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Restoration project at Mer revives Sai Arbir cultural practice

Meriam Traditional Owners celebrate the successful restoration of the Sai at Igir.

Meriam Gesep a Gur Keparem Le Rangers recently partnered with the community and Mer Gedkem Le Registered Native Title Body Corporate (RNTBC) to undertake a Sai Arbir pilot project: restoration of the historical sai (stone fish traps) of Mer (Murray Island) in the eastern Torres Strait. Sai Arbir traditionally involves the seasonal practice of community members coming together during Koki season, from January to March, to repair and maintain the 23 sai of Mer.

Sai are used year-round by Meriam Le, the people of Mer. Fish and squid are speared in the shallow lagoons left behind by the outgoing tide. Damage to sai occurs during the Sager season, from April to September, when strong south-east winds and waves damage the stone walls of the fish traps.

This restoration project was inspired by Meriam Elders who expressed concern that the skills required to build and restore sai are at risk of being lost, together with the knowledge of cultural protocols that govern the correct way to restore them.   During the restoration, 20 community members worked alongside Rangers to restore over 300m of one sai over 5 days at Igir.

TSRA Chairperson, Mr Napau Pedro Stephen said, “This Sai Arbir project is an example of the exceptional work TSRA Rangers deliver in Torres Strait communities to bring Traditional Owners’ aspirations for protecting our land, sea and culture to life. Rangers responded to a concern of Elders involving the gradual loss of this traditional cultural practice and with the support and direction of Mer Gedkem Le RNTBC and Elders. They worked to revitalise these skills and related traditional knowledge in community for future generations”.

Mer Gedkem Le RNTBC Chair Mr Falen Passi acknowledged the enormous contribution the Mer Rangers have made by spearheading this project.  Mr Passi stated, “By coming together, Meriam Elders and community members have demonstrated a fine example of Meriam Le’s commitment to protecting our vital cultural knowledge and teaching cultural protocols to future generations of Meriam Le.”

The Mer Rangers and Mer Gedkem Le RNTBC plan for the Sai Arbir project to continue across the remaining fish traps of Mer – a staged restoration program that will work with the seasonal ebb and flow of the tides on this remote island

  • Restoration project at Mer revives Sai Arbir cultural practice
  • Restoration project at Mer revives Sai Arbir cultural practice
  • Restoration project at Mer revives Sai Arbir cultural practice
  • Restoration project at Mer revives Sai Arbir cultural practice
  • Restoration project at Mer revives Sai Arbir cultural practice

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