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Pearl Anniversary: Torres Strait Regional Authority celebrates 30 years strong

Thirty years ago, a vision for a voice from the Torres Strait became reality when the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) was established on 1 July 1994.

This week (Monday 1 July), hundreds of community members joined the start of anniversary celebrations coinciding with the Coming of the Light – an annual acknowledgement of the arrival of Christianity in the region.

Archbishop Philip Freire, Ambassador for First Nations Peoples Justin Mohamed and inaugural TSRA Chairperson and newly announced Queensland Great Getano Lui (Jnr) AM were among distinguished guests.

The morning program included a church service and re-enactment of the historic declaration signing of TSRA at the Parish Hall of the Cathedral Church of All Souls and St Bartholomew on Waiben (Thursday Island).

Sunset signalled time for feasting, song and traditional dance into the night.

Mr Stephen said the celebrations acknowledged past, present and current staff and board members.

“TSRA was established in 1994 following a review of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Act, which recognised the separate and distinct nature of Torres Strait Islanders,” Mr Stephen said.

“Our 30th Anniversary reflects on the advocacy of our ancestors, work by our predecessors to pave the way and dedication of our long-serving staff to guide our young people and next generation.

“TSRA was created by our people, for our people of Zenadth Kes (Torres Strait).”

The 2023-2028 Torres Strait Development Plan details the TSRA Board priorities guided by the vision, Yumi pasin – yumi Ailan Kastom. Strong in culture, unified partnerships to achieve a sustainable future.

TSRA’s longest serving staff were also recognised for their 30 years of service and dedication:

  • Patricia David
  • Noramah Bin Doraho
  • Rita Dorante
  • Bonita Yamashita

Mr Stephen said TSRA continued to provide a direct voice from the islands to the nation’s political capital of Canberra.

“For the past 30 years, TSRA has been a lead Commonwealth government agency for Indigenous Affairs led by a First Nations Board and strong Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal workforce,” he said.

“Since 1994, TSRA has helped facilitate 28 Native Title determinations for almost 100 islands, islets and cays, funded more than $300 million towards infrastructure and supported hundreds of scholarships and sponsorships.

“We continue to care for culture and economic development, including through our Gab Titui Culture Centre and for land and sea through our world-class ranger program.

“Thank you to our predecessors who established TSRA on 1 July 1994 and the board members, staff and communities who continue to advocate for our people and region.

“Like the circle shape of the pearl, our story does not end, it continues.”

‘The Perfect Pearl’ artwork for the 30-year anniversary was designed by award-winning Torres Strait Islander artist and this year’s NAIDOC Week poster winner, Deborah (Deb) Belyea.

Deb is a proud member of the Samuawgadhalgal, Cassowary Clan, whose bloodlines stretch to the people of the top Western Torres Strait islands of Saibai, Dauan and the Bamaga-Saibai community of Cape York.

Learn more about TSRA at www.tsra.gov.au or on Facebook.

Fast Facts

As one of the most remote Australian Public Service (APS) agencies, TSRA supports programs across the Torres Strait region, including for the 17 inhabited islands of the Torres Strait and the communities of Bamaga and Seisia on the Northern Peninsula Area of mainland Australia.

TSRA is a statutory body and the lead Commonwealth agency in the Torres Strait for Indigenous Affairs, operating under the direction of an elected Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal Board.

The Torres Strait stretches 150 kilometres northwards from Cape York Peninsula to Papua New Guinea (PNG) and up to 300 kilometres from east to west. This 48,000 km² area includes more than 270 islands and reefs.

  • Torres Strait Regional Authority celebrates 30 years strong

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