Saibai Island

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Saibai (Landsat).png
Landsat image of Saibai
Saibai Island is located in Australia
Saibai Island
Saibai Island (Australia)
Location Torres Strait
Coordinates 09°24′S 142°41′E / 9.400°S 142.683°E / -9.400; 142.683
Archipelago Torres Strait Islands
Major islands Saibai, Kauamag
Area 107.9 km2 (41.7 sq mi)
Length 21.8 km (13.55 mi)
Width 5.2 km (3.23 mi)
Highest elevation 1.7 m (5.6 ft)
Highest point unnamed
State  Queensland
Shire Shire of Torres
Island Region Top Western
Largest city Saibai (pop. 171)
Population 337 (as of 2006)
Density 3.1 /km2 (8 /sq mi)
Ethnic groups Torres Strait Islanders

Saibai Island (9°24′S 142°41′E / 9.400°S 142.683°E / -9.400; 142.683Coordinates: 9°24′S 142°41′E / 9.400°S 142.683°E / -9.400; 142.683) is one of the Torres Strait Islands in Australia, between the Australian mainland and the island of New Guinea.

Most of the island is held under native title, apart from some government infrastructure and historic buildings. [1]


Saibai is a fairly large low-lying island only 8 km from the Papua New Guinea mainland.[2] Close north is uninhabited Kauamag Island, separated from Saibai by a channel that is seven kilometres long, between 180 and 650 metres wide, and nearly blocked at its east end.

The island is flat, predominantly mangrove swamplands, with the highest point being 1.7 m asl, and prone to flooding during the wet season, which coincides with king tides. A bitumen airstrip allows year-round access.

The main village of Saibai, in the northwest, has a population of 171. The second village, Churum [Surum White Sand], in the southwest, numbers 128.

Heritage listings[edit]

Saibai Island has a number of heritage-listed sites, including:


The island is about 24 km by 8 km,[2] but only a small proportion is inhabited. The population is transient, but is recorded between 350 & 400 people. The population is 70% indigenous, Torres Strait Islander people, with 25% Papuan and 5% White Australian.[citation needed]

The language spoken on Saibai is Kalaw Kawaw Ya (KKY). Saibai Islanders have always traded and had good relations with neighbouring Papuans.[citation needed] The Saibai Islanders converted to Christianity in 1871 with the arrival of the London Missionary Society.[citation needed]


The island was formed by alluvial deposits from Papua New Guinean rivers.[4] After Saibai Island was devastated by abnormally high tides wave after WW2, a group of Saibai Islanders, led by Bamaga Ginau, accepted Government assistance to resettle on Cape York. The village of Saibai was totally flooded by ten centimeters of water. Erosion and a lack of freshwater were concerns.[2] Once a site was chosen inland of Red Island, the new town was named Bamaga. Later some moved to a new settlement at Red Island Point on the coast and named it Seisia.[5]

In January 2012, very high tides inundated the island's cemetery and damaged sacred gravesites.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Saibai People v Queensland, 1999 FCA 158 (Federal Court of Australia 12 February 1999).
  2. ^ a b c Fraser, Lynn and Yvonne (2009). Cape York: A 4WD experience. Brisbane, Australia: Boolarong Press. p. 77. ISBN 1-921555-17-3. Retrieved 18 January 2012. 
  3. ^ "Holy Trinity Church (entry 15649)". Queensland Heritage Register. Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  4. ^ Kaye, Stuart B. (1997). The Torres Strait. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 8. ISBN 90-411-0506-9. 
  5. ^ "Seisia Holiday Park - History - Saibai Island, Bamaga, Seisia". Seisia Holiday Park, Koraba Road SEISIA QLD 4876. Retrieved 16 July 2011. 
  6. ^ "High tides prompt Torres Strait malaria fears". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 18 January 2012. Retrieved 18 January 2012. 

External links[edit]