TSRA Annual Report 2012 - 2013

Torres Straight Regional Authority Annual Report 2012 - 2013

Copyright ©

The cover page and pages of this report feature the artwork of Torres Strait artist Ms Anita Nakata titled Nautilus Shell. This pastel on paper was entered into the Gab Titui Art Award 2013 and was commended. The artwork was photographed by Mr Geroge Serras from the National Museum of Australia.


The Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) recognises the Traditional Owners of the land on which we operate. We acknowledge the past and present elders of all Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people in the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area and respect the culture and lore of all Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people in the region.

The TSRA will always make every effort to respect Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people's cultural sensitivities when featuring the images or names of people who have recently died.

However, please be advised that this document may contain images of persons who have died after this Annual Report was tabled in Parliament in October 2013 and we offer our apologies for any distress caused if this occurs.

© Commonwealth of Australia

ISSN 1324–163X

This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part maybe reproduced by any process without prior written permission from the TSRA. Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction rights should be directed to the TSRA, PO Box 261, Thursday Island, QLD 4875, by telephone (07) 4069 0700 or by email to info@tsra.gov.au

The TSRA's Contact Officer for the 2012 - 2013 Annual Report is Mr John Ramsay, Program Manager Governance and Leadership.
Telephone (07) 4069 0700 or email info@tsra.gov.au.

The Annual Report is published on the TSRA website at www.tsra.gov.au.


“Empowering our people, in our decision, in our culture, for our future”

Kala Lagau YaMeriam MirKala Kawau Ya
“Ngalpun yangu kaaba woeydhay, a ngalpun muruygaw danalagan mabaygal kunakan palayk, bathayngaka”“Buaigiz kelar obaiswerare, merbi mir apuge mena obakedi, muige merbi areribi tonarge, ko merbi keub kerkerem”“Ngalpan moebaygal thoepoeriwoeyamoeyn, ngalpan ya kuduthoeraynu, ngalpan igililmaypa, sepa setha wara goeygil sey boey wagel”

The Indigenous people of the Torres Strait are of Aboriginal and Melanesian origin and speak two distinct traditional languages. In the Eastern Islands the traditional language is Meriam Mir, while the Western and Central Island groups speak either Kala Lagau Ya or Kala Kawau Ya, which are dialects of the same language. Torres Strait Creole and English are also spoken.

Our vision signifies that the heart of our region is our people, with culture an important part of our lives now and into the future. Empowering our people to contribute to and make decisions regarding their future ensures that our culture will remain strong and that the future will be guided by the people who live in the region and understand and promote its unique characteristics.

Our vision is expressed in the languages of our region, recognising the importance and diversity of our culture and traditional languages.

A map of the Torres Strair Region

Highlights and Achievements

Engaging with our Communities

The 2011 changes to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (Cth) enabled the independent election of the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) Board in 2012. The Board consists of one elected Member from each of the 18 communities in the Torres Strait and one each from Bamaga and Seisia on the Northern Peninsula Area. The 20 Member Board provides a permanent presence on the ground in almost every community.

The TSRA Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer began a rolling program of Community workshops to create a greater awareness of the TSRA. The TSRA aims to conduct these workshops in every community over a two-year program.

Program Managers and staff conducted regular operational-level visits to all communities throughout the year on a diverse range of issues from grant management to policy consultation.

The TSRA Ranger Program has a permanent presence of 38 Rangers servicing 14 communities on 13 outer islands. The Rangers engage on all issues pertaining to land and sea environmental management.

The TSRA Governance and Leadership Program and the Native Title Program engage directly with the Prescribed Bodies Corporate in Communities to build capacity and resolve Native Title issues.

Closing the Gap in Indigenous Disadvantage

The TSRA Integrated Service Delivery (ISD) project completed the draft ISD Action Plan which addresses the service gaps identified in Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area Communities. The Action Plan is currently being reviewed by the Queensland Government through the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs (DATSIMA). At the end of the reporting period, 13 of the 16 Queensland Agencies delivering services to the region have advised of their commitment to the Action Plan.

The Australian Government has reaffirmed its full commitment to the funding of the Torres Strait Major Infrastructure Program Stage 5 (MIP 5). The TSRA is continuing its negotiations with the Queensland Government to extend their commitment to match funding. The MIP delivers a range of benefits to the region to help close the gaps in life expectancy, health, healthy homes and safe communities. The MIP is an example of a successful cross-government program that has delivered tangible, measurable benefits to the people in the region.

The TSRA Economic Development Program delivers low interest business loans to Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal entrepreneurs in the region. The Program focuses on sustainable, economically viable ventures which can provide employment outcomes in the region. Business training and mentoring programs are available for successful applicants.

Promoting and Advocating Critical Issues for the Region

The Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs has recognised the TSRA as the Native Title Representative Body (NTRB) for the region. The TSRA has agreed not to seek the renewal of the NTRB function when it expires in 2015.

During the year, the TSRA worked closely with the Torres Strait Island Regional Council (TSIRC), Queensland Department of Local Government, Community Resilience and Recovery (DLGCRR), Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Art and Sport (DRALGAS), and Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) to identify funding for the construction of Seawalls and other coastal inundation works for six communities in the Torres Strait region. Funding, of up to $26 million will be required over a four-year period, for the construction of Seawalls for the Saibai, Poruma, Boigu, Iama, Warraber and Masig communities.

A photograph showing people commuting between Thursday and Hammond islands

Commuting between Thursday and Hammond islands .

Opportunities and Challenges


To improve the delivery of integrated whole-of-government services to the region

The TSRA distributed an ISD Action Plan to the federal Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) and the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs (DATSIMA). Thirteen of the 16 Queensland Government agencies delivering services to the region responded during the reporting period. The TSRA will continue working with DATSIMA and FaHCSIA to implement the plan.

To establish a whole-of-government lead agency

The TSRA could play a greater role as the ‘lead agency' in the delivery of Australian Government services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities the region. There is an opportunity to re-examine the services delivered by Departments and Agencies and re-define the roles of groups, organisations and Departments in community development.

To improve communication throughout the region

The Torres Strait region has 14 Remote Indigenous Broadcasting Service (RIBS) stations; however throughout 2012 - 2013 only two were operating. The TSRA is working with the Torres Strait Islander Media Association and the Torres Strait Island Regional Council to develop a Regional Operations Plan that will help RIBS restore operations at the rate of four stations per financial year from 2013 - 2014.

Many communities in the Torres Strait do not have access to reliable mobile telecommunications over the 3G Network. There are no 4G or fibre-optic services in the region. The region as a whole does not have access to reliable broadband services. The TSRA is working in partnership with Telstra to develop a regional communications plan to address these shortfalls.


To secure the resources required to deliver our programs

2012 - 2013 saw a significant reduction of financial commitments to the region from the Queensland Government. Both the Major Infrastructure Program (MIP) and the Sea Walls Program are co-funded on the principle of a dollar for dollar match by the Australian Government and the Queensland Government. The TSRA has made successful representation to the Australian Government to maintain funding while maintaining representation to the Queensland Government to match the Australian Government commitment for MIP Stage 5.

Climate change adaptation

Global average temperatures are forecast to rise by as much as 2–3oC by 2050, with significant multi-level threats to Torres Strait communities and environments. If the region is to prepare for climate change impacts, it will need to establish a clear process to develop and implement appropriate adaptation measures regionally and at community level.

To provide resources to, and increase the capacity of Registered Native Title Bodies Corporate in the region

There are 20 Registered Native Title Bodies Corporate (RNTBCs) in the region. These RTNBCs, also known as Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBCs), receive both legal and capacity-building assistance from the TSRA. While the TSRA has the resources to assist these PBCs to perform their legislated roles under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), it cannot assist PBCs with their expanding role in managing Reserve or Deeds of Grant in Trust (DOGIT) lands transferred to them by the Queensland Government.

A photograph showing maritime training inside the bridge of a ship

Maritime training.

To support Prescribed Bodies Corporate in a post-determination environment

The majority of the Native Title claims in the Torres Strait have been determined and the TSRA, as the Native Title Representative Body, and the PBCs in the region operate in a predominantly post-determination environment.

To support fishers in the region

To support part-time and occasional commercial fishers to develop viable businesses that allow them to transition to full-time fishing operations and maximise the returns of commercial fishing to Torres Strait communities; and developing management arrangements to support sustainable fisheries for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in the region for the long term.

Sea Claim Part B

The TSRA is working to successfully conclude Part B of the Native Title Sea Claim and deliver a result which meets the expectations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in the region.

There is an opportunity to re-examine the services delivered by Departments and Agencies and re-define the roles of groups, organisations and Departments in community development.
A photograph showing Torres Strait people blessing a ranger boat blessing on Boigu Island

Ranger boat blessing, Boigu Island.

Table of contents


Torres Strait Region

Highlights and Achievements

Opportunities and Challenges

Letter of Transmittal

Section 1: Strategic Overview

Chairperson's Message

Chief Executive Officer's Message

Section 2: Program Reporting and Performance Summaries

How We Deliver Our Programs

Overview of TSRA's Program Structure

How We Performed

Appropriation Program Expenditure 2012 - 2013 Budget as Compared to Actual

Details About Our Programs

Culture, Art and Heritage

Economic Development

Environmental Management

Governance and Leadership

Native Title

Healthy Communities

Safe Communities

Section 3: Report of Operations

Where We Operate

Geography and Logistics



Native Title

Progress towards Closing the Gap

Regional Statistics







How the TSRA Operates


Enabling Legislation



Responsible Minister

Ministerial Directions

Statement of Expectations and Statement of Intent

Ministerial Appointments

Briefings and Information

Judicial Decisions and Reviews

Section 4: Corporate governance and accountability

Overview of Governance Structure

Governance Framework

TSRA Board

2008 - 2012 Board

2012 - 2013 Appointments

Profiles of TSRA Board Members

Board Meetings

TSRA Board Charter

Board Member Induction Process

Board Member's Code of Conduct

Executive Coaching

Performance Review


Executive Committee

Other Boards and Committees

Program Steering Committee

Advisory Committees

Torres Strait Coastal Management Committee (TSCMC)

Audit Committee

Indigenous Fisheries Advisory Committee

Enabling Functions

Information Management and Technology

Environmental Sustainability

Risk Management


External Scrutiny

Fraud Control

Internal Audit

Compliance Report

Indemnities and Insurance Premiums for Officers

Directors' Interests Policy

Human Resources

Workplace Agreement

Payroll and Leave Records

Staff Development and Training

Health and Safety Management Arrangements

Workplace Health

Equal Employment Opportunity

Workplace Consultative Arrangements


Staffing Profile

Other Reportable Matters

Changes to Disability Reporting in Annual Reports

Freedom of Information

Property Management

Exemption from Commonwealth Authorities (Annual Reporting) Orders

Significant Events

Disclosure of Sacred Matters

Section 5: Financial Statements

Section 6: Appendices

Appendix 1: Organisational Structure

Appendix 2: Advertising and Market Research

Appendix 3: Details of Grants

Appendix 4: Details of Consultants

Appendix 5: Compliance with Australian Government Statutes and Policies

Appendix 6: Explanation of Program Budget Variance

Section 7: Compliance Indexes

Commonwealth Authority

Native Title Representative Body

Section 8: Glossary and Indexes

Index of Tables

Index of Figures




A photograph showing children gathered in front of a ranger boat during the blessing