The TSRA is a Commonwealth Statutory Authority which was established on 1 July 1994 under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Act 1989 (Cth), and now the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (Cth). The TSRA is the leading Commonwealth representative body for Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people living in the Torres Strait, including two communities (Bamaga and Seisia) in the Northern Area Peninsula.
The TSRA comprises 20 elected representatives (the Board) and Australian Public Service administrative staff. The elected representatives are Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people who live and work in the region. The TSRA Board elects a Chairperson, a Deputy Chairperson and an Alternate Deputy Chairperson. A Chief Executive Officer is responsible for the TSRA's administration and staffing.
The TSRA performs separate functions under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) as the Native Title Representative Body (NTRB) for the Torres Strait Region. In 2013 the former Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs renewed the TSRA's NTRB status for a further two years. The TSRA holds this NTRB responsibility until 30 June 2015.
Under Section 142D of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (Cth) the TSRA is required to formulate and implement a plan to guide the progress of the Torres Strait region. This document, known as the Torres Strait Development Plan, is updated every four years, a period consistent with the term of the TSRA Board.
The Torres Strait Development Plan (2009 - 201 3) is the fourth development plan since the establishment of the TSRA. The plan outlines seven TSRA programme components: Culture, Art and Heritage; Economic Development; Environmental Management; Governance and Leadership; Healthy Communities; Native Title; and Safe Communities. In recognition of the importance of fisheries to economic development in the region, the TSRA has separated responsibility for fisheries management from the Environmental Management Programme and established a standalone Fisheries Programme. This change will be reflected in the fifth plan, the Torres Strait Development Plan (2014 - 2018), which will take effect on 1 July 2014. For consistency of reporting against the Portfolio Budget Statements and the current Torres Strait Development Plan, the outcomes from the Fisheries Programme have been reported under the Environmental Management Programme.
The TSRA's enabling legislation is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (Cth). Part 3A, Division 1, section 142 of the Act states:
(1) A Torres Strait Regional Authority is established.
(2) The TSRA:
(a) is a body corporate, with perpetual succession; and
(b) is to have a common seal; and
(c) may acquire, hold and dispose of real and personal property; and
(d) may sue and be sued in its corporate name.
The functions of the TSRA, as outlined in Section 142A(1) of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (Cth), are:
(a) to recognise and maintain the special and unique Ailan Kastom of Torres Strait Islanders living in the Torres Strait area;
(b) to formulate and implement programs for Torres Strait Islanders, and Aboriginal persons, living in the Torres Strait area;
(c) to monitor the effectiveness of programs for Torres Strait Islanders, and Aboriginal persons, living in the Torres Strait area, including programs conducted by other bodies;
(d) to develop policy proposals to meet national, State and regional needs and priorities of Torres Strait Islanders, and Aboriginal persons, living in the Torres Strait area;
(e) to assist, advise and co-operate with Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal communities, organisations and individuals at national, State, Territory and regional levels;
(f) to advise the Minister on:
(i) matters relating to Torres Strait Islander affairs, and Aboriginal affairs, in the Torres Strait area, including the administration of legislation;
(ii) the co-ordination of the activities of other Commonwealth bodies that affect Torres Strait Islanders, or Aboriginal persons, living in the Torres Strait area;
(g) when requested by the Minister, to provide information or advice to the Minister on any matter specified by the Minister;
(h) to take such reasonable action as it considers necessary to protect Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal cultural material and information relating to the Torres Strait area if the material or information is considered sacred or otherwise significant by Torres Strait Islanders or Aboriginal persons;
(i) at the request of, or with the agreement of, the Australian Bureau of Statistics but not otherwise, to collect and publish statistical information relating to Torres Strait Islanders, and Aboriginal persons, living in the Torres Strait area;
(j) such other functions as are conferred on the TSRA by this Act or any other Act;
(k) such other functions as are expressly conferred on the TSRA by a law of a State or of an internal Territory and in respect of which there is in force written approval by the Minister under Section 142B;
(l) to undertake such research as is necessary to enable the TSRA to perform any of its other functions; and
(m) to do anything else that is incidental or conducive to the performance of any of the preceding functions.
The powers of the TSRA are outlined in Section 142C of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (Cth), which states:
(1) The TSRA has power to do all things that are necessary or convenient to be done for or in connection with the performance of its functions.
(2) The powers of the TSRA include, but are not limited to, the following powers:
(a) to accept gifts, grants, bequests and devises made to it;
(b) to act as trustee of money and other property vested in it on trust;
(c) to negotiate and co-operate with other Commonwealth bodies and with State, Territory and local government bodies;
(d) to enter into an agreement for making a grant or loan under Section 142GA to the State of Queensland or an authority of that State (including a local government body);
(e) to enter into an agreement (other than an agreement referred to in paragraph (d)) with a State or a Territory.
(3) Despite anything in this Act, any money or other property held by the TSRA on trust must be dealt with in accordance with the powers and duties of the TSRA as trustee.
(4) The powers of the TSRA may be exercised in or out of Australia.
During the 2013 - 2014 reporting year the TSRA was an Agency within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio. The responsible Minister for the 2013 - 2014 reporting period is Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion, Minister for Indigenous Affairs. For the period 1 July 2013 to 18 September 2013, the former Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs the Hon Jenny Macklin MP was the responsible Minister.
Under section 142E of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (Cth), the Minister has powers of direction in relation to the TSRA. Section 142E of the Act states:
(1) The TSRA must perform its functions and exercise its powers in accordance with any general written directions given to it by the Minister.
(2) The Minister must not give directions about the content of any advice, information or recommendation that may be given by the TSRA to a Minister, Department of State or authority of the Commonwealth.
(3) The Minister must not give directions about the content of any advice, information or recommendation that may be given by the TSRA to:
(a) a Minister of a State or Territory; or
(b) a Department of a State or Territory; or
(c) an authority of a State or Territory;
except for the purpose of protecting the confidentiality of information given to the TSRA by the Commonwealth or an authority of the Commonwealth.
(4) Subject to subsection (5), the Minister must cause a copy of a direction to be laid before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after that direction was given.
(5) The rule in subsection (4) does not apply if the laying of a copy of a direction before each House of the Parliament would result in the disclosure of a matter in a manner that would be inconsistent with the views or sensitivities of Torres Strait Islanders or Aboriginal persons.
The TSRA did not receive any formal Directions from the Minister during the reporting period.
Statement of Expectations and Statement of Intent
In May 2014, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs provided a Statement of Expectations to the TSRA concerning the operation and performance of the TSRA. In response, the TSRA provided a Statement of Intent to the Minister.
There were five Acting Chief Executive Officer appointments from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014.
Under delegation from the then Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Acting Deputy Secretary, in accordance with Section 144 L(a) of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (Cth), appointed Mr Damian Miley and Mr Chris de Mamiel as Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Torres Strait Regional Authority for the periods outlined below.
Appointed: Damian Miley
Duration: 7 September 2013 to 4 October 2013
Appointed: Chris de Mamiel
Duration: 7 October 2013 to 18 October 2013
There were three appointments made by the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion, to the Acting Chief Executive Officer role in accordance with Section 144 L(a) of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (Cth). They were:
Appointed: John Ramsay
Duration: 16 December 2013 to 13 January 2014
Appointed: Damian Miley
Duration: 20 January 2014 to 31 January 2014
Appointed: Chris de Mamiel
Duration: 3 February 2014 to 28 February 2014
Briefings and Information
Throughout the reporting period the TSRA provided ministerial minutes and briefings to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs.
Judicial Decisions and Reviews
In 2013 - 2014, one judicial decision relating to the Torres Strait Sea Claim Part A was made in the High Court of Australia and one judicial decision was made regarding the Zuizin Native Title Claim in the Federal Court of Australia. No decisions of administrative tribunals, Parliamentary Committees, the Commonwealth Ombudsman or the Australian Information Commissioner impacted on the TSRA's operations.