Chairperson's Message

News & Resources
A photograph of the Chairperson of the Torres Strait Regional Authority

I am pleased to present the Torres Strait Regional Authority's nineteenth Annual Report, highlighting our progress and achievements in 2012 - 2013.

TSRA Elections

This year has seen a significant change in how Members are elected to the TSRA Board. For the first time since the establishment of the TSRA in 1994, independent elections were undertaken to appoint the full TSRA Board. This substantial move was initiated by the previous Board following a review of its governance structure.

Following changes to legislation in 2011, 20 TSRA electoral wards were established for the region. Nineteen Members were declared elected following the TSRA elections in September 2012, and in December 2012 one further election was held and declared for the ward of Kubin.

I congratulate all returning and new Members of the TSRA Board and extend my sincerest thanks to the previous Board Members for their foresight and work that they undertook to deliver the TSRA's programs for the betterment of our region.

I give special thanks to the outgoing Chairperson, Mr John (Toshie) Kris, who led the TSRA Board over the past two consecutive terms. During that period there was significant progress throughout the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area region. Through increased collaboration with our communities and leaders in all levels of government, the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area Regional Plan 2009 - 2029 was developed and adopted. This document remains pivotal as the strategic guide for the TSRA and other government bodies delivering services to and in the region. Key goals of the Regional Plan are to improve the coordination of service delivery and plan for better and more efficient outcomes and benefits for our communities.

During the current term, the TSRA Board will continue to progress the good work of the previous Boards to address the challenges that face the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area region.

Community Engagement

With the support of the TSRA Board, the Chief Executive Officer and I will be undertaking a program of community visits to ensure that communities are kept informed of the TSRA's initiatives and, most importantly, to consult with and listen to community views. Our schedule has commenced with visits to the Warraber Island and Boigu Island communities. Through these visits, the TSRA has been able to provide information about the work and projects being undertaken by all of the TSRA Programs. The TSRA met with community organisations, groups and individuals to provide information and answer questions. As part of an integrated approach to community engagement, the TSRA has worked in close partnership with the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs (DATSIMA). A senior officer from DATSIMA accompanies the TSRA on our community visits. The elected Divisional Councillors from the Torres Strait Island Regional Council (TSIRC) also play an important role in supporting and participating in these visits. The TSRA looks forward to continuing this partnership when we visit our communities in the future.

Twelfth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

In May 2013, The TSRA was invited to attend the Twelfth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The TSRA delivered two interventions, one on cultural maintenance and support to our emerging artists, and one on climate change.

A photograph showing the meeting with members of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples

Meeting with members of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples.

The Permanent Mission of Ecuador to the United Nations invited the Australian delegation to participate in a side event on Indigenous youth, education and culture. The intervention was in support of the promotion and protection of Indigenous people around the world. The invitation was extended to allow the TSRA to participate in the event itself. With support from the Tagai State College Campus on Thursday Island, the TSRA was able to showcase education in the Torres Strait and promote the Torres Strait region.

World Indigenous Network

The TSRA was invited to participate in the World Indigenous Network (WIN) which is an Australian Government initiative that is delivered by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPaC). WIN is an international knowledge-sharing network for Indigenous Land and Sea Managers to encourage conservation, biological diversity, the sustainable use of natural resources, improved social cohesion, increased economic opportunities and the reduction of poverty.

The first part of this initiative is an ongoing exchange program between Indigenous and local community Land and Sea Managers. In April 2013, with assistance from SEWPaC, I accompanied five TSRA Rangers to the Arnavons in the Solomon Islands to meet, share experiences and learn from Land and Sea Managers in the Solomon Islands.

A photograph showing the Protected Zone Joint Authority forum on Thursday Island

Protected Zone Joint Authority forum, Thursday Island.

The second part of the initiative involved the TSRA's Environmental Management Program hosting a delegation of Solomon Islands Rangers, in May 2013. During their visit to the Torres Strait, the Solomon Island Rangers visited Badu, St Pauls, Masig and Warraber. Our Rangers shared their knowledge of how the TSRA is working to conserve and sustain natural resources in the Torres Strait.

The third phase of the initiative was a conference which opened in Darwin on 26 May 2013 and included participants from over 55 countries. Our Torres Strait Rangers were featured in the opening presentation and presented on Land and Sea management in the Torres Strait.

The interactions between the Torres Strait and Solomon Islands Rangers have been valuable, and we have learnt significantly from each other.

United Nations Development Programme – Bangladesh

The UN Development Programme arranges study tours for delegates from countries that have addressed and/or are addressing Indigenous issues. In May 2013, the United Nations (UN) sponsored a visit to the TSRA by a delegation of Ministers, government officials and Indigenous leaders from the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh. The purpose of the visit was to gain an understanding of how the TSRA carries out its governance and service delivery role in the Torres Strait region and to promote mutual, peaceful coexistence and ethnic harmony in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. This was the third UN-sponsored delegation from Bangladesh to be hosted by the TSRA.

Regional Autonomy

The TSRA is cognisant of wider political aspirations in the region for greater autonomy. It advocates increased employment and economic growth as necessary precursors to support a change in regional governance.

Mer Reserve Handover

In December 2012, the Mer community celebrated the transfer of the Mer, Dauar and Waier Reserve back to the Mer Ged Kem Le (Torres Strait Islanders) Corporation Registered Native Title Body Corporate. On behalf of the TSRA Board, I extend the TSRA's congratulations to the Mer community.

Torres Strait Protected Zone Joint Authority Forums

In January 2013 the Torres Strait Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA) announced the completion of a structural adjustment of the Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster (TRL) Fishery which led to a small increase in the ownership of the fishery for Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal fishers. The increase did not meet community fisher expectations and triggered a call for the reintroduction of interim management arrangements until a TRL Fisheries Management Plan could be put in place. It is the aspiration of Torres Strait Fishers that the TRL Fishery be 100 per cent owned by Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal People in the region.

On 12 June 2013, Senator the Hon Joe Ludwig participated in a stakeholder forum on Thursday Island. The visit was particularly significant as it was the first time in five years that the Chair of the PZJA had visited the Torres Strait for a PZJA-related meeting. More than 100 Torres Strait TRL Fishery stakeholders participated in the meeting. Following the meeting, Senator Ludwig and I agreed that the PZJA's priority should be to progress a formal management plan for the fishery.

In May 2013, The TSRA was invited to attend the Twelfth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The TSRA delivered two interventions, one on cultural maintenance and support to our emerging artists, and one on climate change.

Ministerial and Visiting Officials

In 2012 - 2013 there were a number of visits by both Australian Government and Queensland Government Ministers and Officials to the region. The TSRA also met with Ministers of both Governments in Canberra and in Brisbane to progress matters of interest for the Torres Strait.

On 15 January 2013, Mr Andrew Laming, the Federal Member for Bowman and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Health Services and Indigenous Health, visited the TSRA on Thursday Island. This visit was helpful in developing a regional understanding of Torres Strait Cross Border health, immigration and related issues.

As part of developing the integration of service delivery to the region, both Ms Peta Winzar, the Queensland State Manager for the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, and Ms Debbie Best, the Director- General, Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs, visited the region in January 2013. Both managers attended stakeholder meetings with Commonwealth and State agencies as well as community organisations to see the impacts of service delivery on the ground.

While in Brisbane, the CEO and I met with the Hon Glen Elmes, member for Noosa, State Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs, to gain support for our integrated services delivery approach.

A photograph of meeting a local government delegation from Bangladesh

Meeting a local government delegation from Bangladesh.

In February 2013, the TSRA met with the Hon Tony Burke, Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPaC), in Canberra to discuss the Torres Strait Ranger Program.

The CEO and I also met with the Hon Jenny Macklin, Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, and Minister for Disability Services, on a range of Torres Strait matters including the Native Title Organisations Review which is currently underway.

The Premier of Queensland, the Hon Campbell Newman, held a Community Cabinet meeting on Thursday Island. As part of the visit, deputations were held on Sunday, 26 May 2013. The TSRA participated in deputations with the Premier and Ministers on matters including the funding for sea wall construction, ongoing commitment to the Major Infrastructure Program and financial support to Prescribed Bodies Corporate who are managing transferred Reserve and Deed of Grant in Trust (DOGIT) lands.

Torres Strait Development Plan 2014 - 2018

As required under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005, the TSRA develops and maintains a Torres Strait Development Plan. The Plan is approved by the Minister and refreshed every four years, outlining how the TSRA will contribute towards realising the benefits and achieving the outcomes required to Close the Gap in Indigenous disadvantage in the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area. The Plan explains how the TSRA's Programs are aligned with the Council of Australian Government's (COAG) building blocks and contribute to the Closing the Gap targets.

A photograph of Arnarvon Islands ranger exchange, Solomon Islands

Arnarvon Islands ranger exchange, Solomon Islands.

The current Torres Strait Development Plan will end on 30 June 2014. The TSRA Board is working on the 2014 - 2018 Development Plan and has determined the TSRA's Program outcomes and Program mandates for that period. Drafting of the Development Plan commenced in July 2013; we expect that the Plan will be delivered to the Minister for endorsement in December 2013 and implementation on 1 July 2014.

Conclusion

It has been a very busy start for the new TSRA Board and there has been significant progress made towards achieving outcomes for communities in the first 10 months of this term.

I look forward to working closely with all levels of government, our TSRA Members and the Administration over the next year to continue to work and build partnerships with our communities so that challenges are addressed and benefits are delivered for Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people in the region.

Signature of Joseph Elu, Chairperson

Joseph Elu
  Chairperson