The Torres Strait Islands



Gabba Island or Pig island

The Torres Strait Islands are a group of at least 274 small islands which lie in Torres Strait, the waterway separating far northern continental Australia's Cape York Peninsula and the island of New Guinea. They are mostly part of Queensland Australia, a few islands very close to the coast of mainland New Guinea belong to the Western Province of Papua New Guinea. Population is approx 48,000





The Torres Strait Islands are distributed across an area of some 48,000 km². The distance across the Strait from Cape York to New Guinea is approximately 150 km at the narrowest point; The Torres Strait Islands lie scattered in between, extending some 200–300 km from furthest east to furthest west.


Waier Island


Culture

The indigenous people of the Torres Strait have a distinct culture which has slight variants on the different islands where they live. They are a sea-faring people, and engaged in trade with people of Papua New Guinea. The culture is complex, with some Australian elements, some Papuan elements, and Austronesian elements, just like the languages. The Islanders seem to have been the dominant culture for many centuries, and neighbouring Aboriginal and Papuan cultures show some Island influence in religious ceremonies and the like.

Thursday Island, also known as TI or Waiben, is the administrative and commercial centre of the Torres Strait Islands.



Eddie Mabo Born Murray Island 1936 died 1992

Native Title

Eddie Mabo, a man from the Torres Strait Islands, fought a court case, attempting to assert a legal title over his tribe's traditional lands.
It was a landmark case recognizing native title in Australia for the first time.
A judicial revolution occurred in 1992 when the High Court discarded the doctrine of terra nullius in the Mabo case. The ruling had repercussions for Indigenous peoples within Australia and around the world, especially in Canada, New Zealand, and the United States.



Language

There are two indigenous languages spoken on the islands: the Western-Central Torres Strait Language (called by various names, including Kala Lagaw Ya, Kalaw Kawaw Ya and Kowrareg), and the Eastern Torres Language Meriam Mir. One language, Torres Strait Creole, or Brokan, is used throughout Torres Strait, in neighbouring Papua as far as the West Papuan border area, and Cape York, as well as in many Island communities in Mainland Australia. This is a creole English similar to the closely related Tok Pisin in Papua New Guinea.



Getting there
QantasLink (13 13 13; www.qantas.com.au) flies daily from Cairns to Thursday Island (from $480 return). The airport is on Horn Island. Aero Tropics (1300 656 110, 07-4040 1222; www.aero-tropics.com.au) and Regional Pacific Airlines (1300 797 667, 07-4040 1400; www.regionalpacific.com.au) fly weekdays from Cairns to Bamaga (from $280 one way).




There are regular ferry services between Seisia and Thursday Island (one way/return $47/94, one hour) run by Peddells Ferry Service (07-4069 1551; www.peddellsferry.com.au; Engineers Jetty, Thursday Island).



Stephen Island