Aboriginal people have occupied the area for more than 40,000 years. It was an important ritual centre for the great ceremonies conducted by the indigenous inhabitants. In 1923, the Methodist Overseas Mission established a mission on the island, which attracted Aboriginal people from eastern clan groups. They included Gupapuyŋu- and Djambarrpuyŋu-, as well as Wangurri- and Warramirri-speaking people. The Yan-nhangu-speaking Yolngu people are the traditional owners of Milingimbi and its surrounding seas and islands.
The island was bombed by the Japanese during World War II and most of its population moved to nearby Elcho Island. After the war, the island continued to be used as a Royal Australian Air Force base, before the missionaries returned in 1951. The mission administered the island until 1974, after which management was transferred to Milingimbi Community Incorporated. In 2008 Milingimbi, became part of the East Arnhem Regional Council, which took over local government.
English is a second, third or fourth language for most Aboriginal residents of Milingimbi. A successful bilingual program of the Milingimbi CEC, started in 1974, was stopped. Bilingual education continues on some of the surrounding outstations, run by traditional owners concerned to support the linguistic, cultural and biological diversity of the Crocodile Islands. To that end, the Yan-nhangu traditional owners have started the volunteer Crocodile Islands Rangers project to promote sustainable livelihood activities for local people in local languages.
The island has its own airfield, Milingimbi Airport, with the airport call-sign YMGB, and is also the site of a Bureau of Meteorology weather station. The island also has its own ALPA (Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation) store, post office and an art gallery. Milingimbi has a community library serviced by East Arnhem Regional Council.
- Binyinyuwuy Djarrankuykuy was a leading Aboriginal artist from the island of Milingimbi. His works are held in major museums around the world.
- Tom Djäwa, an artist and community leader and elder, was part of recordings that appeared on the Voyager Golden Record, along with Mudpo and Waliparu.
- Artist David Malangi attended school at Milingimbi in his childhood.
- According to one account, the noted didgeridoo maker and player, Djalu Gurruwiwi, was born at Milingimbi.
- Northern Territory senior Australian of the Year 2012, Laurie Baymarrwangga, was the senior djungaya (manager) of Milingimbi Island. She was awarded the 2011 Northern Territory Innovation and Research Award for her projects, including the development of a Yan-nhaŋu Dictionary (1994-2012) and her work with the Crocodile Islands Rangers. In 1935, Baymarrwangga was photographed by Donald Thomson at Milingimbi and at Murrungga.
- Milingimbi 2015.
- Keen 2005, p. 190.
- James 2015, p. 245.
- Betts 2016.
- "Libraries". East Arnhem Regional Council. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
- "Binyinyuwuy Djarrankuykuy :: The Collection :: Art Gallery NSW". artgallery.nsw.gov.au. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
- Daley 2015.
- Baymarrwangga, James & Lydon 2014, p. 267.
- Baymarrwangga, Laurie; James, Bentley; Lydon, Jane (2014). "'The Myalls' ultimatum': Photography and Yolgnu in Eastern Arhem Land, 1917". In Lydon, Jane (ed.). Calling the Shots: Aborigional Photographies. Aboriginal Studies Press. pp. 254–272. ISBN 978-1-922-05959-8.
- Betts, Alyssa (31 May 2016). "Remembering the bombing of Milingimbi". ABC News.
- Daley, Paul (17 December 2015). "Gurruwiwi, a living Yolngu legend". The Guardian.
- James, Bentley (2009). Time and Tide: in the Crocodile Islands: Change and Continuity in Yan-hnaŋu Marine Identity (PDF) (Doctoral thesis). Australian National University.
- James, Bentley (2015). "The Language of 'Spiritual Power': From Mana to Märr on the Crocodile Islands" (PDF). In Toner, Peter (ed.). North Australian Indigenous in Strings of Connectedness: Essays in Honour of Ian Keen. Australian National University. pp. 235–261.
- Keen, Ian (2005) [First published 1990]. "Ecological community and species attributes in Yolnghu religious symbolism". In Willis, Roy (ed.). Signifying Animals: Human Meaning in the Natural World. Routledge. pp. 80–96. ISBN 0-203-26481-9.
- "Milingimbi". East Arnhem Land Regional Council. 2015.
- Mundine, Djon (2015). "No Ordinary Place – The Art of David Malangi". National Gallery of Australia.
- Tindale, Norman Barnett (1974). "Djinang (NT)". Aboriginal Tribes of Australia: Their Terrain, Environmental Controls, Distribution, Limits, and Proper Names. Australian National University. ISBN 978-0-708-10741-6.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Milingimbi Island.|
- Milingimbi as part of East Arnhem Shire Council
- Crocodile Islands Rangers project
- Milingimbi Island map