The Torres Strait consists of eighteen island and two Northern Peninsula Area communities. The islands are scattered over a geographic area of 48,000 square kilometres, from the tip of Cape York, north towards the borders of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.
There are 5 traditional island clusters in the Torres Strait. These clusters are:
The two Torres Strait communities on the Northern Peninsula Area are:
Thursday, Horn and Prince of Wales Islands are governed by the Torres Shire Council, all other island communities are governed by the Torres Strait Island Regional Council (TSIRC), and the Torres Strait NPA communities are governed by the Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council (NPARC).
Thursday Island is the main administrative centre of the Torres Strait. Government offices based on Thursday Island include:
- The Torres Strait Regional Authority
- Australian Customs and Border Protection Service
- Australian Federal Police
- Australian Fisheries Management Authority
- Australian Quarantine Inspection Service
- Department of Defence (Army & Navy)
- Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
- Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
- Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs
- Department of Education, Training and Employment
- Department of Health
- Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services
- Department of Housing and Public Works
Thursday Island is also the business hub of the region, containing various local enterprises ranging from art, pearl, souvenir and clothing retailers, a newsagency, bakery, pharmacy, supermarket, restaurants, hotels/motels, freight carriers and seafood outlets.
The communities located on the outer islands of the Torres Strait have access to government services such as Health, Quarantine, Customs, Police and Immigration. Most outer island communities have a grocery store and limited accommodation facilities. Resorts and guest houses are usually operated by local community Councils and all communities except for Dauan and Ugar (Stephen) Islands, are accessible by sealed all-weather airstrips.
Essential infrastructure throughout all the communities is currently being upgraded or installed. All communities are highly dependent on annual rainfall and have reservoirs which store community water reserves to provide clean water. In the last decade septic systems have been installed and currently works are continuing through the Major Infrastructure Program (MIP), to deliver environmental health infrastructure projects such as sewerage, drainage, subdivisional and road works. To learn more about the MIP, visit the Healthy Communities Program page, or the Multimedia page to view a 2011 video.
Should you be planning a trip to one of Torres Strait's islands or communities, it is important that you contact the respective Council Divisional (Island) Office in advance, advise them of your intentions, and obtain current information on the community, services and accommodation available as well as any cultural protocols that may need to be adhered to. In the case of the Torres Strait Island Regional Council Local Government Area, it is an offence to travel to communities without a visitor's permit if you are not covered by specific exemptions. Visit the TSIRC website to find out more.
The TSRA Cultural Protocols Guide, produced for use by TSRA staff, but also available to the public and other government agencies and non-government organisations, contains comprehensive information on communication, community visits and engagement, and working, researching and staying in communities. The Cultural Protocols Guide is designed to be used in conjunction with the TSRA Cultural Policy and assist staff of the TSRA to provide a consistent culturally respectful and professional level of service to all communities in the Torres Strait region.