Murray or Mer Island is one of three islands known generally as the Murray Group, named in 1791 by Captain E. Edwards, HMS Pandora. They are among the most north-easterly of the numerous islands and cays in Torres Strait, and Murray Island is 120 km from the tip of Cape York.

The Merian people were encountered by Matthew Flinders in 1802, who described them as friendly and eager to trade. Whilst welcoming to strangers, the Merians were not notably of a seafaring disposition, but attached to local activities, village and gardens. Attachment to land would have significant consequences in the 1980s.

The first contact with Christianisation was through the Church of England. In the late 1930s the Assembly of God entered the island, creating a second non-islander political entity. After World War II the Legion of Ex-servicemen created a third circle of influence.

By the 1980s the Merian economy had changed radically. The lack of material goods had become apparent with war service and postwar mobility. Employment off the island brought in hard currency, used to buy imported goods. Fishing could only supply local needs because distance from markets or freezing facilities prevented an export industry. Preserved foods were stocked at the store, and many of the gardens in the island's interior were overgrown. Murray Island was described as a 'remittance economy par excellence'. Not all gardening was discarded, however. When the Queensland government proposed to formalise native occupation by a trust or lease arrangement, it was challenged by Eddie Mabo and others on the ground of abrogating their families' continuous occupation of the land. The Mabo case (1992) became the basis for modern native-title law.

Murray Island has pre-school and primary education (1985) and until 2008 the Murray Island Community Council. Its census populations have been:

Census DatePopulation

Jeremy Beckett, Torres Strait Islanders: custom and colonialism, Sydney, Cambridge University Press, 1987

Torres Strait Island Regional Council entry

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