The Torres Strait is Australia's northern-most frontier, stretching from the tip of Queensland to the southern shores of Papua New Guinea. There are over 200 islands scattered throughout the Torres Strait, and of these 17 are inhabited. The Torres Strait is 150 kilometres across and joins the Coral Sea to the east with the Arafura Sea to the west. Thursday Island, the main administrative centre for the Torres Strait, is the gateway to a diverse culture and vast region. The central islands are picture perfect coral cays; while in the east majestic mountains rise from the ocean. In the far north you'll find a cluster of islands which continue the tradition of trade with PNG coastal villages. Remarkably beautiful, these islands are characterised by unique cultural, linguistic and geographic differences.
Click on the island clusters to the left, for more information on each island.
The Torres Strait culture is traditionally an oral culture - the languages, songs, dances and beliefs of Islanders are passed down verbally through the generations. There are two distinct languages spoken by Torres Strait Islanders. In the Eastern Islands the traditional language is Meriam Mir, while the Western and Central Island groups speak Kala Lagaw Ya.
Under the language Kala Lagaw Ya, there are four dialects - Kulkalgaw Ya, Mabuiag, Kawrareg and Kala Kawaw Ya. The four dialects originate from the following locations:
- Central Islands (Kulkalgaw Ya)
- Top Western Islands (Kala Kawaw Ya)
- Mabuaig, Moa and Badu (Mabuiag dialect)
- Muralag Group (Kawrareg)
Torres Strait Creole is also spoken by most Islanders, which is a mixture of traditional languages and Standard Australian English.
Torres Strait Islanders associate themselves with the land, the sea and the sky. These are interwoven through spiritual beliefs, stories, songs and dances. There are four seasons associated with the wind changes in the environment - Kuki, Sager, Zey and Nay Gay.
KUKI (pronounced Cook-ee):
- North-West winds (strong winds)
- Blows from January until April
- Wet Season (monsoon)
SAGER (pronounced Sa-gerr):
- South-East trade winds
- Blows from May until December
- Dry season
ZEY (pronounced Zay):
- Southerly winds
- Blow randomly throughout the year
NAY GAY (pronounced Nai-gai):
- Northerly winds
- Blows from October until December
- Season when both heat and humidity are at their highest
The 'Languages' and 'Seasons' information above was written with assistance and cultural knowledge from Mr Gabriel Bani and Mr Jeff Waia.