Torres Strait artwork takes off on AMSA Challenger rescue aircraft

Challenger aircraft at Cairns airport

Image titled 'Baydham' by Michael Nona (Copyright)

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has launched new artwork on the Cairns-based Challenger aircraft, designed by Torres Strait artist Michael Nona.

Mr Nona was selected by AMSA to design the artwork following a search undertaken for AMSA by the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) last year.

The design concept features a shark, known as Baydham in Kala Lagaw Ya language, an important symbol in the Torres Strait region. Known as the protectors of the reef, sharks play an important role in maintaining balance in the seas.

This striking design has been wrapped around the front section of the Challenger 604 rescue aircraft, a critical part of AMSA’s search and rescue fleet in Australia.

Mr Nona said it was very exciting to know his creation was flying on an AMSA rescue jet.

“I’m passionate about the culture and stories of Badu Island and my people. So much of it represents our deep connection to the islands, sea and marine life,” he said.

“I am very proud to have been able to share a small part of our story. The Torres Strait is a beautiful place and unique in so many ways.”

AMSA Executive Director for Response Mark Morrow said AMSA acknowledged the strong connection of First Nations people to land and sea, including across the Torres Strait in Far North Queensland.

“The Cairns-based Challenger aircraft is critical to keeping people in the region safe,” he said.

“We commissioned this artwork to acknowledge the unbroken, rich enduring history and guardianship of our oceans by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Custodians of this nation.

“Every time the Cairns-based Challenger rescues a fisher, boater or seafarer, Mr Nona’s art will be a symbol that represents AMSA’s commitment to safe and clean seas.”

TSRA Acting Chairperson Horace Baira said the project highlighted the significance of seafaring cultural knowledge.

“This flying tribute to Torres Strait Islander culture is reconciliation in action and helps embed Indigenous knowledge into everyday business,” Mr Baira said.

“It is a proud moment for our region and our people to see artwork from the remote island of Badu take flight across Australia and beyond to support safety and save lives at sea.”

The rendering of the artwork on the aircraft by specialist technicians was facilitated by Leidos, the operator of the aircraft.


Download images of the Challenger aircraft artwork at Cairns airport and artist Michael Nona from our Hightail media management account. 

Media contacts:

AMSA Media

1300 624 633 or

TSRA Media contact

07 4090 0700 or

Leidos media contact

0411 060 738 or

Image titled 'Baydam' by Michael Nona (copyright)

This image embodies traditional ritual knowledge of the Badu Island community. It was created with the consent of the custodians of the community. Dealing with any part of the images for any purpose that has not been authorised by the custodians is a serious breach of the customary laws of the Badu Island community.


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