The Top Western Islands comprise Boigu, Dauan and Saibai Islands.

The interior of Boigu island is sparsely vegetated and mainly swampland. The coast is fringed by mangroves which protect the island's sand and mud from sea erosion. Boigu was visited by South Sea Islander missionaries of the London Missionary Society, sometime after the establishment of a mission on nearby Saibai Island in 1871. The language of Kalau Kawau Ya is spoken on Boigu, Dauan and Saibai Islands.

During the pearling era most of the men worked on pearling luggers. Many enlisted with the Torres Strait Light Infantry during the Second World War. There is regular trade between these islands and Papuan villages where locals carrying a permit may cross the border but outsiders may not. Strict quarantine regulations are in force in these Islands.

Boigu, Dauan and Saibai Islanders have close family, clan, and religious ties with neighbouring Papuans.

Saibai was devastated by abnormally high tides after the Second World War. A group of Saibai Islanders, led by Bamaga Ginau, eventually accepted Government assistance to resettle on Cape York. The reserve that was established was named Bamaga and Seisia (Red Island Point).

These distinct cultural and geographical characteristics define the Top Western Islands as a region and people. The material listed in this section of the guide includes unpublished material such as letters, photographs, paintings and diaries referring to the Islands and people. Please note that the individuals who were interviewed or photographed may not have been in the Top Western Island cluster when recorded.

Each Island has been categorized with related material which can be viewed in more detail by clicking on the related link to the Library's catalogue record. If a photo is included a link will also be provided to it's catalogue record.

Saibai - Saibai Island


  • Specimens of the language of Saibai Island, Torres Strait, 1964
    Linguistically detailed English and traditional translations to words and phrases. Saibai Stories are in English and in traditional Language. These stories are written in the local language and the word lists are detailed to provide an English and traditionally used explanation.


  • Consecration of Bishop Kiwami Dai, Thursday Island, 1986
    This album of 25 coloured images contained pictures not only of Bishop Dai but also of the Saibai Island Community in the Consecration Ceremony. Including dancing and warrior attire and general pictures. These photos show the Saibai Community celebrations on Thursday Island with various community members photographed dancing or attending the event. As the photographs are not yet digitised they are not yet available online.

Special collection materials can be accessed through our Special Collections Reading Room located on the first floor of the National Library

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