The TSRA is a Commonwealth Statutory Authority which was established on 1 July 1994 under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Act 1989 (Cth), and now the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (Cth). The TSRA is the leading Commonwealth representative body for Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people living in the Torres Strait, including two communities (Bamaga and Seisia) in the Northern Area Peninsula.

The TSRA comprises 20 elected representatives (the Board) and Australian Public Service administrative staff. The elected representatives are Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people who live and work in the region. The TSRA Board elects a Chairperson, a Deputy Chairperson and an Alternate Deputy Chairperson. A Chief Executive Officer is responsible for the TSRA's administration and staffing.

The TSRA performs separate functions under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) as the Native Title Representative Body (NTRB) for the Torres Strait Region. In 2013 the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs renewed the TSRA's NTRB status for a further two years. The TSRA holds this NTRB responsibility until 30 June 2015.

Under Section 142D of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (Cth) the TSRA is required to formulate and implement a plan to guide the progress of the Torres Strait region. This document, known as the Torres Strait Development Plan, is updated every four years, a period consistent with the term of the TSRA Board.

The Torres Strait Development Plan 2009 - 2013 is the fourth development plan since the establishment of the TSRA. The plan outlines seven TSRA program components: Culture, Art and Heritage; Economic Development; Environmental Management; Governance and Leadership; Healthy Communities; Native Title; and Safe Communities. In recognition of the importance of fisheries to economic development in the region, the TSRA separated responsibility for fisheries management from the Environmental Management Program and established a standalone Fisheries Program. This change will be reflected in the fifth Torres Strait Development Plan, which is currently being prepared and which will be released in June 2014. For consistency of reporting against the Portfolio Budget Statements and the current Torres Strait Development Plan, the outcomes from the Fisheries Program have been reported under the Environmental Management Program.