Just off the tip of Cape York, at the far north of Queensland lies Waiben or Thursday Island, in the Torres Strait Islands, and the main town with the same name. "T.I." for short is a pleasant little place, home to Torres Strait Islanders, one of the indigenous peoples of Queensland. Not Aborigines, these are Melanesian people and related to their neighbours in Papua New Guinea, just to the north, with their own unique culture and languages.
The administrative and commercial centre of the Torres Strait Islands, T.I. started as a fishing village and even today fishing, also for prawns, is an important activity. People are friendly and the fishing is good. It is a unique part of Australia, feeling more like a different country, which, in a way, it is. The island is just over 3 square kilometres in area with a population of around 2,500, the metropolis of the Torres Strait islands. The islands around Thursday Island, like much larger Prince of Wales island and Horn Island, where the airport is situated, are also (sparsely) inhabited.
Thursday Island is the commercial and administrative settlement for the Torres Strait. Called Waiben by local Muralag people, the small island is at the centre of the Prince of Wales group. In 1877, the Queensland government transferred its Torres Strait administrative base there from Somerset on the tip of Cape York. By the late 1880s a town had developed, and its function, as the distribution point for freight and passengers going to and from other islands, was established. T.I. became the busy centre of the pearling industry as well as for onshore accommodation. After the bombing of nearby Narupai (Horn Island) in 1942, the entire civilian population was evacuated, and the navy requisitioned the pearling fleet. Many men whose jobs on the boats disappeared were among the 700 islanders who enlisted in the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion. After the war ended, many veterans remained on T.I., taking jobs with agencies involved in Island administration. By the late 1980s, a third of the Torres Strait population lived on Thursday Island in the Tamwoy reserve. The Department of Aboriginal and Islander Affairs managed Tamwoy until the formation of a community council in 1965. Tamwoy and four other small Islander settlements on Thursday Island are now known as the TRAWQ (Tamwoy, Rosehill, Aplin, Waiben and Quarantine) community.