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GBK new Native Title Service Provider for the Torres Strait

Group Photo – June 29, 2022
Left to Right: TSRA Member Kubin Danie Savage, GBK Chairperson Ned David, TSRA Member St Pauls John Paiwan

The Torres Strait region has made a milestone step towards self-determination with Gur A Baradharaw Kod Torres Strait Sea and Land Council (GBK) taking over the native title service delivery function from the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA).

On 1 July 2022, GBK became the Native Title Service Provider (NTSP) for the Torres Strait.  GBK – a 100 per cent Indigenous-controlled not-for profit body – is now responsible for the delivery of native title legal and support services to native title claimants, native title holders and Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBCs).

GBK Chairperson, Ned David, said the appointment as a native title service provider was a founding goal of the organisation which celebrated its 10-year anniversary this year. ‘The transition to GBK acknowledges the level of cultural authority GBK has as the peak body for all local PBCs, under both Aboriginal lore and Ailan Kastom’.

‘This is an exciting time. It also makes me a little nervous. It is a momentous step for GBK.  It is now up to GBK to advance and protect native title rights across the region. On behalf of all Torres Strait Traditional Owners, I acknowledge those Elders, including Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal Elders from the Kaurareg people, who have championed the cause and I pay respect to those Elders who are no longer with us’.

On 30 June 2022 TSRA ceased being the Native Title Representative Body (NTRB). After 26 years of serving Traditional Owners in the region, TSRA no longer provides native title services. TSRA will continue to deliver its other programmes – economic development, regional infrastructure, fisheries, culture, arts and heritage, environmental management, healthy communities and safe communities – for Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people in the region.

TSRA Acting Chairperson, Portfolio Member for Native Title and Member for Badu, Horace Baira said for 26 years the TSRA had provided quality and culturally appropriate professional services. He thanked the current and former staff of TSRA’s Native Title Office for their hard work and dedication to maintain, protect and progress the native title interests of Traditional Owners of the Torres Strait.

He also congratulated GBK for its determination and dedication in achieving its key aspiration of becoming a native title service provider. Mr Baira said the transfer of the native title service to GBK signalled a new era for the Torres Strait.

To mark the historic occasion, GBK hosted a handover gala on Thursday Island on 29 June 2022. Commemorating the evening, TSRA gifted GBK a Dhari crafted by Meriam artist Mr Rodney Mabo and a traditional carving by Boigu artist Ishmael Gibuma, inspired by myths and legends of the Torres Strait. The tradition of gift-giving is a long-established practice in Torres Strait culture and the artwork symbolises the ‘passing of the baton’ of traditional knowledge and customs from one generation to another.

Mr David said it will be an honour to display the artwork in GBK’s native title office. ‘The gifts carry a strong symbolic meaning.  Meriam people are the reason all Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people enjoy native title rights across the country and the carving – well the legend of Kusa Kap the dugong hunter is familiar to us all.  Kusa Kap the eagle is a symbol of power, freedom, truth and honour.

GBK has offices on Thursday Island and in Cairns.

Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people are advised this website may contain names, images and recordings of people who have passed.