The prime minister may not return to Arnhem Land after he farewells Australian troops bound for Iraq.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has left Arnhem Land to farewell troops heading to Iraq, and says he may not return.

The prime minister had planned to fly back to Nhulunbuy on Friday to fulfil his pre-election promise to spend a week in indigenous communities.

But minutes before his departure Mr Abbott revealed he may not return, given the anti-terrorist raids in Sydney and Brisbane.

“I would like to come back but at this point it would be wrong of me to make a specific commitment,” he told reporters in Arnhem Land.

“It is important to respond appropriately to these developments.”

Mr Abbott flew out from Nhulunbuy Airport about midday on Thursday and is expected to head to RAAF bases Williamtown, near Newcastle, and Amberley, near Brisbane.

He’ll then attend a security briefing in Sydney. He was briefed on the planned raids overnight in Arnhem Land.

The prime minister has been running the government from tents with the help of several ministers but the situation in Iraq has made that challenging.

If he doesn’t return, he will have spent four of his six promised days in the region.

Constitutional recognition for indigenous Australians has been high on the prime minister’s Arnhem Land agenda. It’s understood 2017 is Mr Abbott’s preferred time frame.

Head of the prime minister’s indigenous advisory council Warren Mundine has told AAP he doesn’t think Aboriginal people will hold it against Mr Abbott for cutting his trip short.

Mr Abbott attended a local WWII commemoration earlier on Thursday.