Where we fly - Some locations and Information about them..
Boigu is the most Northern inland in the Torres Strait and is very close to Papua New Guinea and was formed through the sediment from the rivers nearby in PNG that built up on the coral platform.
Very few Europeans visited Boigu prior to the 1870s but in July of 1871 the London Missionary Society came to spread their teachings led by Reverend Samuel McFarlane and Reverend AW Murray guided by a Dauan man called Aiwa. When they landed at Boigu the Islanders came to the ship with the intent to kill the white strangers, Aiwa spoke well of the missionaries and convinced the Islanders not to harm them they now call this day “the coming of the light”.
During World War Two the government recruited over 800 Torres Strait Islanders and formed the Torres Strait Light infantry “One ilan man” the company for Boigu and Saibai was called D Coy. They were all treated with respect as soldiers during the war but the military hierarchy on the other hand only paid them 1/3 of the white man. It wasn’t until two companies went on strike that their pay was increased to 2/3 of the white man. In 1980 the indigenous finally received back pay for their service.
Boigu has a number of facilities including a clinic, sporting facility, airport and motel or guest house contact TSIRC on 07 4083 2000 for bookings.
This is one of the smallest coral islands at just 1.4km long and only 400m wide it has close ties to its sister island Warraber island.
Coconut wasn’t initially a part of the colony, however in 1872 the Queensland government extended its boundaries with permission from the British Government which extended to all islands within 60nm of the Queensland coast. This boundary was further extended to 96nm by the Queensland Coast Island Act 1879. These new boundaries allowed the government to regulate the sea cucumber and pearling industries.
Government intervention continued and in 1912 it was suggested that the islanders of Coconut (Puruma) be moved to Yorke island as they could then use Coconut as an anchorage for fishing and pearl ships. Some did leave for Yorke but other islanders refused to leave the island.
There are two grocery stores, a clinic, multipurpose outdoor court, sports oval and accommodation is available through Poruma Campus Flat contact Susan Billy on 07 4069 4209 for availability.
Darnley (Erub) island is another island formed by volcanic activity it is only 60km south of Papua New Guinea (PNG) as such they have complex trade practices with PNG.
First European contact was in September 1792 with Captain William Bligh but Christianity wasn’t introduced until 1 July 1871 and a totem was erected on the North west of the island commemorating “the coming of the light”. On the 1 July 1871 due to the pearling industry the Government passes the Queensland Coast Island Act allowing it to claim the outer Torres Strait islands. This allowed them to regulate the pearling industry.
Accommodation and site:
Their facilities include a grocery store (IBIS), school and health care centre and there is council accommodation available contact TSIRC 07 4083 2300 for availability. The main attraction of this island is the Erub Art centre which features Ghost Net art which is iconic of the centre.
90% of the marine debris entering the coastal regions of northern Australia is of fishing nature and ghost nets (abandoned fishing nets) drift aimlessly indiscriminately killing as they travel with the ocean currents. 80% of this catch is marine turtles. The collection and disposal of ghost nets is a huge logistical issue and as global solutions are slowly being developed. With the capacity to plan and engage with conversation groups, museums and collectors, The Ereb Arts is helping raise much needed awareness on a world stage.
This is one of the most outer islands in the Torres Strait and was formed by volcanic activity however the volcano hasn’t been active for thousands of years. The island is small and has approximately 450 people but amazingly there are 8 tribes on the island.
This little island is most famous for Eddie Mabo who challenged the commonwealth’s ownership of Murray island. The governments claim to the island was through “Terra Nullius” which means land belonging to no-one which was how the first settlers classed Australia. Mabo challenged this as his people had lived on the island long before the colonisation. He took it all the way to the highest court in the country and on the 3rd of June 1992 the high court recognised the Torres strait islanders’ Native rights. Mabo however died 5 months before this was handed down. The Native Title Act 1993 which was a direct result of Mabo’s work and has now been used nationally to assert Native title for other communities all over Australia.
Accommodation and sites:
There is an airport, general store and accommodation at Mer Gedkem Le (Torres Strait Islanders) Corporation RNTBC contact 0467676918 for bookings. The people of Murray have many very unique stone-walls used for fishing that extend from almost all the beaches and reach far out into the shallow reef. These walls have stones that weigh up to 100kg and they were all placed by hand many generations ago, the fish swim in during high tide but when low tide comes the water drains out, some small fish escape but the larger ones are now trapped and ripe for the islanders picking. These stone-wall fish traps also served a dual purpose of dividing land on the island between the 8 tribes.
Saibai is just a stone’s throw away (5km) from Papua New Guinea and only averages 1m above sea level the islands in a mixture of mangroves, flood plains and swamps. Most of the island is unpopulated as it is very prone to flooding in the wet season which also syncs up with the king tides.
The first European visit to Saibai was by John Delargy in 1869 who was actual searching for a lost boat. Delargy established good relations with the people of Saibai through trading and feasts and outside contact with the island increased over the 1870s which brought a measles epidemic which significantly reduced the Saibai population. In the late 1870s Saibai, Boigue and Mt Cornwallis were raided by warriors of the Marind-Anim or Tugeri people of west Papua and in 1896 the British lead a retaliatory expedition which diminished the Marind-Anim threat but random raids continued on Saibai, Boigu and Mt Cornwallis island until late 1920.
The scientist Alfred Cort Haddon first visited the Torres Strait in 1888 and was fascinated by the culture and way of life of the Torres Strait Islander people. He returned in 1898 with a team from Cambridge University and spent 7 months in the Torres Strait including Saibai. They documented the Islanders collected artefacts and made the first film recordings in the Torres Strait.
Saibai has a health centre, airport, grocery store and council accommodation available contact TSIRC on 07 4083 2800 for availability.
Warraber (Sue) island
Warraber is a low-lying coral island and is just under 100km from the main land.
In the 1930s the fresh water supplies on the island were contaminated by sea water and many of the residents had to move to other islands the families that stayed include Mari, Jalaj Bob, Tamu Nari, Ganaia and Aikuru.
In 1936 around 70% of the Torres Strait Islanders workers went on strike to challenge the government authority over the islands including the removal of permits for inter-island travel, government interference in wages, trade and commerce. The strike lasted 9 months and resulted in more autonomy for the local councils. Many inter island conferences occurred over the following years and in 1939 the Queensland government passed the Torres Strait Islanders Act which united the islander’s requests and also recognised the Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people as two distinctly unique peoples.
The island has an airport, water plant, pier, grocery store and guest house contact TSIRC on 4083 2551.
Yam (Iama) island
Yam is one of the central islands in the Torres Striat and unlike many of the other low laying islands it is quite hilly but is still surrounded by a large coral bay.
Captain William Bligh was the first to contact the islanders in this area in September of 1792 and it was a violent exchange between his men and the warriors of Tudu (an island near Yam). William Banner would have better luck with the islanders in the 1860 when he set up a sea cucumber station on Tudu island by befriending Kebisu a local warrior. Kebisu would later be elected chief of Tudu in 1870, it was also around this time that the missionaries encouraged the Tudu people to establish a settlement on Yam but it wasn’t until 1892 that the first family moved to Yam and settled.
In recent years even though Yam is not as low as some of the other islands it has still contended with rising sea levels. In the 1990s a sea wall was installed to protect the Islanders homes closets to the shore. In 2018 a number of homes were almost washed away by the sea on high tide leaving some families on Yam homeless due to the damage. Fortunately, the Islander community is far closer than the western culture and the families were housed by neighbours and friends. The Islanders have a strong group mentality of what’s mine is yours and community values are always about the greater good.
Yam island has an excellent school, sporting facilities, Pier, grocery store and a guest house contact TSIRC on 07 4083 2650 for bookings.
Yorke (Masig) island
Yorke is a coral cay in the north east of the Torres Strait. It is also known as the ‘Masig Magic Mile’ by Kite surfers who have been flocking to the area since 2013.
In the late 1870s the American whaler named Edward Ned Mosby established a sea cucumber station on Yorke island with his business partner Jack Walker. In the 1880 many steam ships were stopping at Yorke to collect supplies of fire wood which lead to the deforestation of the island Edward and walker put in many complaints about this practice. In 1920 a world wide influenza epidemic reached the Torres Strait and 96 Islanders died and the government provided food relief to help recover from the out brake.
In recent years the global climate change has caused issues for this low laying island. Besides the fear of the ever-stronger storms caused by the shifts in weather patterns which in 1930 saw a cyclone rip the island apart there is another subtler danger. There is now more erosion than ever and the graves of the islander’s ancestors are slowly being washed out to see which is gravely disturbing to the Masig people.
There is a medical centre, school, grocery store and two mini marts on the island as well accommodation through Lowatta Lodge email firstname.lastname@example.org for bookings