Skip to content
Empowering our people · In our decision · In our culture · For our future

Culture, protocols & heritage

Our culture

Torres Strait Islanders have a distinct culture which varies slightly within each island or community.

We are a sea-faring people, and engaged in trade with people of Papua New Guinea. The culture is complex, with some Australian elements, Papuan elements and Austronesian elements (also seen in the languages spoken).

Like Aboriginal people of mainland Australia, Torres Strait Islanders are traditionally agriculturalists and food is supplemented through hunting and gathering. Cooking and hunting is distinct to the Torres Strait culture and is taught from a young age.

More recent post-colonial history has seen new cultural influences, most notably Christianity.

Our people of the Torres Strait have a long history of developing stories, crafts and games, including:

  • traditional dancing styles performed at celebrations
  • storytelling and music (such as singing and drumming) passed down from generation to generation.

Our people also have private cultural practices involving adoption and gift-giving within Torres Strait families.

Read TSRA's  Torres Strait Cultural Protocols to find out more.

**THIS PAGE IS CURRENTLY UNDER REVIEW, WE WELCOME ANY SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT - Please email engagement@tsirc.qld.gov.au**

Languages

There are two distinct languages spoken throughout the Torres Strait:

  • Kalaw Lagaw Ya, Kalau Kawau Ya, Kulkalgau and Kawalgau Ya. These are dialects of the Western-central Torres Strait Language (Kala Lagaw Ya), and are spoken on the southwestern, western, northern and central islands. They are related to Aboriginal languages.
  • Meriam Mir is related to Papuan languages and is spoken on the eastern islands.