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All Saints Anglican Church

  • 600873
  • Darnley Island, Darnley Island


State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
21 October 1992
Religion/worship: Church
1.3 Peopling places: Encounters between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples
8.1 Creating social and cultural institutions: Worshipping and religious institutions
8.6 Creating social and cultural institutions: Commemorating significant events
Construction period
1919–1938, All Saints Anglican Church (1919 - 1938)
Historical period
1870s–1890s Late 19th century


Darnley Island, Darnley Island
Torres Strait Island Regional Council
-9.59793349, 143.76291046


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Criterion AThe place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history.

All Saints Church, Erub (Darnley) Island, survives as important evidence of the development of missionary activity in the Torres Straits and serves as a focus for the annual July 1 'Coming of the Light' festival that celebrates the arrival of the London Missionary Society in the Torres Straits in 1871.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

The substantial building, constructed in 1919 mainly of locally acquired materials including burnt coral and basalt, forms a prominent landmark in the architecture of Erub (Darnley) Island. It has aesthetic significance through its prominent siting on Badog Beach and as an example of the vernacular architectural style of churches in the Torres Straits that includes projected corners and beams and buttressed corners and cement construction material.

Criterion GThe place has a strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.

Erub (Darnley Island) has a strong and special religious significance with Torres Strait Islander Christians as the first place of contact between Torres Strait Islanders and London Missionary Society missionaries.


The first missionaries, representing the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, arrived at the newly established settlement of Somerset, Cape York, in March 1867, followed by the London Missionary Society in July 1871. The London Missionary Society arrived at Saibai Island in July 1871. The first substantial building for Christian worship was constructed in 1881. This was replaced by the Holy Trinity Church, on which construction began about 1919 and was completed by about 1938.

The first Christian missionary in the Torres Straits, Rev F.C. Jagg, was appointed on behalf of the 'Society for the Propagation of Gospel in Foreign Parts', and arrived in Somerset with his family on 15 March 1867. A young English schoolteacher, W.T. Kennett, funded by the Queensland Government to establish a school at Somerset, arrived with Rev Jagg and started a mission school on 1 October 1867. A lack of funding, lack of support from the government administration and dismay at the brutality of the police meant that the mission was closed by June 1868.

In 1871 the London Missionary Society arrived in the Torres Straits on the vessel HMS Surprise, after the French Government had demanded their removal from the Loyalty Islands and New Caledonia in 1869. They decided to expand into the Torres Straits and New Guinea. They were represented by 2 Englishmen, Revs S. MacFarlane and A.W. Murray, 8 Lifu (Loyalty Islander) evangelists, Tapeso, Elia, Mataika, Guchong, Kerisidui, Wauaded, Sevine and Josaia, and their wives.

The missionaries arrived at Erub (Darnley Island) on 1 July 1871, an event that came to be known as the 'Coming of the Light'. Dabad, one of the tribal elders of the island, met them at Kemus Beach. Dabad befriended the missionaries and introduced them to Amani, another tribal elder, and the rest of the Erub Islanders. His role in the bringing of Christianity to the Torres Straits is recognised by 'Dabad's Monument' at Badog, on which the inscription reads 'In loving memory of Dabad 1871: A man who denied his tribal laws and accepted the good news of salvation'.

South Sea Islanders had an important role working in the beche-de-mer and pearl farming industries in the Torres Straits and had established relations with the islanders prior to the arrival of HMAS Surprise. Reports indicate that objections were voiced to the Erub Islanders by Rotuma Islanders working on the island, who had experienced Christian missions at Rotuma and believed the missionaries to be cruel, evil and capable of selling people into slavery. A European man, known as Thorngreen, was living on Darnley Island at the time and accompanied Darnley Islanders on board HMAS Surprise the following day. Being a Sunday, a service was held, in Lifu language. This was the first recorded service in the Torres Straits (although Rev Jagg would have undoubtedly held services during his 12 months at Somerset).

Two evangelists, Mataika and Guchong, and their wives, were left on Erub on July 5 while HMAS Surprise went on to Tudu (Warrior) Island.

The missionaries were welcomed at Tudu by Captain Banner, who had an established pearl shell fishery on the island. John Joseph, an employee of Banners, travelled with the missionaries as an interpreter to Dauan on 6 July, and finding most of the islanders were away on Saibai Island, they were taken to Saibai by Nudai, the chief of Dauan. Two Islander missionaries, Josaia and Sevine, were left at Saibai and Dauan. Further missionaries were left on Yorke and Yam Islands, while HMS Surprise sailed to the newly established settlement at Somerset.

The London Missionary Society established temporary headquarters at Somerset from where they could expand their operations into other Torres Strait Islands and the mainland of New Guinea . Between 1871 and 1878 at least 131 Pacific Islander teachers, mainly from the Loyalty Islands, Cook Islands, Niue, Society Islands and Rurutu, taught in the Torres Straits and New Guinea, along with their wives and families. Only four European missionaries taught in the same period .

In 1872 the London Missionary Society revisited selected islands in the Torres Straits. They reported that the missionaries that had been left on Dauan and Saibai had been accepted in to the local tribes and had been given land by the local chiefs. They reported weekly services were being held at Darnley, and were conducted in a pigeon form of the local language, Kala Lagaw Ya.

The Queensland Government annexed the islands of the Torres Straits within 60 miles of the mainland in 1872, followed by the remainder of the islands in 1879. This was in response to fear of rival colonial powers controlling what had become an important shipping route and also as a means of controlling the increasingly lucrative beche-de-mer and pearl shelling economies, and in particular regulating the use of Torres Strait and South Sea Islander labour in these industries. The government moved its administration centre from Somerset to Thursday Island in 1877, however the lack of government resources, such as a regular patrol boat, meant that administration of the islands was left to the London Missionary Society .

A theological facility called the Papuan Institute was established on the island of Mer to train Torres Strait Islanders as priests, and suitable students were selected by the London Missionary Society. The Institute was closed in 1888, but had trained a number of local priests who were familiar with both formal missionary teaching and the local Islander customs.

By 1890 the London Missionary Society was beginning to slow its operations in the Torres Straits. Conversion on the islands had been successful and Papua was seen to be 'waiting for the Light'. A full time superintendent on the islands was no longer deemed necessary and the incumbent priest, Rev J Chalmers, moved to Saguane in the Fly River in New Guinea. The Queensland Government appointed teacher/supervisors on various islands, and in 1904 the Protector of Aborigines assumed comprehensive control of Islanders lives under the Queensland Aboriginal Protection Act 1897. 3

Worship on various islands was then led by the Islander priests who had been trained at the Papuan Institute, with annual inspections by London Missionary Society representatives travelling from New Guinea.

In 1914 the secretary of the London Missionary Society requested that the Bishop of Carpentaria, Gilbert White, take over the missionary work in the Torres Strait due to financial pressure. This was formally accepted by the Australian Board of Missions in November 1914 and the Anglican Church assumed responsibility for the Torres Strait Mission. All the leases granted to London Missionary Society, including the buildings, were transferred to the Anglican Church. The Anglican Church instituted 'Coming of the Light' celebrations soon after they took over, as a tribute to the London Missionary Society and perhaps as a way of ensuring continuity of worship. This celebration continues to be celebrated annually by Torres Strait Islanders, both in the Torres Straits and in Torres Strait Islander communities on the Australian mainland. Kemus Beach, on Erub, is a particularly important focus for Coming of the Light celebrations, as this is the place of first contact between Torres Strait Islanders and the London Missionary Society. The event is commemorated on Erub with a 'Coming of the Light' monument constructed, consisting of a 3.5 metres high white cross standing in a ship named 'Surprise' as its base.

The All Saints Church was constructed in 1919 below the site of the original London Missionary Society mission house and school, using locally produced lime from burnt coral and basalt, under the direction of an Erub Islander named Manai and a South Sea Islander named Albert Ware. It was originally known as the Ziona church. The Church of England, now the Anglican Church, remodelled this building in 1963 with limestone from surrounding coral reefs. Remodelling included raising the roofline and extending internal walls. Erosion has threatened the preservation of the building, and in 1976 extensive erosion of the beach necessitated the building of a stone sea wall approximately 15 metres from the building for protection from erosion from the strong tides.


All Saints Church is a mass concrete structure with a timber framed red corrugated asbestos cement and galvanized steel roof, located 5-15 metres from Badog Beach on the south west side of Erub (Darnley) Island in the Torres Straits.

The area of the building is about 250 square metres, featuring a central nave with side wings. Walls, constructed of concrete, vary in thickness from 300 to 450mm and are plastered internally and externally. Internal walls between the nave and the wings of the building are rendered white and feature columned arches. The floor is concrete.

The façade of the building, facing east, is decorated with a niche, projecting columns and beams, frieze and other architectural features. The main entrance is on the southern side of the side of the building, through one of the side wings. External walls of the side wings are buttressed at the corners and intermediary points. The sanctuary is at the western end of the building with a vestry extending to the southern side of it.

The building is located on a small level area between the beach and the north east headland of Badog Beach. The vegetation includes mature coconut palms and a natural forest setting.

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Location of All Saints Anglican Church within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last updated
20 January 2016
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