As the incoming Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) Chairperson, I am pleased to present the Torres Strait Regional Authority's 2016-2017 Annual Report. Since the 2016 election of the TSRA Board, all Board 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 TSRAs achievements and challenges over the past year.
NATIVE TITLE - 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE MABO DECISION
3 June 2017 marked a very significant occasion for Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people, being the 25th anniversary of the landmark High Court decision in Mabo v Queensland (No 2). The Mabo Case, as it was known, has been an inspiration for Indigenous people around the world. This very significant decision has been the platform for other Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people throughout Australia to secure Native Title rights and interests over their lands and seas.
The TSRA, through its Native Title Office, was pleased to support the milestone anniversary at Mer, the birthplace of Mabo. Mer Gedkem Le (Torres Strait Islanders) Corporation and Gur A Baradharaw Kod Torres Strait Sea and Land Council hosted the Native Title Symposium that reflected on the achievements and challenges of Native Title in the region over the past 25 years.
The symposium at Mer was followed by the National Native Title Conference in Townsville.
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.
TSRA BOARD ELECTIONS
The TSRA Board elections were gazetted by the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon. Nigel Scullion, for polling on 30 July 2016. The elections were conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission for the 20 TSRA wards. It was pleasing to see increased interest and higher levels of participation among candidates and voters throughout the Torres Strait region. Six TSRA wards were uncontested and the Australian Electoral Commission conducted polling in the remaining 14 wards.
I congratulate all new and returning Members of the TSRA Board, who will serve to 2020.1 also take this opportunity to thank the previous TSRA Board, including Chairperson, Mr Joseph Elu, for the significant progress achieved in its term for our communities.
The current Board will build on and progress the foundations of our past Boards and work towards best outcomes for the region.
TSRA BOARD INDUCTION PROGRAMME
Following the elections, the TSRA Board members undertook an intensive four-day induction programme on Thursday Island in August 2016. The induction programme introduced Board members to the TSRA and helped familiarise them with the legislation that guides the TSRA. The programme allowed members to prepare themselves for their key governance roles and to learn about Board functions and processes.
TSRA REGIONAL GOVERNANCE COMMITTEE
At its December 2016 Board meeting, the TSRA Board recognised the need to develop a regional governance model suitable for the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area region. A committee was formed consisting of the TSRA members for lama, Seisia and TRAWQ and myself. A key task of the committee was to engage with Australian, Queensland and local government stakeholders and establish a committee to determine a governance model for the region.
One of my first undertakings after being elected was to visit Torres Strait communities. The Chief Executive Officer and I have been working on a community engagement cycle and I have been pleased to undertake visits to Mabuyag, Hammond, Saibai, Boigu, St Pauls, Badu and Warraber. Those visits by the CEO and me have enabled us to share information about the TSRA and provided an opportunity for Board members and community groups to raise community and regional issues with us.
Over the upcoming year, I will continue to visit Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area communities with the CEO.
TSRA BOARD STRATEGIC WORKSHOPS
In 2016-2017, the TSRA Board held two strategic workshops. At the November 2016 workshop, the Board considered the next Torres Strait Development Plan, covering the period 2019 to 2022, and its priorities for the next four years. At the second workshop, in May 2017, the Board considered how the priorities it had identified in the earlier workshop would be developed and included in the TSRA programmes.
BUILDING LEADERSHIP CAPACITY
In 2016-2017, the TSRA continued to develop the leadership capacity of Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people in the region. The partnership between the TSRA and the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation continued to grow and emerging leaders were sponsored through the Australian Rural Leadership Programme, the Training Rural Australians in Leadership programme, the Torres Strait Women's Leadership Programme and the Torres Strait Young Leaders Programme.
During the local government and TSRA elections in 2016, it was very pleasing to see that a number of participants who had been supported in the leadership courses were candidates in the elections. Others have progressed their career paths in industries they are passionate about. It is encouraging to see these outcomes as participants grow, build their networks and become role models for others in their communities.
MAINTAINING OUR CULTURE
In February 2017, the TSRA launched the Torres Strait Traditional Languages Plan 2016-2019 and the Torres Strait Traditional Languages Charter at the Gab Titui Cultural Centre, followed in May by the Torres Strait Language Symposium, where the region engaged with local, national and international presenters. The Torres Strait Language Reference Group was dissolved at the end of the symposium and a new Torres Strait Traditional Language Advisory Committee was established to continue with the development of a regional languages centre and the delivery of languages initiatives. I wish to acknowledge all key partners, stakeholders and community representatives for their ongoing contribution towards revitalising our traditional languages.
Looking back over the past year, the incoming 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, having the hard debates and making the hard decisions for the best outcomes on the challenging issues. The hard work of the Chief Executive Officer, Mr Wayne See Kee, and the administration is also gratefully acknowledged. The combined efforts of the Board and administration contribute to positive outcomes being delivered in our communities.
I take this opportunity to acknowledge our Elders, Traditional Owners, Prescribed Bodies Corporate, local government officials and councillors for the support and hospitality provided to me and the TSRA administration in the delivery of our services throughout the region.
I express my gratitude to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon. Nigel Scullion, and to Australian, Queensland and local government ministers and agencies for their ongoing support to the TSRA and the Torres Strait to ensure that the region continually grows in strength.
Napau Pedro Stephen AM