Financial year 2014 - 2015 year has been another busy year as the TSRA Board members and programmes areas progressed and implemented policies and projects to achieve the outcomes identified in the Torres Strait Development Plan 2014 - 2018.
In 2014, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion, announced the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS). One of the key activities undertaken by the TSRA Board was to map and align the outcomes form the TSRA’s Torres Strait Development Plan to the five IAS programme streams. This enables us to demonstrate a strong alignment between the TSRA’s programme outcomes and government policy.
The TSRA maintained a strong focus on community engagement as we continued our community visit programme to inform Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people in the region of the role of the TSRA and of changes to Australian Government Indigenous policies. Effective communication with the appropriate Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people in the region is a critical success factor for all agencies delivering outcomes in the region. This year the TSRA has extended its reach into communities by establishing Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts. The response, particularly from the young adult group, has been very positive.
Strong Programme Performance
Performance reporting. This year the TSRA changed its programme performance reporting from the narrative style used for many years, to a graphics-based ‘digital dashboard’ to highlight at-a-glance projects, activities and risks requiring the attention of the TSRA Board or the leadership group. The new style of reporting has reduced the volume of reporting per quarter from over 100 pages to under 30 pages, while still covering project budget, schedule, quality, risk and outcomes using key performance indicators. There has been a significant improvement in the level of reporting, with a stronger strategic focus. A similar approach has been adopted for Section 2, Programme Performance in this annual report. This streamlined and simplified reporting format has been embraced by the TSRA’s Audit Committee and the Board members.
Grant funding. The TSRA operated two common funding rounds in November 2014 and March 2015. Through this process, 44 successful applications were supported. They contributed over $4.30 million towards community groups, Indigenous enterprises and individuals to carry out activities and projects that are aligned to the Torres Strait Development Plan 2014 - 2018 and that will benefit Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people in the region.
Economic development. The TSRA commissioned an independent review of its economic development strategy during the reporting period. The review found that the practice of providing grant funding to support community-based economic development activities had not produced the intended employment or commercial viability outcomes. The Community Enterprises Initiative Scheme has been closed and will no longer be offered through the common funding round. A new economic development strategy is being trialled which targets specific initiatives identified through region-wide economic development forums. Two economic development forums were held during the reporting period; the final forum to identify the initiatives to be supported is scheduled for August 2015. The programme is supporting 21 business clients with low interest loans. The loan portfolio is valued at $1.833 million.
Home ownership. The TSRA’s Economic Development Programme, with a portfolio value of $3.53 million, is supporting 25 families with subsidised home loans.
Caring for Country. The TSRA is delivering the Australian Government’s $42.0 million ‘Caring for Country’ commitment to the Torres Strait ranger programme through to 30 June 2018. The ranger programme employs 45 Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal rangers based in 14 communities throughout the region. Ranger vessels operate in six Torres Strait Islander communities, and a seventh vessel is planned for the Mer community in 2016.
Ranger activities. Typical ranger activities include the removal of ghost nets and other marine debris, working with Torres Strait communities on dugong and turtle management, protection of culturally significant sites, removal of invasive plant species, recording of traditional ecological knowledge, monitoring of natural resources throughout the region and implementing of agreed actions from community-based plans. Rangers are also integral in the TSRA’s delivery of a range of natural and cultural resource management initiatives on behalf of other agencies through external funding arrangements.
Leadership for tomorrow. The TSRA offers a range of leadership programmes in partnership with the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation to assist Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people in the region to grow their leadership skills. Opportunities include the Australian Rural Leadership Programme, Torres Strait Young Leaders Programme, Training Rural Australians in Leadership and the TSRA Women’s Leadership Programme (TSWLP). The TSWLP specifically targets women who are interested in public office and assists them to develop the confidence and skills to compete in the electoral process.
Senior leadership. The suite of courses offered through the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation targets tomorrow’s leaders, identifying people who are committed to extending their knowledge, understanding and capabilities in order to be more effective and influential. The premier course is the Australian Rural Leadership Programme which is delivered in six sessions over an 18-month period. The TSRA is pleased to congratulate Mr Kenny Bedford, the TSRA Member for Erub and Portfolio Member for Fishers, as our latest graduate from the twentieth Australian Rural Leadership Programme.
Supporting Native Title Prescribed Bodies Corporate. The TSRA has developed a two-tier support model for Registered Native Title Bodies Corporate (RNTBCs) in the Torres Strait area which recognises the differing levels of capability and maturity of the 21 RNTBCs we support as part of our Native Title Representative Body (NTRB) function. The TSRA has two memoranda of agreement with higher performing (Tier 1) RNTBCs to operate on a fee-for-service basis. The remaining 19 RNTBCs are supported using a mix of capacity-building grants and direct support. In 2014 - 2015, the TSRA provided grants totalling $0.269 million to ten RNTBCs.
Native title. In 2014 - 2015, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs invited the TSRA to continue the NTRB role until 30 June 2016. While the NTRB is operating predominantly in a post-determination environment, there are still three native title claims to be resolved. The impacts of the Torres Strait Sea Claim Part A determination on the commercial fishing rights of Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people is still being worked through, with the newly formed Malu Lamar RNTBC representing the rights of Traditional Owners in the sea claim area.
At a glance. The TSRA workforce grew from 141 to 147 this year, with 104 Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people on staff. We are proud of our 71 per cent Indigenous employment level, one of the highest achieved by any government entity. The TSRA also maintains a good gender balance in its workforce, with 52 per cent male and 48 per cent female.
Diversity. In November 2014, the TSRA was nominated as a finalist in the Australian Public Service (APS) Diversity Awards for the TSRA Cultural Protocols Guide for TSRA Staff and the TSRA Indigenous Employment Strategy. The APS Diversity Awards considers Australian Government entities who have made a positive impact, are innovative, support collaboration and demonstrate their commitment to embracing diversity-related APS policy and initiatives.
Opportunities. There are opportunities for Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal staff to be promoted to the highest levels in the TSRA, and skilling our workforce remains a high priority. This year the TSRA provided an opportunity for seven experienced APS officers from other agencies to undertake a secondment into our programme line areas.
Many of our functions are performed in partnership with other agencies across three levels of government, with non-government organisations and with the private sector. The TSRA seeks to build on and extend these partnerships to make even greater efficiencies and deliver more effective outcomes for the region. Our partners in service delivery include:
- Indigenous Business Australia
- the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation
- the Australian Fisheries Management Authority
- the Australian Maritime Safety Authority
- the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships
- the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
- the Torres Shire Council
- the Torres Strait Regional Council
- the Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council
- the Torres Strait Islanders Media Association
- the Mura Kosker Sorority
- Port Kennedy Association.
Financial. The TSRA’s budget for 2015 - 2016 will enable existing programmes and service levels in the region to be maintained, while again providing opportunities for innovative approaches to achieving the region’s and the TSRA’s vision and goals.
Board direction. Under the leadership of the Board, our focus on qualitative support for clients, stakeholders and communities will continue. The TSRA’s tiered support for native title RNTBCs and a re-invigorated economic development approach, which will be finalised in early 2015 - 2016, are positive examples of the Board’s commitment and ability to innovate to improve its performance and address regional challenges.
Communications. Consistent access to communication services is an issue within the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area. Improving access to these services is also critical for achieving more efficient, effective and cost-beneficial service delivery to all communities for government and the non-government sectors. The TSRA will work to secure commitment for better services and infrastructure to support regional communication.
Target areas. The TSRA’s programme areas will continue to deliver against the 2014 - 2018 Torres Strait Development Plan, while targeting employment, education (including capacity building) and safe communities as priority areas for supporting sustainable regional growth into the future.
Although this year has been busy for both the administration and Board members, the TSRA is proud of its progress and achievements. The Report of Operations includes case studies from each of the TSRA programmes, 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 set its strategic direction. Your ongoing efforts and support are truly appreciated. My appreciation is also extended to the TSRA staff and other agencies across all levels of government who have partnered with the TSRA to contribute to achieving the best outcomes for our communities.
I also acknowledge the Elders, Traditional Owners, Native Title Prescribed Bodies Corporate and local government councillors for their support and hospitality when the TSRA visited their communities.
Wayne See Kee
Chief Executive Officer