Native Title

Torres Strait Islander people first achieved recognition of their land rights in 1992 following the High Court's landmark Mabo decision which granted the Meriam people native title rights over Mer (Murray) Island. This was the first time that native title was recognised under the common law of Australia. It set a precedent for Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people throughout Australia to assert their native title rights through the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth).

Native title has been granted for 13 inhabited islands in the Torres Strait region and most of the uninhabited islands. In addition, the Kaurareg Aboriginal people have achieved recognition of their native title rights over seven inner islands: Ngarupai (Horn Island), Muralag (Prince of Wales Island), Zuna (Entrance Island), Yeta (Port Lihou Island), Mipa (Turtle Island), Tarilag (Packe Island) and Damaralag. Native title claims are being pursued over the remaining three land claims.

The TSRA delivers services across the entire Torres Strait region which includes 17 inhabited islands and two communities in the Northern Peninsula Area of mainland Australia.

The Regional Sea Claim determination was made on 23 August 2010 and is subject to appeal. The Australian Government and Queensland Government appealed the judgement of Justice Finn, and the full bench of the Federal Court of Australia heard the appeal matter in May 2011. A Special Leave Application was made on 8 June 2012 in the High Court of Australia to appeal from the decision of the Full Federal Court. If Special Leave is given then an appeal proper will be made to be heard by the High Court. It is anticipated that a decision by the High Court on the Special Leave Application will be made in August 2013.