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Torres Strait artwork to adorn AMSA Challenger rescue aircraft

Artist impression of the design on the AMSA Challenger rescue aircraft.

Traditional artwork from a remote island in the Torres Strait will soon be flying high across the Far North Queensland region and abroad.

A Torres Strait Islander artist has been offered the opportunity to provide a unique Indigenous artwork to be featured on the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) Challenger rescue aircraft.

Artist Michael Nona, from Badu Island in the Torres Strait, was selected by AMSA to produce the artwork following an Expression of Interest (EOI) process run by the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) earlier this year.

The inspiring Indigenous design will be wrapped around the front section of a Challenger 604 rescue aircraft, operated for AMSA by Cobham Special Mission, which is part of AMSA’s search and rescue fleet in Australia.

The design concept features a shark, known as Baydham in Kala Lagaw Ya language, which represents an important symbol in the Torres Strait region. Known as the protector of the reef, sharks play a role in maintaining balance in the seas.

AMSA Chief Executive Mick Kinley said the traditional artwork was selected due to its significance with AMSA’s key role of keeping the seas safe and clean as well as safe navigation.

“The design to appear on AMSA’s aircraft will include the stars of Zugubaw Baydham, also known as the Big Dipper, which was used to determine if it was safe to travel at night by looking at how bright it was in the sky,” Mr Kinley said.

“This addition to the rescue aircraft reflects the connection AMSA has with the people of the Torres Strait and the safe navigation of its waters.”

TSRA Chairperson Napau Pedro Stephen AM said several artists from the Torres Strait region submitted their expressions of interest for this opportunity.

“The Torres Strait’s unique art and culture is a regional asset,” Mr Stephen said.

“The selected piece will promote the Torres Strait region through its maritime theme, and reinforce AMSA’s vision; safe and clean seas, saving lives.

“Our partnership with AMSA shows the sky’s the limit and the TSRA will continue seeking opportunities for our artists.”

Cobham Special Mission Managing Director James Woodhams said: “We are honoured that an indigenous artwork of such significance and connection to our role will be proudly flying with us as we undertake missions to save lives.

“This aircraft, VH-XNE, will be the most recognisable national search-and-rescue asset in the country and I hope the story behind the artwork will promote deeper understanding about how the Torres Strait Islander people regard the shark as a protector of the reef.”

The design will be painted on the aircraft – which provides a vital community service throughout Australia including in the Torres Strait region – in the coming months.  It will be launched at a special ceremony to be jointly hosted by AMSA, TSRA and Cobham early next year.

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