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date: 02 June 2020

Torres Strait Islandslocked

  • Jude Philp


Island group in the Torres Strait, north of Cape York peninsula, Queensland, Australia, and south of the island of New Guinea. There is no indigenous term for the region, named after Luis Baez de Torres, the first known European to navigate it in 1606. While the Melanesian peoples of the Torres Strait employ the name ‘Torres Strait Islanders’, it is more common that they affiliate themselves with a particular island, village and family. Similarly, although an Islander performance can be broadly described in the common creole as in an ‘Ailan stail’, each performance also references the quite specific traditions and histories of one of the 18 communities in the Strait. The population of these diverse communities is small and is only a fraction of the total 31,000 Islanders, most of whom live on the Australian mainland. Three distinct languages are spoken: Meriam Mir in the eastern islands, Kala Lagaw Ya (and dialects) in the western islands and Torres Straits Broken, the creole language which is spoken throughout the area....

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