Our Region

Across the Torres and Endeavour Straits, the Federal Court of Australia has made 29 native title determinations. Combined, these determination areas cover a total of 99 islands, inlets cays and sea country, including:

  • 15 inhabited islands (with the court recognising exclusive native title rights and interests over 14 islands and non-exclusive native title over Horn Island); and
  • 44,000km2 of non-exclusive native title rights over sea country (Seas claim Part A, and most of Parts B and C).

Our native title rights and interests recognised that our society has existed since time immemorial governed by our laws and customs unique to us.

Those laws and customs govern our daily life and the use and ownership of land and waters of our communities.

The Torres Strait is a unique part of Queensland and Australia.

Whilst all communities have their own unique challenges, strengths and opportunities, we are the only part of Queensland and Australia that shares an international border and is directly impacted by rights protected under the Torres Strait treaty.

The region is located in the most northern part of Australia. It covers 48,000 km2 and is home to about 120 islands. It stretches 150km northwards from the Cape York Peninsula to papua New Guinea, and is up to 300km wide.

2 Historic Decisions

It is well known that two historic decisions from the High Court of Australia recognising native title rights originated in the Torres Strait. The first decision which accepted and recognised native title rights and interests in Australia for the first time was the Mabo decision of 1992 (Mabo v Queensland [No 2](1992) 175 CLR  1). After a 10-year claims process, the High Court recognised the Meriam People’s traditional ownership of Mer. 

The second landmark native title decision from the High Court of Australia relates to the waters of the Torres Strait. In “Akiba on behalf of the Torres Strait Islanders of the Regional Seas Claim Group V State of Queensland (No 2) [2010] FCA 643” the High Court held that the Torres Strait Islander claimants hold native title rights and interests in their sea country, including the right to take fish for commercial purposes. 

5 traditional island clusters

within the Torres Strait

Top Western Islands – Guda Maluligal Nation

Boigu, Dauan and Saibai

Western Islands – Maluligal Nation

Badu (Mulgrave Island), Mabuiag (Jervis Island), Moa Island (Kubin and St Pauls communities)

Central Islands – Kulkalgal Nation

Iama (Yam Island), Masig (Yorke Island), Poruma (Coconut Island), Warraber (Sue Island)

Eastern Islands – Kemer Kemer Meriam Nation

Mer (Murray Island), Ugar (Stephen Island), Erub (Darnley Island)

Inner Islands – Kaiwalagal Kaurareg Aboriginal Nation

Keriri (Hammond Island), Muralug (Prince of Wales Island), Ngurupai (Horn Island), Waiben (Thursday Island)