Skip to content

Living off the land: Torres Strait book to preserve language, culture and environment

Back L – R: Masigalgal Ranger Enda Nai, Warraberalgal Senior Ranger Mark Pearson, David Fell, Ellen Fauid, Susan Billy, Francis Pearson, Ida Bowie, Helena Billy, Bernadine Mau
Front L – R: Anna-Rita Fauid, Ivy Fauid, Senior Ranger Supervisor Laura Pearson, Bethalia Asai, Daniel Billy
Artist Tony Harry describes the artwork ‘Kup Nudan’, which features on the book cover.

Coinciding with Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022-2032, the central island cluster of the Torres Strait is playing its part to preserve a critically endangered local language, Kulkalgau Ya.

Warraber and Poruma community members, Elders and school students joined Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) Rangers and Portfolio Member for Environmental Management and Board Member for Masig Hilda Mosby on Warraber Island to launch the Puylay and Uruyal (Plants and Animals) of the Warraberalgal and Porumalgal Indigenous Protected Area Torres Strait Book on Friday 5 August.

Celebrations included traditional songs and dances performed by local Tagai College students (Warraber Campus) who like their Elders, are proudly keeping language and culture strong.

The book – two years in the making – was developed in partnership by community, including Porumalgal and Warraberalgal Traditional Owners, Registered Native Title Bodies Corporate, Prescribed Bodies Corporate and TSRA Rangers.

It aims to promote the critically endangered Kulkalgau Ya language of the Central Islands and preserve and pass on local cultural and ecological knowledge for future generations.

TSRA Chairperson Napau Pedro Stephen AM said the book would preserve, promote and celebrate local language and traditional ecological knowledge.

“TSRA Rangers worked with Elders and Traditional Owners to learn and record seasonal plant flowering, fruit and harvesting times, traditional uses and language names for the plants and animals in the book,” Mr Stephen said.

“I would like to congratulate everyone involved in creating and launching this beautiful resource to keep language, culture and knowledge strong.”

TSRA Portfolio Member for Environmental Management and Board Member for Masig Hilda Mosby said the book is dedicated to the Mura Warraberalgal and Porumalgal Elders past, current and future.

“This unique educational resource details cultural and language information of 100 plants and 40 land and sea animals of the Kulkalgal nation of the central Torres Strait islands,” Ms Mosby said.

“The Plant and Animal Book is a wealth of Kulkalgal cultural knowledge and will help future generations to understand and use our environmental resources, such as the Awbuy or noni fruit.”

The book is rich in language and illustrates artwork by local artist Tony Harry.

The Central Islands of the Torres Strait includes Iama (Yam Island), Masig (Yorke Island), Poruma (Coconut Island) and Warraber (Sue Island). It is home to diverse wildlife, marine animals and ecosystems housing bird rookeries, native trees, shrubs and vines and supports sea turtle hatcheries, giant clam gardens and coral cays.

The UNESCO Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022-2032 aims to draw global attention to preserve, revitalise and promote the world’s Indigenous languages.

It is estimated around 250 Indigenous languages were once spoken in Australia, with approximately 90 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages now considered endangered.

Learn more about the TSRA at www.tsra.gov.au

Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people are advised this website may contain names, images and recordings of people who have passed.