The TSRA has continued to progress and implement policies and projects to achieve outcomes as identified in the Torres Strait Development Plan 2014-2018. It has been a busy 2015-2016, with two new major initiatives launched, preparations for the TSRA 2016 Board elections, and the introduction of a new grant management system.
The TSRA Chairperson and I completed visits to all but two communities as part of our two-year engagement programme. A new engagement programme is being developed for the coming financial year and part of those visits will focus on updating the communities with progress made on issues raised during our first round of visits. At the operational level, TSRA programme areas conducted regular targeted visits to various communities to work with clients and review the on-ground status of TSRA projects and initiatives.
NEW GRANT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
The TSRA completed a transition to a new grant management system to improve and streamline its grant management. The TSRA had been using a system supplied by the then Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (now the Department of Social Services) since 2008. That system was phased out in the reporting period and the TSRA purchased its own system, Smarty Grants. All client and activity information and data from the old grant management system was successfully transferred into the new Smarty Grants. The process included a full audit of the transition of data, to ensure its accuracy and integrity. The first TSRA common funding round for 2016-2017 will be processed through the new grant management system.
The TSRA launched its new Regional Economic Investment Strategy (REIS) in the reporting period. The REIS is a major improvement to the way the TSRA supports new and existing businesses and is a ‘one-stop shop’ for all business support and development initiatives that are available to the region. One of the many improvements is the TSRA maintaining a broker role for access to external business support and development programmes. This makes it easier for people to tap into these external opportunities without having to navigate through different points of contacts and/or departments. They will have one local point of contact for all their business support and development needs. I take this opportunity to thank the TSRA team and the key local stakeholders who developed the new strategy. I am keen to see the benefits it will bring to business development in our region.
There has been some significant progress made by the Torres Strait Language Reference Group in developing this important initiative. In the reporting period, the Reference Group developed the Torres Strait Traditional Languages Plan 2016-2017 and the Torres Strait Languages Charter, which will be launched in late 2016. The coming financial year will be a busy one for the Language Reference Group as it works towards finalising an agreement with the local Tagai State College and looks at establishing a language centre for the region.
The TSRA has secured $42 million from the Australian Government under the Working on Country initiative to deliver the Torres Strait Ranger Programme through to 30 June 2018. TSRA rangers have continued their activities, which include invasive species management, marine debris management, coral monitoring, dugong and turtle management, revegetation, and pest and weed control. In the reporting period, the TSRA was proud to be part of the blessing and commissioning of a new ranger boat for Mer Island. This brings the total of ranger boats operating in our region to seven. The rangers play a vital role in monitoring and protecting our land and sea country, and I take this opportunity to acknowledge the ranger team for their ongoing commitment to protecting their communities and the Torres Strait region.
WORKPLACE HEALTH AND SAFETY
In the reporting period the TSRA continued to maintain and meet its obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. The TSRA has in place an active Work Health and Safety Committee with representation from across all of the TSRA’s designated work groups. In 2015-2016, there were two reportable incidents, both of which were reported to Comcare in line with reporting requirements. More details on workplace health and safety can be found in Section 4 of this report.
During the reporting period, I held a number of workshops with the senior leadership group within the TSRA administration to look at refining our organisational culture to create an environment that supports the growth and development of all staff within the organisation. One of the aims of this initiative is to maximise staff potential and support them with their career development in a safe, open and honest work environment. The initiative is still in the development stage and further discussions and workshops will be held in the coming financial year to finalise and implement the initiative in our day-to-day operations.
At a Glance. The TSRA workforce has grown from 147 to 152 since the previous reporting period. Of this number, 112 are Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people. The TSRA’s rate of 71 per cent Indigenous employment, one of the highest reached by any government entity, is an achievement. The TSRA also maintains a good gender balance, with 79 males and 73 females in its workforce.
Opportunities. The TSRA provides numerous internal opportunities for the development of Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal staff to increase their capacity and skills so they can confidently apply for higher level positions in the TSRA. The TSRA also provides external opportunities and support for local community members through our leadership capacity-building initiatives and our Assistance with Tertiary Education Scheme, which targets university students from the region. These initiatives are designed to assist our people build their capacity and skills, including obtaining formal qualifications that they can use in the local or mainstream employment market.
Financial. The TSRA will maintain the existing programmes and service levels in the region in the coming financial year, with our budget for 2016-2017 again providing opportunities for innovative approaches to achieving the TSRA’s vision and goals.
Board Direction. The TSRA will be inducting a new Board in early 2016-2017 after the TSRA elections are held in July 2016. The first item of business for the new Board will be the election of its office holders, where a new Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson and Alternate Deputy Chairperson will be elected. Another key item of business for the new Board during its term will be the development of a new Torres Strait Development Plan. The current Torres Strait Development Plan 2014-2018 will expire in 2018 and it will be the new Board’s role to review the current plan and develop a new plan for 2018-2022. I look forward to working with the new Chairperson and Board on this.
Communications. The TSRA will continue to work with Telstra and key Australian Government departments to secure the required commitment for better telecommunications infrastructure to support and improve regional communication.
I am proud of the progress and achievements we made throughout the year and look forward to continuing to build on our achievements in the coming year. In this report you will find further details including case studies from each of the TSRA programme areas highlighting more of our activities and achievements.
In closing, I express my appreciation and thanks to the TSRA Chairperson, Mr Joseph Elu, and the TSRA Board members who have guided the TSRA’s policies and strategic direction. My appreciation is also extended to the TSRA staff and our partner agencies across all levels of government who worked with the TSRA to contribute to achieving the best outcomes for Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area communities.
I also acknowledge the elders, Traditional Owners, Native Title Prescribed Bodies Corporate, local government councillors and communities of the region for the support and hospitality extended to the TSRA when we visit your communities.
Wayne See Kee
Chief Executive Officer