Saibai Island People LandingPrint Page Print this page


Photographs supplied by John Huth
A plaque commemorates the landing by the people of Saibai Island who migrated to the Australian mainland in 1947 and established a settlement in Muttee Heads before moving to Bamaga. 

The people of Seisia and Bamaga originated from Saibai Island. Saibai Island is located 8km south of Papua New Guinea, although the island is one of the largest in The Torres Strait it consists mostly of swampland with some elevated grassland areas.

After the Second World War the enlisted men returned to the island, informing the community of a place on The Mainland they believed would provide the Saibai community with a sustainable future. Soon after, a combination of wet season rain and king tides flooded Saibai Island. Saibai's leader, Bamaga Ginau, called a meeting to hold discussions regarding the problems being caused by this flooding and the affect it was having on the fresh water supply, the limited supply of wood for building and the area of land available for future housing - concerns were increasing about the islands ability to support future generations. The decision was made to relocate to the mainland.

Over the course of 1947 the “Macoy” and “Millard” luggers were used to transport Chief Bamaga and the people of Saibai to Cape York Peninsula.

A temporary site at Muttee Heads was selected, The Department of Native Affairs (D.N.A.) arranged the erection of a temporary medical post and store, a temporary church was also erected. As more families arrived more housing was required, using the old army huts from the war and any building materials found many homes and a school for the children were built.

Once all the families had arrived Chief Bamaga, the Minister of Lands and some of the islanders commenced the search for a suitable site for their permanent relocation. 

The land inland of Red Island was chosen, an ideal location with two creeks for fresh water. Early in 1949, with Chief Bamaga ill and in Thursday Island's hospital, the community's Chairman and Deputy Chairman visited Badu Island for the election of island representatives. A few days after this election Chief Bamaga passed away, he was laid to rest at Cowell Creek, Injinoo. On September 9 th 1949 The D.N.A. invited all Torres Strait Islanders to the consecration of land that had been selected by Chief Bamaga before his passing.

During the ceremony the land was named “Bamaga” in honour of their Chief; The Bamaga Show celebrates the anniversary of this occasion. As the new housing was slowly completed the families started to move from their temporary settlement to Bamaga, some families chose to remain at Muttee Heads.


Address:via Injinoo, Muttee Heads , 4876
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -10.913524
Long: 142.254627
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Plaque
Monument Theme:Landscape
Actual Event STart Date:01-June-1947
Actual Event End Date:01-June-1947


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Saturday 31st May, 1997
Front Inscription

           In Memoriam

These Graves Are The Remains Of The
Pioneering People Of Saibai Island Who
Participated In The Exodus To The
Australian Mainland And Established
A Temporary Settlement At Muttee
Heads In 1947 Before Moving On To The
Present Site Of Bamaga.

This Plaque Was Dedicated On 31st May 1997
To Commemorate The Landing At Muttee
Heads By The People Of Saibai Island On
         June 1st 1947.

Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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