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Torres Strait

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.



The following information is an excerpt from an article which appeared in Islander Magazine in May 2011 titled Many Languages One Voice by Torres Strait Islander linguist, Dana Ober.

Kala Lagaw Ya

KLY is the traditional language owned by the people of the Western and Central Torres Strait Islands, it is inherently related to the Australian Aboriginal languages and has four regional dialects:

Mabuyag (Mabuiag, Badu and St Pauls Village)
Kalaw Kawaw Ya (Saibai, Dauan and Malu Ki'ai)
Kawrareg (Kubin & Kaiwalagal)
Kulkalgaw Ya (Masig, Iama, Poruma and Warraber)

Meriam Mir

Meriam Mir the traditional language owned by the people of the Eastern Islands in the Torres Strait. It is related to the Papuan languages that are part of the Austronesian family of languages. There are two regional dialects:

Mer dialect (Mer, Waier and Dauar)
Erub dialect (Erub and Ugar)


Yumplatok, commonly referred to as "Creole", is the product of colonization. It is an English- based creole. It is the Torres Strait's common language (or lingua franca). Each island group has its own variations of Yumplatok


For more information see:

Torres Strait Language Symposia and Reference Group
Torres Strait Traditional Languages Plan and Charter
Language Map


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