Torres Strait

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Torres Strait Islanders

Torres Strait Islanders


The purpose of this study is to expand the boundaries of our knowledge by exploring some relevant facts and figures related to the analysis of Torres Strait islanders. The Torres Strait Islanders are the indigenous people of the Torres Strait Islands, Queensland, Australia. They have a Melanesian culture and are not familiar with the Aborigines. They are one of two sets of indigenous peoples in this country, the other being the Australian Aborigines. The indigenous inhabitants of the islands i.e. Torres Strait Islanders came from Melanesia and Polynesia, about two thousand years ago (Synott, 1998, pp. 27-30). Officially, Indigenous Torres Strait Islander is a person who:

has indigenous ancestors

self-identifies as such and

is recognized as such by its indigenous community

The above three criteria must be met. Officially, a term such as "part native" has no value. Skin color is not a criterion. The same definition applies to Aborigines. The invasion process of Australia impacted differently upon Aboriginal people as compared to Torres Strait Islander people (Singe, 1979, pp. 68-73). In this paper, the author will critically examine the impact of invasion on the people of the Torres Strait, with particular reference to the time of contact, religion, law and land/economies. The author will also examine and discuss the customs/Ailan Kastom of the Torres Strait.

Discussion & Analysis

The Torres Strait

The Torres Strait is a strait that is located between the Australia and the island of New Guinea. It is about 150 km wide and lies between Cape York, the northern tip of Queensland and Western Province of Papua New Guinea. The strait links the Coral Sea to the east and with the Arafura Sea to the west. In the narrow are the Torres Strait Islands, inhabited by a Melanesian population closer to Papuans. About 6800 natives inhabit the Straits islands, while 42,000 live elsewhere, mainly in Townsville and in the mainland of North Queensland. Approximately 6% of Indigenous Australians are indigenous Torres Strait, and 4% have mixed ancestry i.e. Aboriginal and Torres Strait native (Sharp, 1980, pp. 22-28).


During the glaciations of the Pleistocene, the Torres Strait had emerged from the sea and was the gateway through which humans and animals came to Australia. The sea returned to occupy the strait between 12,000 and 8000 years ago and Australia remained isolated for a long time. The strait is named after the first westerner who has traveled to the destination: Luis Vaez de Torres, who was second in command in the expedition of Pedro Fernandez de Quiros who sailed from Peru to the South Pacific in 1605. In 1769 the geographer Scottish Alexander Dalrymple found the guide to Torres on his trip to Manila and baptized with the name of the strait browser. In 1770, James Cook of British Empire annexed the whole of eastern Australia and sailed through the strait after climbing the Australian coast (Fuary, 1993, pp. 31-38).

The customs of Torres Strait Islanders

Torres Strait Islanders has distinct cultural traditions and unique ...
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