News & Resources

a photograph of chairperson Napau Pedro Stephen AM

Introduction

As Chairperson of the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA), I am pleased to present the TSRA’s 2017-2018 Annual Report. Since the 2016 election of the current TSRA Board, all members and the administration have worked progressively to achieve the best outcomes for communities in the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area. This Annual Report outlines the work that has progressed as well as some of the achievements and challenges of the TSRA over the past year.

New Board Member

The TSRA welcomed the new Member for Erub, Mr Jimmy Gela, during his recent induction into the organisation.

Following the resignation of the previous Member for Erub, Mr Kenny Bedford, the Australian Electoral Commission declared Mr Gela the successful candidate to fill the vacancy on the TSRA Board.

Mr Gela comes to the TSRA with a wealth of community experience, including involvement in a number of community boards and committees. He held the Local Government Councillor position for Erub in the previous term of the Torres Strait Island Regional Council (TSIRC) and is the Chairperson of the Erubam Le Traditional Land and Sea Owners (Torres Strait Islanders) Corporation. Further information about Mr Gela can be found in Section 4 of this Annual Report in the section ‘Profiles of TSRA Board Members’.

25th Anniversary of the Native Title Act 1993

In June 2018, I attended the National Native Title Conference hosted in Broome, Western Australia, by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. The conference marked 25 years since the passing of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) and provided a valuable forum for exploring the challenges and opportunities of Native Title in the broader context of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s aspirations for their lands, waters and communities.

The TSRA will continue to assist Traditional Owners to secure legal recognition of Native Title to land and waters in the Torres Strait. We will continue to support Prescribed Bodies Corporate in the post-determination era to strive for economic independence and work with Traditional Owners to obtain appropriate compensation for the use of Native Title land in our region.

Climate Change

At the beginning of 2018, I met with the senior leadership of the TSIRC and the Torres Shire Council (TSC) to consider key climate change risks for the Torres Strait.

It is widely recognised that climate change is a very important issue for communities in the Torres Strait. Besides sea level rise, climate change will also impact health, water security, and marine resources, and could likely contribute to regional instability in areas neighbouring the Torres Strait as identified in the 2016 Defence White Paper.

Climate Change group.

The inaugural meeting of the Torres Strait Climate and Resilience Working Group (left to right): Ms Dalassa Yorkston, Torres Shire Council CEO; Mr Bruce Ranga, Torres Strait Island Regional Council CEO; Mr Napau Pedro Stephen AM, TSRA Chairperson; Ms Hilda Mosby, TSRA Member for Masig and Portfolio Member for Environmental Management; Ms Vonda Malone, Torres Shire Council Mayor; Mr Fred Gela, Torres Strait Island Regional Council Mayor; and Mr Wayne See Kee, TSRA CEO

The meeting helped to galvanise our resolve for our organisations to work together to meet this challenge as best we can to ensure a strong future for our region. The TSRA, TSIRC and TSC agreed to establish the permanent high-level Torres Strait Climate and Resilience Working Group to drive the implementation of the Torres Strait Regional Adaptation and Resilience Plan 2016-2021.

The working group has since been renamed the Torres Strait Regional Coordination Group and now includes the Mayor and Chief Executive Officer of the Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council (NPARC) in its membership, with an expanded scope to coordinate Integrated Service Delivery (ISD) across the region.

TSRA Board Development Programme

In June 2018, TSRA Board members undertook an intensive two-day Indigenous Governance Programme on Thursday Island. Delivered by the Australian Institute of Company Directors, the programme provided members with professional development in assessing financial statements and organisational performance, as well as understanding their strategic role in the agency and how to engage with and understand the risks of decision-making at the Board level.

Solomons delegation March 2018.

Mr Napau Pedro Stephen AM, TSRA Chairperson, and Mr Wayne See Kee, TSRA CEO, with the delegation from the Solomon Islands Government and representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

International Engagement

In March 2018, I was honoured to host a meeting with representatives of the Solomon Islands Government and the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Solomon Islands delegation visited Thursday Island to observe the implementation of the Torres Strait Treaty, covering immigration, border control, environment, fisheries, law and order, health, maritime safety and Traditional Inhabitant matters.

In April 2018, I joined the Australian Government delegation to the 17th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII17) in New York, United States of America. UNPFII17 was a very valuable opportunity to highlight and discuss the issues of climate change, development planning, Closing the Gap, and regional governance with our international counterparts.

Breakfast at Permanent Mission.

Mr Napau Pedro Stephen AM, TSRA Chairperson, with the Australian delegation to UNPFII17

In February 2018, I attended the Torres Strait Treaty Cycle Meetings in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Hosted by the Papua New Guinea Government, the 2018 cycle of meetings consisted of the Traditional Inhabitants Meeting and the Joint Advisory Council, with delegates from the Papua New Guinea and Australian governments, as well as Papua New Guinea and Australian Traditional Inhabitant representatives. The Environmental Management Committee Meeting, Health Issues Committee Meeting and Fisheries Bilateral Meeting were held in conjunction with the treaty meetings.

Shannon Fentiman visit June 2018.

Left to right: The Queensland Government’s Ministerial Champion for the Torres Strait, the Hon. Shannon Fentiman MP, with Mr Napau Pedro Stephen AM, TSRA Chairperson, and Mr Charlie Kaddy, Acting TSRA CEO, in June 2018

Regional governance in the Torres Strait remains a longstanding aspiration of Torres Strait Islanders.

TSRA Regional Governance Committee

Regional governance in the Torres Strait remains a longstanding aspiration of Torres Strait Islanders that requires Australian Government and Queensland Government support and commitment. The TSRA Regional Governance Committee worked to bring this aspiration to reality throughout 2017-2018, meeting with Australian Government and state government ministers and key stakeholders to discuss the design and implementation of the preferred model. The TSRA Board reconfirmed its support in June 2018 for the creation of a Torres Strait Regional Assembly and endorsed the Regional Governance Committee Secretariat to develop a transition plan for implementation.

Community Engagement

In 2017-2018, I maintained my commitment to visit Torres Strait communities and directly engage with the community members at the grassroots level. The Chief Executive Officer and I have continued on the community engagement cycle. I was pleased to undertake visits to Poruma, Masig, Seisia, Ugar, Dauan and Erub.

Meeting with the Seisia community.

Mr Napau Pedro Stephen AM, TSRA Chairperson, meeting with the Seisia community in December 2017

The visits provide a firsthand opportunity for members or groups in communities to raise community and regional issues with us.

These visits are specifically useful to me and Board members in the communities as we share information about the TSRA. The visits also provide a firsthand opportunity for members or groups in communities to raise community and regional issues with us.

Over the upcoming year, I will continue to visit Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area communities.

Building Leadership Capacity

Over the past year, the TSRA maintained its focus on developing the leadership capacity of Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people in the region. The partnership between the TSRA and the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation has continued to grow. During the reporting period, sponsorship was provided to emerging leaders in the Australian Rural Leadership Program, Training Rural Australians in Leadership, the Torres Strait Women’s Leadership Program and the Torres Strait Young Leaders Program.

Chair speaking at 75th TSLIB event.

Left to right: General Angus Campbell AO, DSC, Chief of the Defence Force, and Mr Napau Pedro Stephen AM, TSRA Chairperson, at the event commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion

Maintaining Our Culture

In February 2017, the TSRA launched the Torres Strait Traditional Languages Plan 2016-2019 and the Torres Strait Languages Charter at the Gab Titui Cultural Centre, followed by the 2017 Torres Strait Language Symposium where people from the region engaged with local, national and international presenters. The Languages Reference Group dissolved at the end of the Symposium and a new Torres Strait Traditional Language Advisory Committee was established to continue with the development of the Regional Language Centre and delivery of language-related initiatives. I wish to acknowledge all key partners, stakeholders and community representatives for their ongoing contribution towards revitalising our traditional languages.

The Gab Titui Cultural Centre commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion with a specially curated exhibition that celebrated and honoured the individual and family stories of service and sacrifice of Torres Strait Islander people. The exhibition was supported by the award-winning Shrine of Remembrance travelling exhibition Indigenous Australians at war from the Boer War to the present. At the opening of the exhibitions, I was honoured to host Torres Strait Islander veterans, along with the Member for Cook, Ms Cynthia Lui MP, and the Chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell AO, DSC.

Acknowledgement

Looking back over the past year, the Board and the administration of the TSRA have worked diligently to set the strategic direction and achieve the best possible outcomes for the people living in the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area region.

I sincerely thank my fellow Board members for their valuable contributions and constructive debates, and for making the hard decisions for the best outcomes on the challenging issues.

I would also like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the outgoing Chief Executive Officer, Mr Wayne See Kee PSM. Mr See Kee’s appointment as Chief Executive Officer officially ceased at the beginning of July 2018. On behalf of the Board and the staff, I wish Mr See Kee every success in his new appointment with the Australian Government. Mr See Kee has made an enormous contribution to the TSRA since 2001 and since 2004 has provided strategic leadership as Chief Executive Officer that will leave a lasting legacy.

The combined efforts of the Board and administration all contribute to positive outcomes being delivered in our communities.

The combined efforts of the Board and administration all contribute to positive outcomes being delivered in our communities.

I take this opportunity to acknowledge our Elders and Traditional Owners, and the officials and councillors of Prescribed Bodies Corporate and local government, for the support and hospitality provided to me and the TSRA administration in the delivery of our services throughout the region.

In closing, I also express my gratitude to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon. Nigel Scullion, and to Australian, Queensland and local government members and agencies for providing ongoing support to the TSRA and the Torres Strait to ensure that the region continually grows in strength.

a photograph of signature of Napau Pedro Stephen AM

Napau Pedro Stephen AM
Chairperson