Mer

About Mer (Murray Island)

Location

Mer (also known as Murray Island) is the most eastern island in the Torres Strait, and is located about 225km from Thursday Island. It is 1 of the 3 islands known as the Murray Group, which also includes Erub and Ugar islands.

Languages

Meriam Mer [Meri-am Mer] is the predominant language spoken on Mer. Torres Strait Creole and English are also spoken. Assistance may be required for complainants, witnesses, victims and defendants who appear before the courts.

History of Mer

Mer facts and figures

Key social indicators from the 2016 Census for the Mer community include:

  • 26.8% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples aged 15 years and over had completed year 12 or equivalent
  • 19% of households with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were overcrowded.

The following figures are from the 2011 Census and will be updated later in 2017:

  • 25% of dependent children in families with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were from jobless families
  • 11.7% unemployment rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples aged 15 to 64 years
  • 33% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples aged 15 to 64 years worked in the Public administration and safety industry.

For more 2011 and 2016 census information on education, employment, income, housing figures and more for Mer, build a statistical profile on Know Your Community.

Native title information

Search for native title information on the National Native Title Tribunal website.

[ Return to top ]

Visiting Mer

Mer Island is part of the Torres Strait Island Regional Council (TSIRC). The TSIRC asks all visitors to Mer to register their visit before they arrive. It is also recommended that visitors read the TSIRC's information on culture, protocols and heritage.

Getting to Mer

Mer is very remote and can only be accessed from the mainland by boat or air. A number of flight companies offer air services in the Torres Strait, with flights leaving from Horn Island. Private charters and transfers are also available by boat. 

Seasonal considerations

The wet season in the Torres Strait starts around October and ends around April-May. The region may be subject to strong weather conditions at this time.

Quarantine restrictions

When visiting the Torres Strait you need to observe the quarantine regulations. It is against the law to move plant and animal material, including fruit, from the Torres Strait to the mainland.

For more information visit the Australian interstate quarantine website.

Alcohol restrictions

There are no alcohol management plans for islands in the Torres Strait. Please check with the local council as some island communities may have preferred protocols in relation to the consumption of alcohol. 

Local government

Search the local government directory for information about the Torres Strait Island Regional Council. 

Who to contact if you have questions about your visit

Regional Director (Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships)

Phone: 07 4069 1243
Mobile: 0400 769 868

Torres Strait Island Regional Council

Phone: 07 4034 5700
Fax: 07 4034 5750
Email: info[at]TSIRC.qld.gov.au

Sorry business and sad news

When a member of the Mer community passes away, there are a number of long held cultural practices which must take place. The whole community shuts down when the community is informed of the Sad News and then again on the day of the funeral.

The announcement to members of the family and the community is made by an elder, a local priest or a councillor. In-laws (both males and females), referred to as Neubet [Nay-bet], play a very important role during the immediate period following a death. Their tasks are organising meals and making funeral arrangements and ensuring that family and community members are safe and supported.

The community gathers together daily to share, comfort and support each other until the day of the funeral. A feast is held after the funeral to conclude the initial stage of the mourning period – the terminology used to mark this period in the eastern islands (including Mer Island) is referred to as Izurzur-Lewer [E-zurr-zurr Lair-Werr]. The English translation is cry - calm – feasting.

For Torres Strait Islander cultures, ‘Tombstone Openings’ are a time for celebration and symbolise the point that brings closure for the family of the deceased through the celebration of the person’s life. There is a lengthy mourning process from the time of the person’s death, culminating with the unveiling of the tombstone ceremony, which is followed by feasting and dancing. This process usually takes place about 1 or 2 years after the funeral, however, some families may take longer to prepare for this event. 

[ Return to top ]

Community justice group

The role of the Community Justice Group (CJG) is to ensure that clients of the service are given appropriate cultural support for court matters. The CJG also provides cultural reports to the courts at sentencing and bail applications, assistance to the courts in managing community-based offences, and networking to implement crime prevention initiatives.

Members of the CJG work closely with a number of justice agencies including the Queensland Magistrates Court, Department of Corrective Services, Queensland Police Service, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service. The CJG works to support the community’s understanding of and access to the justice system by working in conjunction with Shire Council by-laws and victim support agencies.

Key ways the CJG is able to assist the community and the courts include:

  • participation in community consultations relevant to the CJG’s role within the criminal justice sector
  • preparation and presentation of written and oral sentencing submissions to the court
  • defendant support and referral (including court support)
  • victim support and referral (including court support)
  • support for debtors wishing to access the State Penalties and Enforcement Registry.

The local CJG for Mer is:

Mer Island Community Justice Group
C/- Mer Island Council
Mer Island 4875

Coordinator: Edith Gesa
Chairperson/Director: vacant

Phone: 07  4069 4090 
Fax: 07 4069 4965 (council)
Mobile: 0498 008 169
Email: gesa_nina[at]yahoo.com.au or dorawailu[at]hotmail.com

[ Return to top ]

Community services

Use the Queensland Government's one place service directory to find up-to-date contact information for local support services including:

  • legal advice and support services
  • youth justice and support groups
  • domestic and family violence support
  • drug and alcohol services
  • mens' and women's groups
  • accident, emergency and medical services

[ Return to top ]

More information

 

[ Return to top ]

Is your feedback

Please submit your comments on the department's Compliments and Complaints section.

Please submit your comments on the Queensland Government website Contacts form.