Award-winning journalist and communications consultant.

Aaron Smith makes a huge and extremely valuable contribution to journalism in Australia. With insight and commitment he brings issues of national and international significance to audiences in Australia and beyond.

Tess Newton Cain, Project Lead for the Pacific Hub at Griffith Asia Institute

Calls grow for Australia’s frontier wars to be remembered on Anzac Day

When Gimuy Walubara Yidinji elder Theresa Dewar lays a wreath at the Cairns cenotaph on Tuesday, it will be to remember a conflict that took place well before Gallipoli. For the seventh year in a row Dewar and fellow traditional owners will use the occasion of Anzac Day to remember those killed in Australia’s frontier wars. “It is very important for us to meet on that day to remember what went on in the war that was in this country first,” Dewar says. “It involved our ancestors, it involved th

‘No end to this’: six visas, six migration agents, four jobs in regional Australia and still no permanent residency

After approximately $70,000, six visas, six migration agents and four different jobs in regional areas, the Sri Lankan national Mohamed Farshan Mohamed Fairoos is no closer to reaching his goal to have the right to settle in Australia permanently. Since arriving in the country as a student in 2007, Fairoos has spent eight years working in hospitality, from Kangaroo Island to Thursday Island, from the wine belt of Victoria to the southern highlands of New South Wales where he is now based, tryin

‘Everybody has had a gutful’: online anti-crime groups propel Queensland to a political reckoning

In the mid-morning daylight, alongside a busy road in north Toowoomba, two First Nations girls screamed out at passing traffic: “somebody call the police”. At least one motorist did call. He said a green SUV, driven by an older white male, was following the two girls and had “swerved on to the footpath as if it were trying to hit them”. An account of the incident, like most reports of crime, was soon relayed by the witness to the 43,000 members of a local Facebook page. “I sure hope they’re o

Three years after beating deportation, Indigenous Australians freed from visa limbo

A group of Indigenous Australians who spent almost three years in limbo without basic human rights since the high court ruled they could not be deported as aliens have been granted special purpose visas allowing them to work, access Medicare and travel internationally. But the group, some of whom spent years in onshore and offshore immigration detention prior to the court ruling in February 2020, still don’t know how their citizenship claims will ultimately be resolved. Daniel Gibuma is a 58-y

Locals alarmed as Queensland haven to rare tree species to be sold off by CSIRO

There’s an ancient cousin of the eucalypts, Stockwellia quadrifida, found only on Queensland’s highest mountain, Bartle Frere. Podocarpus dispermus, a Gondwanan conifer whose bright red berries are spread by cassowaries and musky rat-kangaroos. And Ficus crassipes, a banana fig that starts life as a seedling in the rainforest canopy then sends its roots cascading to the ground. They’re among 500 mature trees at far north Queensland’s Atherton Arboretum, a CSIRO-owned haven to rare species from

Covid vaccine fast-tracked in Torres Strait as fears of Papua New Guinea outbreak grow

As Papua New Guinea teeters on the brink of a catastrophic outbreak of Covid-19, there are fears that complacency with border security could result in the virus reaching the Torres Strait and then mainland Australia. Covid cases in Papua New Guinea have jumped alarmingly over the last fortnight. The Pacific nation has reported a total of 2,269 cases and 26 deaths over the course of the pandemic but there are fears that the true rate of community transmission is much higher and is masked by low

Australia 'overreacting' to Chinese development plans on northern border

Australia has dramatically overreacted to speculative announcements of possible Chinese-funded development on the Papua New Guinea island of Daru, just north of Australia’s border in the Torres Strait, a former adviser to the PNG government has said. “I think the Chinese just wanted to ruffle a few feathers on the Australian side,” Martyn Awayang Namorong said of the leaked letter describing plans to build a $39bn city on Daru, and last November’s memorandum of understanding signing to establis

Chinese fishing plant in Torres Strait raises alarm for Australian industry and islanders

A $200m Chinese-built fishery plant planned for a Papua New Guinean island could allow Chinese-backed commercial vessels to fish legally in the Torres Strait, and has raised concerns about unregulated fishing in the same waters, potentially threatening the Australian industry and local PNG fishers. China’s ministry of commerce this month announced a $527m kina (A$204m) deal to establish a “comprehensive multi-functional fishery industrial park” project on Daru Island, in PNG’s Western Province.

‘We’re losing $6m a day’: Queensland's tourism industry pleads for more attention

It’s the industry that provides at least 140,000 jobs across Queensland, with most of them outside of Brisbane, but both major parties in the Queensland election have been unusually quiet on it. Tourism is one of Queensland’s biggest industries but the parties instead seem focused on mining and manufacturing. The premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, and the opposition leader, Deb Frecklington, have been making regular announcements of support packages for blue-collar industries – the sort of announc

Indigenous Australians locked in immigration detention believed to be entitled to payout due to 'negligence'

The continuing incarceration of at least 20 people claiming to be of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent in immigration detention centres in Australia appears unlawful and they may be entitled to compensation, legal experts say. A spokesperson from Australian Border Force said that so far only five “non-citizen non-aliens have been released from immigration detention”. Their release follows a high court ruling in February that New Zealand-born Brendan Thoms, a Gunggari native title ho

Cairns feels the pinch as coronavirus turns city into a tourist ghost town

he new Pachamama rooftop bar in Cairns is usually pumping from Friday night through to Sunday. Two months ago there was a throng of young tourists draped on banana lounges around the pool or dancing to the house beats of DJ duo Mark and Anya. But on Sunday, it was deserted. The tourists are gone and just a couple of families are taking advantage of the locals’ Sunday special of sangria jugs as their children swim in the pool. Mark and Anya spin decks to an empty dance floor. The combined eco

Travel between Torres Strait Islands and PNG banned due to fears over coronavirus

Travel between the Torres Strait Islands and Papua New Guinea has been banned after unconfirmed reports of a coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak in the Western Province of PNG. The PNG government has yet to confirm any cases of Covid-19 in the country but councillor Kebei Salee, of the Western Province village of Sigabadaru, said there were unconfirmed cases in the villages of Buji and Ber, while cautioning that “we are waiting for the results of testing”. The two coastal PNG villages are remote and

Torres Strait doctors issue call to arms over climate change impact on Indigenous health

A group of 23 doctors from the Torres Strait and northern Cape York is demanding action to protect remote Indigenous communities from a looming health emergency caused by climate change. In a joint statement, the doctors say they are concerned about the effects of heat stress and extreme weather events, the long-term effects of air pollution, the spread of disease, lost work capacity and reduced productivity, food insecurity, malnutrition, displacement and mental ill-health. “Climate change wi

High Court decision could free Islanders living in limbo

Two Torres Strait Islanders in detention say they were approached by Border Force after the High Court decision and asked to prove their ancestry. (AAP|/Tracey Nearmy) Two Torres Strait Islanders in detention say they were approached by Border Force after the High Court decision and asked to prove their ancestry. (AAP|/Tracey Nearmy) Source: AAP|/Tracey Nearmy Border Force officials have allegedly asked two Torres Strait Islander detainees to prove their ancestry and released two others follow

Torres Strait Islander man held for 2 years in immigration detention says he's lost everything

A Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owner spent two years in immigration detention in Western Australia, now he's worried about what will happen to him if he returns to Country. Torres Strait Islander Daniel Gibuma said he "lost everything" after spending 28 months in Western Australia's Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre. After his release, Mr Gilbuma said he feels that he is living under "house arrest." "When I was locked up, Mum passed away in 2018. Then my brother passed away, then

Why a musician is speaking out about climate impacts in Torres Strait

Jeremy Marou - from the band Busby Marou - has been tormented at watching the sea level rise in his father's homeland. When Torres Strait Islander Jeremy Marou returned to the Torres Strait for the first time in over a decade to work on his new album, he didn't expect it would lead him to becoming an advocate for battling the impacts of climate change for the region. After visiting Masig last month, Mr Marou said: “I’ve seen it in real life and reckon that anyone who questions that climate cha

Torres Strait Islander doctor comes home to serve his community

Beimop Tapim served as the medical officer for HMAS Darwin when it was deployed in the Middle East. (Royal Australian Navy) The Torres Strait Island of Mer welcomed its first resident doctors earlier this month, and both were Indigenous. The first Indigenous resident doctors on the Torres Strait Island of Mer started practising earlier this month when Dr Beimop Justin and his wife, Dr Emma Madams joined the community's medical centre. Dr Tapim, a Meriam man from the Dauar clan, is a Tradition

Federal Labor's $20m seawall election promise praised by State and Torres Strait council

A king tide threatens to surge over an old seawall in Saibai, Torres Strait. (Supplied) Labor's funding commitment for an extensive seawall project in the Torres Strait announced this week trumps the government's $5m work-for-the-dole election promise last month. Labor candidate for the federal seat of Leichhardt, Elida Faith, in Cairns on Wednesday announced a $20 million election commitment for the construction of seawalls in the five Torres Strait islands most at risk from climate change.

Torres Strait push for regional autonomy echos sentiment across nation

A FORUM in the Torres Strait last week discussing regional autonomy and independence is a bellwether of First Nation sentiment on this issue around the country. The forum, held by Gur A Baradharaw Kod Land and Sea Council that oversees the 21 Torres Strait PBC Chairs of the region, invited Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar, Australia's first QC Tony McAvoy, Professor Daryle Rigney from Ngarrindjeri country, South Australia and Professor John Burrows, a Anishinaabe/Ojibway man and a member

'Climate change is actually affecting Torres Strait Islanders right now': Marou

Torres Strait Islander musicians Marou and Busby use trip home to highlight the real impact of climate crisis on the region. Torres Strait Islander and Meriam musician Jeremy Marou, of the acclaimed duo Marou and Busby, said the region is already being impacted by the effects of climate crisis. Marou, who was joined by his musical partner Tom Busby on a visit to Mer recently, said he first became aware of the seriousness of the issue when he sat on the panel of the inaugural First Nations Summ

EXCLUSIVE: Leaked report reveals 'extreme' levels of racism in Queensland public health system

One of the most damning aspects of the report was the lack of financial accountability of Closing the Gap funding. (Uppercut RF) An Anti-Discrimination Commission report reveals high to extreme levels of institutional racism in Queensland hospitals and health services. A damning report by the Anti-discrimination Commission Queensland (ADCQ) has found “high to extreme” levels of institutional racism within the state’s 16 public hospital and health services. The ADCQ report titled, Addressing I

Exclusive: Torres Strait alarmed by 'intimidating' Border Force escalation

The Torres Strait has had an increase in the presence of Australian Border Force where armed personnel are periodically stationed across the islands and stopping and questioning people coming and going between islands and the mainland. Armed Border Force officers have inundated the Torres Strait, say locals, with gun carrying officers scrutinising people travelling between islands on ferries and checking passengers and itineraries of domestic flights at airports. Since late last year the ABF h

“I'm devastated by this, I'm a proud Australian”: Man locked in detention fears deportation after 44 years living in Australia.

PNG-born man Edward Nolan has been detained and threatened with deportation pertaining to the 501 Section of the Citizenship Act. The Department of Home Affairs has again detained and threaten to deport another PNG-born Australian. The father-of-three and grandfather-of-four, Edward Nolan, 46, has lived in Australia for the last 44 years. He was taken from Woodford Prison to a detention centre in Brisbane last Tuesday and has not been given access to legal help. Mr Nolan has been stripped of

Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owner prevented from visiting his home

Jerry Dau, who was deported to PNG in September last year, says he is being blocked from visiting his family on Boigu Island by the Australian government. (NITV News ) Another Torres Strait Island Traditional Owner has been deported to Papua New Guinea on stringent visa laws. A PNG-Born-Torres Strait Islander and Boigu registered Traditional Owner who was deported to Papua New Guinea in September last year says he is now being blocked from visiting his family by the Australian government. Mr

Citizenship confusion continues to affect Islanders

A Torres Strait Islander man has been detained by the Australian Border Force after returning from Papua New Guinea by dinghy. A deported Torres Strait Islander man has been in an immigration holding facility on Horn Island since May 30 after re-entering Australian territory by dinghy and landing on the Torres Strait Island of Saibai. Daniel Charlie arrived from Papua New Guinea early last week and claims he handed himself over to Australian Border Force officers. Mr Charlie was deported to P

Torres Strait council critical of federal government's $5m work-for-the-dole seawall election promise

Federal government funding for an extensive seawall project in the Torres Straits is inadequate to address climate change in the region, says mayor of regional councils. A federal election promise of $5m for seawalls in the Torres Strait has snubbed the local Indigenous council, with the funding to be channelled into the contentious 'work for the dole' Community Development Program (CDP). The funding announcement, made on April 18, has also been criticised as not adequate to address climate ch

Exclusive: 'I am not a criminal', PNG grandmother seized by Border Force after emergency surgery

Rapia Komonde (sitting on left) with relatives on Thursday Island before being seized by ABF. (Supplied) A Papua New Guinean grandmother who travelled to the Torres Strait was seized and taken into detention by Australian Border Force officers after seeking life saving surgery. A Papua New Guinean woman has been held in a Brisbane detention centre for the last six weeks after seeking emergency medical care in the Torres Strait in February. Grandmother Rapia Komonde was suffering acute appendi

'On ANZAC day he would sit in front of the radio and just cry', Torres Strait Diggers seek recognition

They served their country, a country that refused them basic human rights, and then they were ignored and their contributions not given the respect deserved, but now the stories of Torres Strait Islander Diggers are becoming more widely known. WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following article contains images of deceased persons. That Australia's Black Diggers gave everything, sometimes their lives, for a country that didn't give them the full rights

Sovereignty and lobsters: Torres Strait Islanders battle to own their fisheries

Fishing rights in the Torres Strait has come to a head. (AAP) Torres Strait Islanders are pushing for full ownership of the tropical rock lobster catch, but will the federal government's management plan thwart this? The battle for ownership of the region's fisheries has reached a loggerhead, with the Commonwealth calling for a management plan to signed off by December 1 on the most lucrative industry: the tropical rock lobster fishery. The issue of cultural rights has been keenly felt this ye

'This is my home': Woman fears deportation after 56 years in Australia

Catherine Bird believed all of her life that she was an Australian, holding citizenship papers and a passport. (Pexels) A war hero's daughter - who was born in Papua New Guinea - faces deportation and has gone into hiding. When Australian woman Catherine Bird had her passport renewal declined and citizenship revoked two years ago, it revealed a failing in our constitution and of the sovereign rights of Australia's citizens. It has serious implications for both citizens born in external Austral

‘Where will I go?’: Man fears deportation after 48 years in Australia

Daniel Gibuma has lived in Australia for most of his life but now faces the possibility of being deported to Papua New Guinea. (Getty Images) He once held Australian citizenship but has been held in an immigration detention centre for nearly a year. Formally recognised Traditional Owners who have spent most of their lives on the Torres Strait Islands have been detained for months on end and fear they will be deported to Papua New Guinea. Daniel Gibuma, a 54-year-old grandfather, is one of at

Australian government fails to consult PNG over deportations

Murray Island towards Daua and Waua Islands, in the eastern group of the Torres Strait Islands. (Torres Strait Regional Authority) PNG-born Australians are being detained, deported and having their Australian citizenships revoked, and one law expert says the Australian Government may be in breach of international law . Papua New Guinea's Chief Immigration Officer, Solomon Kantha, claims the Australian Department of Home Affairs has not consulted the PNG government about several recent deportat

The 'forgotten people': When death came to the Torres Strait

Thursday Island, Australia (CNN) Milton Savage sits on the porch of his cement board house on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait, about 40 kilometers (24 miles) north of Australia's northern tip. Shaded by a lush tropical garden, Savage is stripped to the waist in a pair of footy shorts. He sips green tea and puffs on a cigarette while two old dogs lie on his feet wheezing in the monsoonal heat. Savage is the Chair of the Kaurareg Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, the government-backed or

Australia's forgotten indigenous World War II veterans

Torres Strait, Australia (CNN) Almost every able-bodied Indigenous man throughout Australia's Torres Strait Islands signed up to defend their country against the threat of invasion during World War II, despite not being recognized as citizens. The country's first and only all Indigenous army unit, the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion, was formed in 1943 as the Japanese Imperial army menaced Australia's northern coastline. Approximately 880 recruits enlisted, from an estimated able-bodied

'I've just refueled the culture tank': NBA star Patty Mills returns home

Mer, Torres Strait (CNN) Australian NBA star Patty Mills could barely walk when he returned after midnight to his spartan lodging on the remote South Pacific island of Mer, his ancestral home in the middle of the Coral Sea. The village Elders gave him as thorough a workout as anything meted out by his trainers at the San Antonio Spurs, who re-signed him as their point guard in August for a reported $50 million ($65 million Australian). Mills is second only to Joe Ingles as the highest paid Aus

The innovative training program for tourist operators on the GBR that could be crucial to its survival

An innovative training program for tourist operators on the Great Barrier Reef could be crucial to the survival of the World Heritage treasure. DESCENDING 30m to the base of Steve’s Bommie, just as the morning sun breaks the horizon, I’m filled with trepidation about whether this undersea setting is still a splendid visual palette of colour and life. It’s been two decades since I last visited this celebrated dive site on Ribbon No. 3 Reef, east of Cooktown, on the outer edge of the Great Barri

On this day: Darwin under attack

On this day: Darwin under attack The largest raid ever mounted on the nation, on 19 February 1942, forced Australia to reconsider its place in the world. ON 19 FEBRUARY 1942, shortly before 10am, Australia faced the first World War II attack on home soil. It shook the nation, changing the perception of a war, which was until then happening in distant lands. The attack would also force Australians to challenge their view of the inchoate nation and its place in the wider world. To this day, the

On this day: One of Australia’s worst maritime disasters

On this day: One of Australia’s worst maritime disasters The loss of the SS Yongala – now a Great Barrier Reef dive site – was a puzzling mystery for almost 50 years. ON 23 March 1911, Australia suffered one of its worst maritime disasters – the sinking of the luxury passenger ferry, the SS Yongala. All 122 people on board were lost, including 49 passengers and 73 crew, as well as Moonshine – a racehorse destined to run in the Townsville Cup – a red Lincoln bull, and some 617 tonnes of cargo.

Lone Pine: seeds grown into a living memorial

From a handful of pine cones found by Aussie diggers at Gallipoli comes a living forest of war memorials. TURKISH TROOPS HAD felled nearby pines to fortify their trenches and only a solitary tree remained on the afternoon of 6 August 1915, when the Battle of Lone Pine began. It was to be one of the bloodiest actions of the Gallipoli campaign and one that still sits in the minds of many as significant in Australia’s history. Standing on a rise known as Lone Pine ridge, that remaining tree was b

Historic shipwrecks around Australia

There are more than 8000 shipwrecks off the coast of Australia, but only a quarter of those have been found. THOUGH SHIPWRECKS RARELY HAPPEN these days, historically, many have met their treacherous end in Australian waters. In fact, surrounding our island continent are nearly 8000 registered wrecks, ranging in age from the 1600s to present day. Of these wrecks, only 2000 have ever been located. The English vessel Trial, lost in 1622 on the northwest coast of Western Australia, is our nation’

Astronomers catch a planet being born

Grainy images of a distant star may help confirm a theory of planet birth more than 300 years old. A TEAM OF SCIENTISTS from Australia, Spain, France and the US have captured what may be the first images of a Solar System being formed. The astronomers used powerful new telescopes at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in Chile to look at the disc of debris surrounding the star T Chamaeleontis, 215 lights-years from Earth. What they found was a ring-shaped space in the disc

SE Asia's oldest rock carving found by surprise

While searching for giant rat fossils, scientists have stumbled on the oldest rock carvings in southeast Asia. THE SEARCH FOR GIANT rat fossils in East Timor has led scientists to the surprise discovery of ancient stone carvings of faces. CSIRO biologist Dr Ken Aplin, along with a team of palaeontologists, was crawling around the floor of Lene Hara Cave in search of fossilised rat bones when he spotted the carvings or petroglyphs in the light of his head lamp. “I just happened to look up and

Hidden populations of mountain pygmy possum found

New populations of the critically endangered mountain pygmy possum have scientists excited. NEW POPULATIONS OF one of Australia’s most endangered marsupials, the mountain pygmy-possum (Burramys parvus), have been discovered in Kosciuszko National Park. Previously, scientists thought the tiny creatures, weighing about 45 g, only lived in four isolated populations, covering a total area of just 5 km sq. in southern NSW and the north-eastern Victorian Alps. But two pygmy possums were discovered

Dance moves help lizards stand out in a crowd

Dance moves help lizards stand out in a crowd From push-ups to head bobbing, these are some of the methods lizards use to get their messages across. LIZARDS HAVE EVOLVED SOME elaborate moves to communicate their messages in a visually crowded world, new Australian research has found. Eight species of Anolis lizard found on the islands of Jamaica and Puerto Rico rely on subtle body movements, to both attract mates and ward off rivals. Each species has evolved its own way to stand out from the

10 of the best shipwreck dives around Australia

10 of the best shipwreck dives around Australia From nearly 8000 shipwrecks around Australia, here are 10 of the best dives sites. The SS Yongala, which disappeared during a cyclone in 1911, is rated by many diving enthusiasts as the one of the best dives in the world. Its exact whereabouts remained a mystery for nearly half a century and rumours abounded for years of a ghost ship seen in the vicinity of where it was lost. A more recent event also haunts this site. In 2003 American Tina Watso

Fairy-wrens hitchhike on predator's song

Male fairy-wrens flirt with danger, singing love songs after a predator’s call, when a female is most attentive. AUSTRALIAN SPLENDID FAIRY-WRENS like to flirt with danger when courting each other, new research has found. To attract the female’s attention, males sing their sexual display songs when predators are nearby. By ‘vocal hitchhiking’ or singing their song after the call of a predator, the males take advantage of the female’s heightened attention. “It seems that male fairy-wrens may be

Vampire flying frog discovered

It’s not exactly a blood-sucker, but a strange species has been discovered in Vietnam’s cloud forests. HIGH IN THE MISTY and little-explored cloud forests of southern Vietnam, biologist Dr Jodi Rowley has discovered a weird new species dubbed the vampire flying frog (Rhacophorus vampyrus). However, Jodi, officially based at the Australian Museum in Sydney, admits the name may be a little misleading. “This forest canopy dwelling amphibian…actually glides using webbing between its fingers and to

Murray-Darling report sparks fierce debate

The release of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan has sparked a fierce debate over how to manage the nation’s food bowl. AUSTRALIA’S LARGEST RIVER SYSTEM, in the Murray-Darling Basin, represents the carotid artery of the nation and its survival has become a contentious issue. The release of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan on 8 October has sparked fierce a debate between the rural community and the Federal Government, about how the region should be managed. The Federal Government’s Murray-Darling Basi

Aaron's journalism has provided a rare and valuable insight into issues affecting the Torres Strait Islander community. Navigating cultural protocols and geographical challenges, he has given a voice to some of Australia's most marginalised people and shared important stories that would otherwise have gone unheard.

Ella Archibald-Binge, 7.30 ABC

I was the editor of Australia's most northerly newspaper, Torres News from May 2013 until its merger with our sister publication Cape York News in October 2019. In that time I produced over 300 editions.

Scroll through below to see the front page of every edition I worked on.

Some articles I wrote for Torres News:

Governor General's 'right of passage'

THE Governor General, Sir Peter Cosgrove visited the Torres Strait last week, and after laying a wreath at Eddie Koiki Mabo's grave on Mer stated it was a “right of passage” he thought every future Prime Minister and Governor General should take. Sir Cosgrove travelled throughout the region from August 9-11 in an Australian Army chinook helicopter, where he visited Thursday Island Tagai State Collage and Tagai TAFE, Thursday Island hospital, Mer Island and Badu Island and even took time to have lunch at Kazu Pearl Farm on Friday Island.

Torres Strait link for multi-national drugs syndicates

A HUGE trans-national, multi-agency drug bust, that foiled a plan to import 300kg of cocaine into Australia via the Torres Strait, again highlights the need for a multi-agency facility on Saibai, TSIRC Mayor Fred Gela says. And he also renewed his call for the Australian Border Force's (ABF) two Fast Response Boats (FRB) to be based on the border. “It's great work by the department in seizing and stopping and reminding potential traffickers coming through this area.

ABF resources spent ‘not where needed’: says Cr Gela

TSIRC Mayor Fred Gela is critical of how Australian Border Force (ABF) is spending its resources in the region, concerned it is not being used as effectively as it could. The two new ABF Fast Response Boats (FRB), that have been in the region since early this year but yet to be put officially into commission are dry-docked at Horn Island and moored in Port Kennedy, and not in the Outer Islands as Cr Gela would like.

Is the Torres Strait a smuggler’s highway?

TORRES Strait may be a smugglers’ route for drugs, ammunition and other contraband entering and exiting the country, a recent multi-agency investigation has found. Acting Officer-in-Charge of Thursday Island Police Station A/Sgt James O’Keeffe said: “I can advise that recent multi-agency operation Oscar Stave has been conducted, targeting trans-national crime entities from both PNG and Australia, on a local level that has resulted in: • 36 offenders on 130 charges, including 25 importing dangerous drugs (predominately cannabis), • 15 drug trafficking, • 31 supplying dangerous drugs, • seven money-laundering offences, and • two exporting explosives in relation to the illegal selling of ammunition to PNG nationals.

The perfect storm batters Torres Strait

THE Wet season in the Torres Strait started with a vengeance last week, where gale force Westerlies, king tides and driving rains have resulted in coastal inundation on many island communities, boats snapping off moorings and boat travel impossible. Both Torres Shire and TSIRC issued severe weather warnings recommending against boat travel. Winds exceeded 70 km per hour, nearly five times the monthly average, with daily dumps of rain up to 100mm, bringing the monthly total to over 388mm, more than double the monthly average.

PM’s visit, a noble gesture but what results?

THE first Prime Minister to visit the birthplace of Native Title stood on the beach on Mer last week, near where Justice Moynihan, who held hearings for Mabo Case on the island, planted a coconut tree with Traditional Owners in 1986. Despite the fact Mr Abbott was very critical of the High Court decision on Mabo at the time, it still seemed like the perfect place for him to announce plans or policy to help close the widening gap or strengthen the road to reconciliation and recognition, especially after he had just laid a wreath on Eddie Koiki Mabo's grave.
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Smith is every inch the grizzled travel reporter of yesteryear... It is refreshing to be reminded such journalist writers still exist.

Chris Flynn, The Paris Review


Chasing El Dorado: A South American Adventure

Wild ride! Travelogues of South America are a ten cent piece to the dozen – but put this one to top of your pile. Exu, Macumba, Quimbanda, Ayahuasca, love and piranhas − it’s all here. Aaron met the woman who was to become his wife when they went dancing deep in the favelas (loosely, and incorrectly translated as ‘slums’ in English) of Rio de Janiero in the last week before his ticket back to Australia ran out. He stayed in Brazil and he and Vivi are now married and living on Thursday Island i

That sinking feeling

What is it about potential near death experiences that make you feel so alive? I ask myself this as I sink into a warm, placenta-like, bottomless abyss. Three Caribbean reef sharks materialise at my side. One of them, two metres in length, drifts so close I can see the glint in its black, primeval eye. With a flick of its tail it disappears again into the blue. Out of sight they will continue to circle us as we descend into the world’s deepest underwater sinkhole. Jacques-Yves Cousteau rated the Great Blue Hole of Belize as one of the world’s top ten dive sites. A near perfect 300-metre diameter circle, 400 metres deep, it sits inside a small reef atoll some 96 kilometres from the Belize mainland.

Lark Distillery, Hobart

Aaron Smith finds out if a one-day whisky tour of Tasmania’s premier boutique distillery is worth the cost. “I would prefer barley be fed to pigs than it be used to turn men into swine.” That’s what Lady Jane Franklin purportedly said of the production of whisky when her husband was governor of Tasmania back in the 1800s. The resultant prohibition led to a 153-year distillation drought in Tasmania until 1992, when land surveyor Bill Lark challenged the law. With the help of some whisky-loving MP

Devils in the Land of Diemen's

HOBART - All Vivi knew of Tasmania, Australia's southernmost state, was what most people knew – the cartoon character, The Tasmanian Devil. But there is a lot more to it than the fictionalized version of a mammal endemic to this island state. Although Tasmania is closer to the Equator than Rome, we didn’t feel it, with icy winds blowing in straight from Antarctica that brought in spring temperatures of a bracing eleven degrees. As the original penal colony for the rest of Australia which was En

Chasing Dragons in Vietnam

VIETNAM - An old fable tells that Halong Bay was formed when a giant dragon came down from the mountains and dove into the South China Sea, the flick of its tail forming the more than 3,000 islands. A Unesco World Heritage Site, this natural wonder is unarguably the jewel in Vietnam’s crown. Putting around on our wooden junk-hotel, we marveled at the monolithic crags of limestone rising from the jade-green sea, the hidden coves and the platinum-white beaches. I half expected to bump into Captai

A Fistful of Dong

VIETNAM - "Good morning Vietnam!" I called out from the balcony of our five-dollar room in Chau Doc, as the tropical sun rose out of the rice paddies. We had floated down the Mekong River by boat from Cambodia into the Mekong Delta, the food bowl of the region. At this time of year it’s rainy season. We putted downstream past a silted river that in a few months would be green fields, bamboo houses on stilts and cud-chewing water buffalo stranded on grass. We passed teenagers up to their necks

Holiday in Cambodia

CAMBODIA - The lyrics of 80s' punk band The Dead Kennedys, “a holiday in Cambodia, where everyone’s wearing black”, rattled around my brain as we bumped along back roads on a minibus across the Thai border to the Cambodian town of Sien Reap. Only a few months earlier this frontier was closed due to skirmishes between the two countries that some feared would result in war. However, with few places with a history as rich or as bloody as this tiny country, Cambodians have understandably had enough

A Thousand Smiles Away

THAILAND - Even though it is known as 'the land of a thousand smiles', this offered Vivi little solace as we arrived in Bangkok after a grueling 24-hour flight from New York. Her throbbing toothache set us off in search of a dentist and not on the usual routes for newly-arrived tourists. Happily, relief was found in the hands of a Thai-born Indian, Dr. Sunil. From the private chauffeur that collected us at our hotel, to the silver service at the reception with complementary cups of tea, fruit j

Biting into the Big Apple

USA: New York, New York; a name so good they say it twice. NYC has had several different names over the years; in the beginning it was known as New Amsterdam when the Dutch controlled the area. First as slaves and later as refugees, Brazilians made up some of the earliest immigrants to what was to become the city, dating back as early as the 1600s. One of the first names for the earliest settlements of New York City, was Geit Stad, which is Dutch for ‘Goat Town’. This was later mispronounced by

The Art of Living in Mexico

MEXICO - One of Oscar Wilde's oft-quoted lines, "Life imitates art far more than art imitates life," makes me wonder if he'd ever been to a Mexican wrestling match. With names like 'Ultimo', 'The Blue Panther' and 'Heavy Metal', the wrestlers somersaulted off the sides of the ring, grabbing, slapping and embracing each other in a brutal, choreographed almost Capoeira-like dance - all to the whooping cacophony of spectators who couldn't get enough of this art form. Vivi, arms crossed, wasn't imp

Chicken Buses and Saints

USA - The expression, “The journey is more important than the destination”, rang true for us as we exited Latin America, eventually disembarking in Houston, Texas. Compared to some of our stops along the way and even despite its mirrored-glass columned skyscrapers, Houston lacked luster. Over 110 days, we had passed through eleven countries; through lands once under the tyranny of despots, lands fought over by revolutionaries, pirates, Spanish crusaders, and lost civilizations dating back mille

Cuba Caught in a Time Warp

CUBA - “My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in El Floridita,” was Hemingway’s famous quote about his two favorite watering holes during the twenty years he lived in Havana. La Bodeguita is reputed to make the world’s best mojito and El Floridita was the cradle of the world’s first daiquiri. Once the pearl of the Spanish crown, then squabbled over by America and Mexico, until Castro’s revolution in 1959, Cuba, the world’s sixteenth largest island, is something to behold. Spellbound by Havana,

Every Hour is Happy Hour in Belize

BELIZE - “White skin brother from a different mother,” resident poet Cecil, crafting verse for his supper on Caye Caulker, would greet me. This idyllic, Caribbean island paradise was our stopping off point to dive the world-famous Blue Hole. After a couple of days it was all high fives with the local Rastafarians, like we’d been there for ever. Cecil was different; he wasn’t peddling contraband or shell bracelets. He was just a fellow scribe trying to get by, so after each donation, he’d give u

Guatemala's History Bubbles Beneath the Surface

GUATEMALA - If, when asking how long a bus trip will take, a Guatemalan answers with a smile, it’s prudent to double the time they've estimated. Admittedly only sometimes is it just blatant lying on the part of the ticket tout - often it’s inclement weather, political uprising and natural disasters. Our six hour trip to the lost city of Tikal, considered the pinnacle of the Mayan civilization and the finale of our two weeks in Guatemala, became an epic twelve hour ordeal. The road was closed du

Water Like Wine in Guatemala

GUATEMALA - “Goin’ up the country where water tastes like wine,” to quote 1970s musicians Canned Heat, sprung to mind as we headed up the sweet waters of Rio Dulce, Guatemala. Able to relax again after an edgy escape from Honduras and its current political unrest, we chilled out in the Garifuna town of Livingston. Accessible only by boat, Livingston sits in the Gulf of Honduras at the mouth of the River Dulce. The Garifuna are a mix of mostly African slaves who revolted in 1795 against the Brit

Honduras's Trouble in Paradise

HONDURAS - Marooned on a Caribbean island, once the hideaway of pirate Henry Morgan, may seem implausible in this day and age. Yet that's essentially our current situation on Utila, one of three of Honduras’s Bay Islands. A world famous diving Mecca, we came to explore Davies’s Locker and possibly find Nemo. However, it’s not the pristine waters or the relaxed island vibe that has us stuck, but rather the political turmoil unfolding on the mainland. Due to corruption accusations, President Man

Life's A Beach in El Salvador

EL SALVADOR - It’s amazing how busy one can be doing absolutely nothing. That’s exactly what we discovered on a small stretch of El Salvador’s 300 kilometers of Pacific Ocean coastline. We had planned to do many things: surf lessons, horseback riding, the laundry and re-stitching the Brazilian flag to Vivi's bag. Eating breakfast at lunchtime, then falling asleep nose pressed between pages nineteen and twenty of a trashy novel while swinging in a hammock was all we could muster. Playa el Tunco,

Zipping and Dipping in Nicaragua

NICARAGUA - “ tranquil, so dreamy, so steeped in slumber and eternal repose”, is how Mark Twain described Isla de Ometepe in 1866, an island formed by two volcanoes in the center of Central America’s largest lake, Lago de Nicaragua. Slumbering in hammocks was what we intended at Hacienda Merida, originally a coffee farm belonging to the Somoza Family, who controlled Nicaragua with tyrannical dictatorships over four decades. It was at the end of a rocky road under Maderas, the thankfully i

Tourists of the Caribbean

COLUMBIA - Arriving in Cartagena on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast, I saw why pirates like the infamous Englishman, Francis Drak, was so fond of plundering the place of all its gold in the late 1500’s. A tropical climate and beautiful Spanish terraces dripping with Bougainvilleas draws flocks of wide-girthed cruise ship tourists in wide-brimmed hats. This in turn has attracted a new generation of buccaneers, from the Burger Kings, Hooters and casinos down to the everyday, smiling, trinket-touting,

Tourists of the Caribbean

COLUMBIA - Arriving in Cartagena on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast, I saw why pirates like the infamous Englishman, Francis Drak, was so fond of plundering the place of all its gold in the late 1500’s. A tropical climate and beautiful Spanish terraces dripping with Bougainvilleas draws flocks of wide-girthed cruise ship tourists in wide-brimmed hats. This in turn has attracted a new generation of buccaneers, from the Burger Kings, Hooters and casinos down to the everyday, smiling, trinket-touting,

Senhor and Senhora Smith in Colombia

BOGOTA, COLUMBIA - Doing the sniff test on my cleanest dirty shirt, I wanted to look my best to meet my fiancee, Vivi, at Bogota Airport. I checked out of the slum-class hostel dormitory and into a private room, bought roses and shaved off ten weeks of beard. I had just finished some adventure travel research that took me from the Andes to the Amazon. Vivi, having no desire to rough it, decided to meet me upon returning to civilization in Bogota. “Hmmm, remember I can be too much sand for your