Torres Strait Island communities N-Z

The following brief histories provide researchers with information about the creation of missions and reserves in Torres Strait Island communities.

Pabaju | Prince of Wales Island | Rennel Island | Saddle Island | Saibai | Stephens Island | Sue Island | Warka | Yam Island | Yorke Island | Zapker

Pabaju see Albany Island

Prince of Wales Island (Muraleg)

Prince of Wales Island, known to the Kaurareg as Muralag, is the largest Torres Strait Island. The centre of a group of smaller islands and not far from Cape York, it was an important link in the traditional trade route between the mainland and islands further north.

In 1871 the Somerset police magistrate Frank Jardine, moved the Kaurareg, using Pacific Islander boat crews and mainland Aboriginal police as his troops. The government later placed the survivors from this campaign on Hammond Island where they lived until 1922, when the government moved them again to Moa Island. People began returning after the Second World War. Most settled on the northern end opposite Thursday Island.

Rennel Island (Mauar)

In 1912 Rennel Island was gazetted as an Aboriginal Reserve.  This reservation was cancelled in 1914. The island was again gazetted as an Aboriginal reserve in 1918.

Saddle Island (Ulu)

Saddle Island was gazetted as an Aboriginal Reserve in November 1912 containing an area of about 160 acres.


Saibai is a low-lying island 4km from the New Guinea mainland. The London Missionary Society extended its influence over Saibai Islanders from 1871 until the Anglican Church took over around 1915. A government school was established in 1905. Following the second World War continual high tides caused part of the Island to wash away and a number of Saibai Islanders lead by Bamaga Ginau made the decision to leave the Island for the mainland. The community which eventually became known as Bamaga, after Bamaga Ginau, was established by families from both Saibai and Dauan. In 1985 the Saibai Council was issued with a deed of grant in trust.

Stephens Island (Ugar)

Stephen Island, traditionally known also as Ugar, belongs to the Eastern Island Group, 170km north-east of Thursday Island. Stephen Islanders hold close kinship ties with Darnley (Erub) and Murray (Mer) Islanders.

Sue Island

Sue Island, traditionally known as Warraber, belongs to the Central Islands Group and lies 72 km north-east of Thursday Island. The Sue Islanders have close kinship ties with Coconut (Poruma), Yam (Iama) and Yorke (Masig) Islands.

Warka see High Island

Yam Island (Turtle Back Island)

The London Missionary Society (LMS) established a station at Yam's western end making it possible for a permanent village with people settling around the mission. Many of the men took jobs on pearling luggers and a pearling station operated on Tudu during the 1870s with another at Nahgi (Mount Ernest Island, southwest of Yam). Pacific Islanders working at Nahgi station later settled on Yam. During the Second World War, many Yam men enlisted in the army, forming C Company of the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion. Despite their seafaring background, Yam people were fairly isolated from the outside world until well after the War.

An airstrip was constructed in 1974 and the island's connection to the Torres Strait telephone exchange occurred in 1980. Yam has provided the Torres Strait with important political leaders including Getano Lui Senior (grandson of the first LMS teacher Lui Getano Lifu) and Getano Lui Junior, former chairman of the Island Coordinating Council.

Yorke Island (Masig)

Yorke Island is a west-central Torres Strait Island also known as Masig.

In 1845 Masig people could be found trading from the west of the Straits to the east. Before the arrival of teachers from the London Missionary Society in the 1870s Masig attracted a diverse community of immigrants, some brought by the pearl and trochus shell industry.

The Queensland Government moved the people of Aureed to Masig after it was declared a government reserve.

Zapker see Campbell Island

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