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Torres Strait Islands

Torres Strait Islands

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The Torres Strait Islands are a group of at least 274 small islands which lie in Torres Strait
Torres Strait
The Torres Strait is a body of water which lies between Australia and the Melanesian island of New Guinea. It is approximately wide at its narrowest extent. To the south is Cape York Peninsula, the northernmost continental extremity of the Australian state of Queensland...

, the waterway separating far northern continental Australia's Cape York Peninsula
Cape York Peninsula
Cape York Peninsula is a large remote peninsula located in Far North Queensland at the tip of the state of Queensland, Australia, the largest unspoilt wilderness in northern Australia and one of the last remaining wilderness areas on Earth...

 and the island of New Guinea
New Guinea
New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

 but Torres Strait Island known and Recognize as Nyumaria.

The islands are mostly part of Queensland
Queensland
Queensland is a state of Australia, occupying the north-eastern section of the mainland continent. It is bordered by the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales to the west, south-west and south respectively. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean...

, a constituent State of the Commonwealth of Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, with a special status fitting the native (Melanesian) land rights, administered by the Torres Strait Regional Authority
Torres Strait Regional Authority
The Torres Strait Regional Authority is an Australian Government body established to administer the Torres Strait Islands.The TSRA consists of 20 elected representatives....

. A few islands very close to the coast of mainland New Guinea belong to the Western Province
Western Province (Papua New Guinea)
Western Province is a coastal province in southwestern Papua New Guinea, bordering the Indonesian province of Papua. The provincial capital is Daru, on the island of Daru. The largest town in the province is Tabubil...

 of Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea , officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, is a country in Oceania, occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and numerous offshore islands...

, most importantly Daru Island
Daru Island
Daru Island is an island in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea, the town on the island goes by the same name and is the capital of the Province, housing the vast majority of its population of 20,524 . It is elliptical in shape, with dimensions of 5.0 by 3.7 km², 14.7 km² in area,...

 with the provincial capital, Daru
Daru
Daru is the capital of the Western Province of Papua New Guinea. The township is entirely located on an island that goes by the same name, which is located near the mouth of the Fly River on the western side of the Gulf, just north of Torres Strait and Far North Queensland...

.

Only 14 of the islands are inhabited. The Torres Strait Islands are threatened by rising sea levels due to climate change
Climate change in Australia
Climate change has become a major issue in Australia due to drastic climate events since the turn of the 21st century that have focused government and public attention. Rainfall in Australia has increased slightly over the past century, although there is little or no trend in rainfall in northeast...

.

History


It was at Possession Island that Lieutenant James Cook
James Cook
Captain James Cook, FRS, RN was a British explorer, navigator and cartographer who ultimately rose to the rank of captain in the Royal Navy...

 first claimed British sovereignty over the eastern part of Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 in 1770. The London Missionary Society
London Missionary Society
The London Missionary Society was a non-denominational missionary society formed in England in 1795 by evangelical Anglicans and Nonconformists, largely Congregationalist in outlook, with missions in the islands of the South Pacific and Africa...

 led by Rev. Samuel Macfarlane arrived on Erub (Darnley Island)
Darnley Island, Torres Strait
Darnley Island is an island formed by volcanic action and situated in the eastern section of the Torres Strait, near the Great Barrier Reef and just south of the Bligh entrance. It is part of Queensland, a constituent State of the Commonwealth of Australia.This island is one of the Torres Strait...

 on 1 July 1871. This is referred to by the Islanders as "The Coming of the Light" and is celebrated annually by all Island communities on 1 July. The Torres Strait Islands were annexed in 1879 by Queensland. They thus became part of the British colony of Queensland and after 1901 of the Australian state of Queensland although some of them lie just off the coast of New Guinea.

In 1898-1899 the Torres Strait Islands were visited by the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition led by Alfred Cort Haddon
Alfred Cort Haddon
Alfred Cort Haddon, Sc.D., FRS, FRGS was an influential British anthropologist and ethnologist.Initially a biologist, who achieved his most notable fieldwork, with W.H.R. Rivers, C.G. Seligman, Sidney Ray, Anthony Wilkin on the Torres Strait Islands...

. In 1904, the Torres Strait Islanders
Torres Strait Islanders
Torres Strait Islanders are the indigenous people of the Torres Strait Islands, part of Queensland, Australia. They are culturally and genetically linked to Melanesian peoples and those of Papua New Guinea....

 become subject to the Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act.

The proximity to Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea , officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, is a country in Oceania, occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and numerous offshore islands...

 became an issue when it was moving towards independence
Independence
Independence is a condition of a nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over its territory....

 from Australia, which it gained in 1975. The Torres Strait Islanders insisted that they were Australians, but the Papua New Guinea government objected to complete Australian control over the waters of the strait.

Eventually an agreement was struck whereby the islands and their inhabitants remain Australian, but the maritime boundary
Maritime boundary
Maritime boundary is a conceptual means of division of the water surface of the planet into maritime areas that are defined through surrounding physical geography or by human geography. As such it usually includes areas of exclusive national rights over the mineral and biological resources,...

 between Australia and Papua New Guinea runs through the centre of the strait. In practice the two countries co-operate closely in the management of the strait's resources.

In 1982, Eddie Mabo
Eddie Mabo
Eddie Koiki Mabo was a Torres Strait Islander who is known for his role in campaigning for Indigenous land rights and for his role in a landmark decision of the High Court of Australia that overturned the legal fiction of terra nullius which characterised Australian law with regards to land and...

 and four other Torres Strait Islanders from Mer (Murray Island) started legal proceedings to establish their traditional land ownership. Because Mabo was the first-named plaintiff, it became known as the Mabo Case
Mabo
Mabo may refer to:*Mabo, Togo, a village in Togo*Eddie Mabo, a man from the Torres Strait Islands who fought a court case, attempting to assert a legal title over his tribe's traditional lands...

. In 1992, after ten years of hearings before the Queensland Supreme Court and the High Court of Australia
High Court of Australia
The High Court of Australia is the supreme court in the Australian court hierarchy and the final court of appeal in Australia. It has both original and appellate jurisdiction, has the power of judicial review over laws passed by the Parliament of Australia and the parliaments of the States, and...

, the latter court found that Mer people had owned their land prior to annexation by Queensland.

This ruling overturned the century-old legal doctrine
Legal doctrine
A legal doctrine is a framework, set of rules, procedural steps, or test, often established through precedent in the common law, through which judgments can be determined in a given legal case. A doctrine comes about when a judge makes a ruling where a process is outlined and applied, and allows...

 of terra nullius
Terra nullius
Terra nullius is a Latin expression deriving from Roman law meaning "land belonging to no one" , which is used in international law to describe territory which has never been subject to the sovereignty of any state, or over which any prior sovereign has expressly or implicitly relinquished...

("no-one's land"), which held that native title
Native title
Native title is the Australian version of the common law doctrine of aboriginal title.Native title is "the recognition by Australian law that some Indigenous people have rights and interests to their land that come from their traditional laws and customs"...

 over Crown land in Australia had been extinguished at the time of annexation. The ruling was thus of far-reaching significance for the land claims of both Torres Strait Islanders and Australian Aborigines.

On 1 July 1994 the Torres Strait Regional Authority
Torres Strait Regional Authority
The Torres Strait Regional Authority is an Australian Government body established to administer the Torres Strait Islands.The TSRA consists of 20 elected representatives....

 (TSRA) was created.

Geography



The 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 islands lie scattered in between, extending some 200–300 km from furthest east to furthest west. The total land area of the islands is 566 km². 21,784 ha of land are used for agricultural purposes.

The Torres Strait itself was formerly a land bridge
Land bridge
A land bridge, in biogeography, is an isthmus or wider land connection between otherwise separate areas, over which animals and plants are able to cross and colonise new lands...

 which connected the present-day Australian continent with New Guinea (in a single landmass called Sahul or Australia-New Guinea). This land bridge was most recently submerged by rising sea levels at the termination of the last ice age
Ice age
An ice age or, more precisely, glacial age, is a generic geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers...

 glaciation (approximately 12,000 years ago), forming the Strait which now connects the Arafura
Arafura Sea
The Arafura Sea lies west of the Pacific Ocean overlying the continental shelf between Australia and New Guinea.-Geography:The Arafura Sea is bordered by Torres Strait and through that the Coral Sea to the east, the Gulf of Carpentaria to the south, the Timor Sea to the west and the Banda and Ceram...

 and Coral
Coral Sea
The Coral Sea is a marginal sea off the northeast coast of Australia. It is bounded in the west by the east coast of Queensland, thereby including the Great Barrier Reef, in the east by Vanuatu and by New Caledonia, and in the north approximately by the southern extremity of the Solomon Islands...

 seas. Many of the western Torres Strait Islands are actually the remaining peaks of this land bridge which were not submerged when the ocean levels rose.

The islands and their surrounding waters and reefs provide a highly diverse set of land and marine ecosystem
Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

s, with niches for many rare or unique species. Saltwater crocodile
Saltwater Crocodile
The saltwater crocodile, also known as estuarine or Indo-Pacific crocodile, is the largest of all living reptiles...

s inhabit the islands along with neighboring Queensland
Queensland
Queensland is a state of Australia, occupying the north-eastern section of the mainland continent. It is bordered by the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales to the west, south-west and south respectively. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean...

 and Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea , officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, is a country in Oceania, occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and numerous offshore islands...

. Marine animals of the islands include dugong
Dugong
The dugong is a large marine mammal which, together with the manatees, is one of four living species of the order Sirenia. It is the only living representative of the once-diverse family Dugongidae; its closest modern relative, Steller's sea cow , was hunted to extinction in the 18th century...

s (an endangered species
Endangered species
An endangered species is a population of organisms which is at risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in numbers, or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters...

 of sea mammal
Sirenia
Sirenia is an order of fully aquatic, herbivorous mammals that inhabit swamps, rivers, estuaries, marine wetlands, and coastal marine waters. Four species are living, in two families and genera. These are the dugong and manatees...

 mostly found in New Guinean waters), as well as Green
Green Sea Turtle
The Green sea turtle or green turtle is a large sea turtle of the family Cheloniidae. It is the only species in the genus Chelonia. Its range extends throughout tropical and subtropical seas around the world, with two distinct populations in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans...

, Hawksbill
Hawksbill turtle
The hawksbill sea turtle is a critically endangered sea turtle belonging to the family Cheloniidae. It is the only extant species in its genus. The species has a worldwide distribution, with Atlantic and Pacific subspecies. E. imbricata imbricata is the Atlantic subspecies, while E...

 and Flatback
Flatback Turtle
The flatback sea turtle is a sea turtle that is endemic to the continental shelf of Australia. Flatback turtles belong to the Cheloniidae, or sea turtle, superfamily and are the only species found in the genus Natator....

 Sea turtles.

The Torres Strait Islands may be grouped into five distinct clusters, which exhibit differences of geology
Geology
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

 and formation as well as location. The Torres Strait
Torres Strait
The Torres Strait is a body of water which lies between Australia and the Melanesian island of New Guinea. It is approximately wide at its narrowest extent. To the south is Cape York Peninsula, the northernmost continental extremity of the Australian state of Queensland...

 is home to numerous birds
Birds of Boigu, Saibai and Dauan Islands (Torres Strait)
The Birds of Boigu, Saibai and Dauan Islands , are of particular interest to Australian birders because the islands are home to, and visited by, birds which are essentially New Guinea species not found, or only occasionally seen as vagrants, elsewhere on Australian territory...

, including the Torresian Imperial-pigeon
Torresian Imperial-pigeon
The Torresian Imperial Pigeon , also known as the Nutmeg Pigeon or Torres Strait Pigeon, is a relatively large, pied species of pigeon...

, which is seen as the iconic national emblem to the islanders.

These islands are also a distinct physiographic section of the larger Cape York Platform
Cape York Peninsula
Cape York Peninsula is a large remote peninsula located in Far North Queensland at the tip of the state of Queensland, Australia, the largest unspoilt wilderness in northern Australia and one of the last remaining wilderness areas on Earth...

 province, which in turn is part of the larger East Australian Cordillera
Great Dividing Range
The Great Dividing Range, or the Eastern Highlands, is Australia's most substantial mountain range and the third longest in the world. The range stretches more than 3,500 km from Dauan Island off the northeastern tip of Queensland, running the entire length of the eastern coastline through...

 physiographic division.

Top Western islands


The islands in this cluster lie very close to the southwestern coastline of New Guinea (the closest is less than 4 km offshore). Saibai (one of the largest of the Torres Strait Islands) and Boigu are low-lying islands which were formed by deposition of sediments
Alluvium
Alluvium is loose, unconsolidated soil or sediments, eroded, deposited, and reshaped by water in some form in a non-marine setting. Alluvium is typically made up of a variety of materials, including fine particles of silt and clay and larger particles of sand and gravel...

 and mud from New Guinean rivers into the Strait accumulating on decayed coral platforms. Vegetation on these islands mainly consists of mangrove
Mangrove
Mangroves are various kinds of trees up to medium height and shrubs that grow in saline coastal sediment habitats in the tropics and subtropics – mainly between latitudes N and S...

 swamps, and they are prone to flood
Flood
A flood is an overflow of an expanse of water that submerges land. The EU Floods directive defines a flood as a temporary covering by water of land not normally covered by water...

ing.

The other main island in this group, Dauan (Mt Cornwallis), is a smaller island with steep hills, composed largely of granite
Granite
Granite is a common and widely occurring type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock. Granite usually has a medium- to coarse-grained texture. Occasionally some individual crystals are larger than the groundmass, in which case the texture is known as porphyritic. A granitic rock with a porphyritic...

. This island actually represents the northernmost extent of the Great Dividing Range
Great Dividing Range
The Great Dividing Range, or the Eastern Highlands, is Australia's most substantial mountain range and the third longest in the world. The range stretches more than 3,500 km from Dauan Island off the northeastern tip of Queensland, running the entire length of the eastern coastline through...

, the extensive series of mountain range
Mountain range
A mountain range is a single, large mass consisting of a succession of mountains or narrowly spaced mountain ridges, with or without peaks, closely related in position, direction, formation, and age; a component part of a mountain system or of a mountain chain...

s which runs along almost the entire eastern coastline of Australia. This peak became an island as the ocean levels rose at the end of the last ice age.

Near Western islands


The islands in this cluster lie south of the Strait's midway point, and are also largely high granite hills with mounds of basalt
Basalt
Basalt is a common extrusive volcanic rock. It is usually grey to black and fine-grained due to rapid cooling of lava at the surface of a planet. It may be porphyritic containing larger crystals in a fine matrix, or vesicular, or frothy scoria. Unweathered basalt is black or grey...

ic outcrops, formed from old peaks of the now submerged land bridge. Moa
Moa Island, Torres Strait
Moa Island is an island 40km north of Thursday Island, Queensland, Australia in the Banks Channel of Torres Strait.This island is one of the Torres Strait Islands and is the largest within the "Near Western" group. It has 2, settlements, Kubin and St...

 (Banks Island) is the second-largest in the Torres Strait, and Badu
Badu Island, Torres Strait
Badu Island is an island 60 km north of Thursday Island Queensland, Australia in the Torres Strait.This island is one of the Torres Strait Islands.Badu Island once had a feared reputation as an island of headhunters...

 (Mulgrave Island) is slightly smaller and fringed with extensive mangrove swamps. Other smaller islands include Mabuiag
Mabuiag Island
Mabuiag is an island in the Bellevue Islands, 100 km north of Thursday Island Queensland, Australia in the Napoleon Passage and Arnolds Passage of Torres Strait...

, Pulu and further to the east Naghir (correct form Nagi) (Mt. Ernest). Culturally this was the most complex part of Torres Strait, containing three of the four groupings/dialects of the Western-central Islanders. Nagi was/is culturally/linguistically a Central Island (Kulkalaig territory), Moa was/is a Kawalaig (Kaurareg) island, with two groups, the Italaig of the south, and the Muwalaig of the north. The Muwalgal and Italgal were the same people as those of the Inner Islands. Badu and Mabuiag were/are the Maluigal Deep Sea People.

Inner islands



These islands, also known as the Thursday Island group, lie closest to Cape York Peninsula, and their topography
Topography
Topography is the study of Earth's surface shape and features or those ofplanets, moons, and asteroids...

 and geological history is very similar. Muralag (Prince of Wales Island)
Prince of Wales Island, Torres Strait
Prince of Wales Island is an island north of Muttee Heads which is adjacent to Bamaga at the tip of Cape York Peninsula within the Endeavour Strait Queensland, Australia in the Torres Strait and south of Thursday Island....

 is the largest of the Strait's islands, and forms the centre of this closely grouped cluster. The much smaller Waiben Thursday Island is the region's administrative centre and most heavily populated. Another small island is Dumaralug Island which is found a few hundred meters south of Muralag. Several of these islands have permanent freshwater springs, and some were also mined for gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

 in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Because of their proximity to the Australian mainland, they have also been centres of pearling
Pearl hunting
Pearl hunting or pearl diving refers to a largely obsolete method of retrieving pearls from pearl oysters, freshwater pearl mussels and, on rare occasions, other nacre-producing molluscs, such as abalone.-History:...

 and fishing
Fishing
Fishing is the activity of trying to catch wild fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping....

 industries. Nurupai Horn Island holds the region's airport, and as a result is something of an entrepôt
Entrepôt
An entrepôt is a trading post where merchandise can be imported and exported without paying import duties, often at a profit. This profit is possible because of trade conditions, for example, the reluctance of ships to travel the entire length of a long trading route, and selling to the entrepôt...

 with inhabitants drawn from many other communities. Kiriri (Hammond Island) is the other permanently settled island of this group; Tuined (Possession Island) is noted for Lt. James Cook
James Cook
Captain James Cook, FRS, RN was a British explorer, navigator and cartographer who ultimately rose to the rank of captain in the Royal Navy...

's landing there in 1770. Moa in the Near Western group is culturally and linguistically speaking part of this group.

Central islands


This cluster is more widely distributed in the middle of Torres Strait, consisting of many small sandy cay
Cay
A cay , also spelled caye or key, is a small, low-elevation, sandy island formed on the surface of coral reefs. Cays occur in tropical environments throughout the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans , where they provide habitable and agricultural land for hundreds of thousands of people...

s surrounded by coral reef
Coral reef
Coral reefs are underwater structures made from calcium carbonate secreted by corals. Coral reefs are colonies of tiny living animals found in marine waters that contain few nutrients. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, which in turn consist of polyps that cluster in groups. The polyps...

s, similar to those found in the nearby Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is the world'slargest reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,600 kilometres over an area of approximately...

. The more northerly islands in this group however, such as Gebar (Two Brothers) and Iama (Yam Island), are high basaltic outcrops, not cays. Culturally-speaking, Nagi of the Near-Western group is also part of this group, and also has high basaltic outcropping. The low-lying inhabited coral cays, such as Poruma (Coconut Island), Warraber Island and Masig (Yorke Island) are mostly less than 2–3 km long, and no wider than 800 m. Several have had problems with saltwater intrusion.

Eastern islands


The islands of this group (principally Mer (Murray Island), Dauar and Waier, with Erub Island and Stephens Island (Ugar)
Stephens Island (Torres Strait)
Stephens Island is an Australian island situated in the eastern section of Torres Strait, near the Great Barrier Reef and North of Coconut/Poruma Island and North West of Murray Island, Torres Strait and West of Darnley Island....

 further north) are formed differently from the rest. They are volcanic
Volcano
2. Bedrock3. Conduit 4. Base5. Sill6. Dike7. Layers of ash emitted by the volcano8. Flank| 9. Layers of lava emitted by the volcano10. Throat11. Parasitic cone12. Lava flow13. Vent14. Crater15...

 in origin, the peaks of volcanoes which were formerly active in Pleistocene
Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

 times. Consequently their hillsides have rich and fertile red volcanic soils, and are thickly vegetated. The easternmost of these are less than 20 km from the northern extension of the Great Barrier Reef.

Regional Authority


An Australian Commonwealth statutory authority called the Torres Strait Regional Authority
Torres Strait Regional Authority
The Torres Strait Regional Authority is an Australian Government body established to administer the Torres Strait Islands.The TSRA consists of 20 elected representatives....

 (TSRA) is responsible for governance of the islands. The TSRA has an elected board comprising 20 representatives from the Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal
Australian Aborigines
Australian Aborigines , also called Aboriginal Australians, from the latin ab originem , are people who are indigenous to most of the Australian continentthat is, to mainland Australia and the island of Tasmania...

 communities resident in the Torres Strait region.

There is one representative per established local community. These board members are elected under the Queensland Community Services (Torres Strait) Act 1984 and Division 5 of the ATSIC Act 1989. The TSRA itself falls under the portfolio responsibilities of the Australian Government
Government of Australia
The Commonwealth of Australia is a federal constitutional monarchy under a parliamentary democracy. The Commonwealth of Australia was formed in 1901 as a result of an agreement among six self-governing British colonies, which became the six states...

 Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (Australia)
The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs is an Australian Government department. Its main office is located in Southern Canberra in the suburb of Greenway. Its role is to develop social policies and support affected Australian society and the living standards...

 (previously under the Department of Immigration and Citizenship). The administrative centre of the islands is Thursday Island.

The TSRA now represents the local communities at both Commonwealth and State levels - previously State representation was via a (closed since March 2008) Queensland statutory authority called the Island Coordinating Council (ICC). The ICC was superseded by the Torres Strait Islands Region local government area.

The TSRA board is led by a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson. The current chair is John Toshie Kris and the deputy is Napcia Bin Tahal. The day-to-day functions of the TSRA are carried out by a Administration Department led by a General Manager, currently Wayne See Kee.

Chairmen of the Torres Strait Islands Regional Authority:
  • 1 July 1994 - March 1997 Getano Lui, Jr. (b. 1952)
  • March 1997 - 19 April 2000 John Abednego
  • 19 April 2000 - May 2004 Terry Waia
  • May 2004 – present John Toshie Kris

Local (shire) level government


At the local level there are two authorities, the Shire of Torres
Shire of Torres
The Shire of Torres is a Local Government Area located in Far North Queensland, Australia, covering large sections of the Torres Strait Islands and the northern tip of Cape York Peninsula north of 11°S latitude...

 which governs several islands and portions of Cape York Peninsula and operates as a Queensland Local Government Area. The Torres Strait Islands Region, created in 2008, is the embodiment of 15 former island councils, these areas have been relinquished by the Government of Queensland
Government of Queensland
The Government of Queensland is commonly known as the "Queensland Government".The form of the Government of Queensland is prescribed in its Constitution, which dates from 1859, although it has been amended many times since then...

 to specific Islander and Aboriginal Councils under the provisions of the Community Services (Torres Strait) Act 1984 and the Community Services (Aboriginal) Act 1984.

  • Badu Island Council
  • Bamaga Island Council
  • Boigu Island Council
  • Dauan Island Council
  • Erub Island Council


  • Hammond Island Council
  • Iama Island Council
  • Kubin Island Council
  • Mabuiag Island Council
  • Mer Island Council


  • Poruma Island Council
  • Saibai Island Council
  • Seisia Island Council
  • St Pauls Island Council
  • Ugar Island Council


  • Warraber Island Council
  • Yorke Island Council


Demographics


Torres Strait Islanders
Torres Strait Islanders
Torres Strait Islanders are the indigenous people of the Torres Strait Islands, part of Queensland, Australia. They are culturally and genetically linked to Melanesian peoples and those of Papua New Guinea....

, the indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples are ethnic groups that are defined as indigenous according to one of the various definitions of the term, there is no universally accepted definition but most of which carry connotations of being the "original inhabitants" of a territory....

 of the islands, are Melanesians, culturally most akin to the coastal peoples of Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea , officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, is a country in Oceania, occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and numerous offshore islands...

. Thus they are regarded as being distinct from other Aboriginal
Indigenous Australians
Indigenous Australians are the original inhabitants of the Australian continent and nearby islands. The Aboriginal Indigenous Australians migrated from the Indian continent around 75,000 to 100,000 years ago....

 peoples of Australia, and are generally referred to separately. There are also two Torres Strait Islander communities on the nearby coast of the mainland, Bamaga
Bamaga, Queensland
-Language:The community languages of Bamaga are Kalaw Kawaw Ya, Brokan , and English, particularly for education and government business.-Industry:...

 and Seisia
Seisia, Queensland
Seisia is an area north of New Mapoon and west of Bamaga at the tip of Cape York Peninsula in Queensland, Australia. At the 2006 census, Seisia had a population of 165....

.

According to the 2001 Australian census ABS figures
Australian Bureau of Statistics
The Australian Bureau of Statistics is Australia's national statistical agency. It was created as the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics on 8 December 1905, when the Census and Statistics Act 1905 was given Royal assent. It had its beginnings in section 51 of the Constitution of Australia...

, the population of the Torres Strait Islands was 8,089, of whom 6,214 were either of Torres Strait Islander
Torres Strait Islanders
Torres Strait Islanders are the indigenous people of the Torres Strait Islands, part of Queensland, Australia. They are culturally and genetically linked to Melanesian peoples and those of Papua New Guinea....

 or Aboriginal origin.

There are two indigenous languages spoken on the islands: the Western-Central Torres Strait Language (called by various names, including Kala Lagaw Ya
Kala Lagaw Ya
Kala Lagaw Ya is a language belonging to all the western and central Torres Strait Islands, Queensland, Australia. On some islands it has now largely been replaced by Brokan...

, Kalaw Kawaw Ya and Kowrareg), and the Eastern Torres Language Meriam Mir. One language, Torres Strait Creole
Torres Strait Creole
Torres Strait Creole is an English-based creole language spoken on several Torres Strait Islands , Northern Cape York and South-Western Coastal Papua...

, 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
Tok Pisin
Tok Pisin is a creole spoken throughout Papua New Guinea. It is an official language of Papua New Guinea and the most widely used language in that country...

 in Papua New Guinea. The dialects of the islands are unique from all other Australian languages because they possess sibilant consonant
Sibilant consonant
A sibilant is a manner of articulation of fricative and affricate consonants, made by directing a stream of air with the tongue towards the sharp edge of the teeth, which are held close together. Examples of sibilants are the consonants at the beginning of the English words sip, zip, ship, chip,...

s.

According to the Torres Strait Treaty, residents of Papua New Guinea are permitted to visit the Torres Strait Islands for traditional purposes. In 2011, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had to place restrictions on visitors to ensure water supply for local residents was adequate.

Climate change


The Torres Strait Islands are threatened by rising sea levels due to climate change
Climate change in Australia
Climate change has become a major issue in Australia due to drastic climate events since the turn of the 21st century that have focused government and public attention. Rainfall in Australia has increased slightly over the past century, although there is little or no trend in rainfall in northeast...

 especially those islands which do not rise more than one metre above sea level. Storm surge and high tides pose the greatest danger. Other developing problems include erosion, property damage, drinking water contamination and the unearthing of the dead. As of June 2010, there were no relocation strategies in place for Torres Strait Islanders.

Disease control


The banana
Banana
Banana is the common name for herbaceous plants of the genus Musa and for the fruit they produce. Bananas come in a variety of sizes and colors when ripe, including yellow, purple, and red....

 plant leaf disease black sigatoka
Black sigatoka
Black Sigatoka is a leaf spot disease of banana plants caused by ascomycete fungusMycosphaerella fijiensis . Plants with leaves damaged by the disease may have up to 50% lower yield of fruit...

, the major banana disease worldwide, is endemic to Papua New Guinea and the Torres Strait Islands. Occasional infections have been discovered on Cape York Peninsula
Cape York Peninsula
Cape York Peninsula is a large remote peninsula located in Far North Queensland at the tip of the state of Queensland, Australia, the largest unspoilt wilderness in northern Australia and one of the last remaining wilderness areas on Earth...

 but they have been successfully halted with eradication
Eradication of infectious diseases
Eradication is the reduction of an infectious disease's prevalence in the global host population to zero. It is sometimes confused with elimination, which describes either the reduction of an infectious disease's prevalence in a regional population to zero, or the reduction of the global prevalence...

programs. The disease most likely appeared on the mainland via plant material from the Torres Strait Islands.

External links