planned15
  • Meatworks’ aim is to supply inexpensive, quality beef and buffalo meat to community stores servicing 1,100 indigenous people in Arnham land and the island communities of Darwin20
  • Presently only 3,000 head are run on the floodplain14
    • With only a few head a week killed at the abattoir15
  • Plans to process minimum of 20 head per week15
    • Run up to 8,000 on the floodplain15
    • Stock will be sourced from Hodgson Downs and Elsey15
    • Intention that what stock isn’t suitable to live export will be slaughtered at the works15
  • Manager of the ILC Pastoral Development program at this time – Paul Blore15
  • Indigenous Land council facilitator – Dave Armstrong15


  • Re-opened – $3.1M provided by ILC for upgrades2
    • Properties supply live export and supply animals for processing at works4


  • New retail outlet added2


  • ILC sign an agreement with traditional owners and Northern Land council to take a 15 year lease over the land.5
  • At this time employed 10 workers that were funded under the Federal Governments Community development Employment project5
  • Property had room for 1,000 head due to lack of infrastructure5
  • Meatworks slaughtering 5 head a week5
  • Revamp of property $3.1M allowed 300km station fencing, solid yards and watering points5
    • Now property can carry 8,500 head in the dry and 2,500 in the wet.5
    • Property production is to target live cattle export turnoff5
  • Meatworks received upgrades of $1.5M, new coolrooms and modern infrastructure5
  • 31 new trainess start in 2012 /2013 with 22 continued on from 2011 /20125


  • Single largest employer of Indigenous people in the community and is now selling meat prodcuts on a commercial scale for the first time in 37 years.4
    • Processing approximately 426 head from own properties.4
  • Meatworks now processing 35 head a week5
    • increase to 45 head as markets expand5
  • Cattle for slaughter are mustered every Tuesday5
    • Slaughtering on Wednesdays5
    • Everyone except newest trainees skin, bone and gut the carcase.5
  • Meatworks produces 2-3 t fresh meat per week5
    • Shane Townsend – Retail butcher recently took over as manager.5
  • Supplies 8 community stores, city and regional wholesale and retail outlets.5
  • Supplies prime- beef cut orders for Ayers Rock Resort and Kimberley’s Home valley station tourism business.5
  • Processes 15-20 buffalo a month5
    • supplies restaurants Kakadu & Sydney5
  • June. Advert is placed in NT News for Meatworks Manager17
    • 3 year fixed employment17
    • Must be Australian resident17
    • Run all activities of the meatworks including the butcher shop17
    • Manage livestock within the meatworks17
    • market beef and buffalo products17
    • oversee management and training of indigenous people in the meatworks17
    • Applications close 05/07/201317


  • February. Meat of buffalo and beef is being flown out to Jabiru each week to be transported to Darwin9
  • Manager at this time – Shane Townsend9
  • Is unsatisfied demand for local beef in northern Australia local communities, mining and tourism.6
  • Involvement in meat processing by Indignous communties could develope local beef processing facilities.6
    • Kalkarindji abattoir (NT). Kills 5 head a week, currently operating.6
    • Palumpa (NT), kills 20 head a week is currently operating2
    • Mataranka (NT) – partially built but has been abandoned.
    • Peppimenarti (NT) proposed.6

photo building_edited-1Source – Managing Indigenous Pastoral Land. Module 9. 14/025

Gunbalanya Abattoir.


  • January. Flooded rivers and road closures have forced the meatworks to fly it meat to NT markets.7
  • Currently processing buffalo and beef.7
  • Loads a plane each Wednesday to unload the meat at Jabiru.7
    • From Jabiru the meat is trucked to Darwin or other top end customers7
    • 3 tonnes is flown out each week.7
    • Abattoir needs to keep supply up through the wet so as to keep customers.7
    • Costs facility 50c / kg more to fly out the product.7

meat flying out_edited-1Source ‘The steaks are high as floods force Indigenous abattoir to fly meat to markets’ ABC rural 19.01.2015
Gunbalanya boxed meat ready to be air freighted.

  • March. Tropical cyclone Nathan causes the delay of orders due to planes being grounded.8
  • July. Processing first buffalo of the year10
    • have some on buffalo on the station but they are difficult to capture during the wet season as they can swim across the floodplains10
    • First load of buffalo had come from Beatrice Hill10
  • Transport of meat is reduced as roads have weight limits until they are opened properly10
  • Want to promote buffalo meat more widely as it is in high demand10
    • Want to move beyond supplying buffalo as a niche market to more of a mainstream market11
  • August. Oenpelli abattoir donates 50kg of scotch fillet buffalo to the Darwin Pitchfork festival11



  • Administrative officer position is advertised.18
    • Casual employment18
    • Report to ILC’s finance officer located in Adelaide18
    • Supervise and provide training to indigenous trainees


  • December. Oenpelli abattoir is shut down12.
    • Indigenous Land council (ILC) sub-lease the Gunbalanya meatworks and station12
      • Federally funded newly formed subsidiary12
        • Australian Indigenous Agribusiness Company12
      • Chief executive of ILC – John Maher12
        • Had acknowledged there were issues with employees12
    • Local Aboriginal people say they were not informed of the closure or reasons for it12
    • 10-person board of Gunbalanya Meat Supply have written to the ILC lamenting they have lost trust and respect in regards to the ILC12
      • Board Chairman – Henry Yates12
  • Long term manager. Shane Townsend had lost his job earlier in the month12
  • Closure of the abattoir had affected the local community with no meat for Christmas and no income12
    • Workers had been employed from other communities in recent weeks12
      • Workers from Wave Hill and Elsey12
    • Meat for the community was being purchased from Darwin12
      • Approximately 1,100 people at Gunbalanya12


  1. ‘Northern Australian Beef Industry – Assessment of risks and opportunities’. ABARE 2012
  2. ‘Gunbalanya meatworks expands again’ ABC rural 02.11.11
  3. NT PICS http://www.nt.gov.au
  4. http://www.ilc.gov.au – Gunbalanya Station and Meats
  5. ‘Back on Station’ RM Williams Magazine. Issue 95 Jun/Jul 2014
  6. Managing Indigenous Pastoral Land, Module 9 Small scale abattoirs. 14/025
  7. ‘The steaks are high as floods force Indigenous abattoir to fly meat to markets’ ABC Rural. 19.01.2015
  8. ‘Cyclone Nathan stops Top End Indigenous abattoir meat delivery’ ABC Rural 24.03.2015
  9. ‘Flood forces NT abattoir to transport meat by air’ ABC rural 05.02.2014
  10. ‘Buffalo meat back on the menu as Indigenous abattoir…..’ ABC Rural 03.07.2015
  11. ‘Top End buffalo stars at the Darwin Festival’ ABC Rural 14.08.2015
  12. ‘Local meat shortage, families without income ahead of Christmas…..’ ABC Rural 22.12.2017
  13. ‘Rare bush abattoir’ ABC Rural 07.07.2008
  14. ‘Cattlemen muster pride’ The Australian 22.09.2008
  15. ‘Gumbalunya abattoir set to expand’ ABC Rural 06.04.2009
  16. http://www.territorystories.nt.gov.au/bitstream/10070/246081/142/ntn22jun13410x.pdf
  17. Gunbalanya Administrative officer advert. 25.05.2016
  18. https://www.ilc.gov.au/Home/What-We-Do/Project-Profiles/Gunbalanya-Station-and-Meats. Accessed 22.12.2017
  19. http://www.ilc.gov.au/Home/News/Marrying-Indigenous-Land-Management-and-Economic-D. Accessed 22.12.2017

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