Saibai Mura Buway (Torres Strait Islander) Corporation
The Saibay Mura Buway (Torres Strait Islander) Corporation administers the native title rights and interests recognised over Saibai Island, the largest island in the Top Western Cluster.
This determination arose from a native title claim originally lodged by the Saibai people with the National Native Title Tribunal in 1995. It was successfully negotiated between the parties over four years. All parties recognised the Saibai people’s native title rights to possess, use occupy and enjoy their land. This agreement was approved by Justice Drummond of the Federal Court in February 1999, recognising Saibai ownership of Saibai, Mawalmay Thoera, Thawpay Kawamag and Kuykuthal Kawamag Islands, in the Torres Strait.
In addition to the Saibai Island determination, the Saibai Mura Buway (Torres Strait Islander) Corporation also administers an Indigenous Land Use Agreement between the Saibai people and Telstra.
The PBC represents all seven clan groups on the island. According to PBC Chair, Herbert Warusam, the PBC still struggles from a lack of resources and has seen little progress after the native title determination in 1999. Community capacity and empowerment is also crucial to strengthening native title: ‘my people are asleep, so I have got to wake them up’.
Saibai is long and narrow: approximately 20km long by 6km wide. The island was originally formed by alluvial sediment from Papua New Guinea’s river systems, which are only 5kms to the north of the island. At an average of one metre above sea level, the island interior is a mixture of mangroves, flood plain and brackish swamps.