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Flying the flag: From remote community to rural leadership program

INSPIRING WOMEN: ARLF alumna TSRA CEO Vonda Malone and current participant TSRA Board Member for Warraber Iris Billy

The Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) congratulates TSRA Board Member for Warraber Iris Billy on her selection in the 30th cohort of the Australian Rural Leadership Program (ARLP).

Mrs Billy will join leaders and change-makers with a rich mix of backgrounds in sustainability and innovation, Indigenous issues, agriculture supply chains, biological technologies for agriculture, rail, workforce and training, education, mental health and animal health, along with seafood, fisheries, poultry, dairy, red meat and wool operations.

TSRA Chairperson Napau Pedro Stephen AM said the TSRA was a proud sponsor of the ARLP, the flagship program for the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation.

“For over a decade, the TSRA has funded more than 10 Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal participants based in our region to undertake this unique leadership program,” Mr Stephen said.

“We are proud to connect local people from the Torres Strait with nationwide professional networks and development opportunities to thrive and grow on their leadership journey.”

TSRA Board Member for Warraber Iris Billy said she looked forward to building on her leadership skills and bringing back learnings to community.

“Torres Strait Islander representation is also important in sharing our perspectives and lived experiences, so others can learn about and better understand the needs and aspirations of our region and people,” Mrs Billy said.

“I hope my experience in the Australian Rural Leadership Program encourages more Torres Strait Islanders, including women, to apply.”

TSRA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Vonda Malone graduated from Course 19 in 2014.

In June, the alumna joined participants onboard this year’s launch (7 June) on Sydney Harbour and reflected on her ARLP experience.

“I was sponsored by TSRA to complete the then 18-month program, which provided a great platform to grow, challenge the norm and step outside of your comfort zone,” Ms Malone said.

“The ARLP gives you the opportunity to build leadership capability and to bring leadership skills back to communities and industries.

“Investment in our people is among the most powerful ways we can empower the future leaders in our region and nation,” she said.

Ms Malone was elected as the first female Mayor of Torres Shire Council in 2016 and appointed as TSRA CEO in 2022.

The ARLP is a 15-month leadership development course for individuals committed and ready to respond to regional, rural and remote Australia’s most complex challenges and biggest opportunities.

Applications for Course 31 close at 11:59pm AEST Sunday 16 July.

Find out more or apply now at

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Bio for Iris Billy:

Iris is a Torres Strait Islander, currently living on Warraber Island in the central part of the Torres Strait Region. She’s long been a voice for Indigenous people living in the Torres Strait Region with a strong commitment to social justice and supporting her community in the areas of economic development, employment, training and promoting small business.

Iris holds many volunteer and representative roles in the school community including the Torres Strait Island Regional Education Council; and as a member of Mura Kosker Sorority Inc; the Community Justice Group including Commissioner for Declarations; Community Champion for Social Justice and Interagency Services; and the Health Consumer Advisory Committee for the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service.

In 2014, Iris was one of the first women to participate in the Torres Strait Women’s Leadership program and was elected, in 2021, as the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) Member for Warraber. She intends to build on her already extensive governance and leadership knowledge and skills through the ARLP experience, so she can continue to drive change in social justice, youth in leadership and cultural heritage for both her community, the nation of Torres Strait Islands and the broader Australian community.

  • From remote community to rural leadership program
  • From remote community to rural leadership program
  • From remote community to rural leadership program
  • From remote community to rural leadership program

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