Badu Island once had a feared reputation as an island of headhunters. Warfare, farming, fishing, canoe building, house building, turtle and dugong hunting and a host of other activities were the main occupations of Badu men until the 1870s; of these headhunting disappeared with the adoption of Christianity.
Pearlers established bases on the island during the 1870s and by the early 1880s the islanders were becoming dependent on wages earned as lugger crew. At the same time, the first missionaries arrived. At the peak of the shell industry in the late 1950s, the Badu fleet of 13 boats employed a workforce of 200 providing work for many men, even from other islands as well. Once the shell trade declined, many people moved to the mainland for work 
On 1 February 2014 the Queensland Government handed over to the Badulgal traditional owners freehold title to 10,000 hectares of land on Badu Island, ending a struggle for recognition dating back to 1939. The title deed was handed over by Mr David Kempton, Assistant Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, to Badu Elder Lily Ahmat at a ceremony on the island.
Infrastructure on Badu Island consists of:
- Regional Council Office
- State School (Years 1 to 7)
- Health Centre with permanent doctor
- Two grocery stores
- Indigenous Knowledge Centre
- Post Office
- Centrelink Agency
- Football Field
A number of other locally owned run businesses are in operation at Badu including live seafood exports.
- 1989, Beckett, Jeremy Torres Strait Islanders: custom and colonialism, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1989
- 2006 Bruno David and Marshall Weisler, KURTURNIAIWAK (BADU) and the Archaeology of Villages in Torres Strait Australian Archiology, No. 63,December
- Torres News, 10–16 February 2014
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