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TSRA joins with Saibai community to celebrate former leader and 25-year milestone

As part of the Torres Strait Regional Authority’s (TSRA) 25th Anniversary, the TSRA visited the Saibai community on 14 November in a joint anniversary celebration with the Muyngu KoekaperDance Team.

The joint event brought together TSRA representatives, Traditional Owners, Elders and members of the Saibai community in celebration of the TSRA’s 25thanniversary year, followed by a special tribute to the Late Terry Tabuai Waia, a former TSRA Chairperson and Board Member for Saibai.

The occasion also marked 30 years in existence for local dance team, Muyngu Koekaper, who performed as part of the Saibai Island celebrations.

Established on 1 July 1994 under the then Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Act 1989, the TSRA as a Commonwealth statutory authority has since driven a large number of social and economic outcomes.

During its 25 years, the TSRA has spent over $21 million in grants administered through Saibai Island Council, Torres Strait Island Regional Council and community organisations for infrastructure needs and community activities.

Whilst extensive, it includes activities such as training in the community, machinery, airstrip upgrades, development of the community hall and sports facilities.  Dance Teams and capacity building for divestment were also supported.

In February of 1999, Saibai was able to secure legal recognition of their native title rights over Saibai and the neighbouring islands of Mawalman Thoera, Thawpay Kawamag and Kuykuthal Kawamag.

This was one of the first successful native title claims settled in the Torres Strait since the Mabo Case in 1992.

In July 2017, we celebrated the official opening of the $24.5 million Torres Strait Seawalls project, built to help protect homes and critical infrastructure such as the school and airstrip.

The Saibai Island Seawalls project is more than 2.28 kilometres long, with more than 1.8 kilometres of curved wave return wall which deflects the waves back into the water.

A further two kilometres of bund wall protects the health of the community with improved drainage.

In December 2018, the TSRA, as the Native Title Representative Body (NTRB) for the Torres Strait worked closely with the Saibai Mura Buway (Torres Strait Islanders) Corporation RNTBC and clan elders to negotiate and Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with the State of Queensland and the Torres Strait Island Regional Council (TSIRC), which sees the Saibai community benefit from a $13 million Community Safety and Security Facility.

TSRA Chairperson, Napau Pedro Stephen AM, said it was an honour to have the opportunity to say a few words on behalf of the TSRA for the Late Mr Terry Tabuai Waia from Saibai Island, whilst also celebrating this important milestone for the organisation.

“The Late Mr Terry Tabuai Waia was a descendent of the Ait Koedhal, Saibai Koedhal and Dheoybaw Clans, the TSRA member for Saibai and former Chairperson of the TSRA,” Mr Stephen said.

“So, it is fitting that we celebrate his life, with his family, his community and the organisation that he played such a big part in developing during his terms as the local representative for Saibai.

“Terry Waia, was a strong believer in the organisation’s goal to improve the lifestyle and wellbeing of Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people living in the Torres Strait region as the key focus.

“Our vison remains; to empower our people, in our decision, in our culture, for our future.

“We have built momentum and implemented projects that exemplify our commitment to this region over the past 25 years and are proud to celebrate that with communities across the region.”

“We have achieved many things over a quarter of a century including being appointed as a Native Title Representative Body, establishing the Gab Titui Cultural Centre, managing and protecting our natural assets, and a host of economic enablers including our fishery industry.

“Mr Terry Waia, played a big part in that and will be remembered for it.

“It was also important to Terry in his role as a past Chairperson and Member for Saibai, that the TSRA maintain good international working relationships and standards with our Papua New Guinea neighbours through the Torres Strait Treaty, and that we have annual representation at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

“Overall there are some very significant projects that have been delivered through our programmes and partner agencies for the region. Some highlights include the establishment of the Gab Titui Cultural Centre, our highly successful and award-winning Rangers Program, and significant progress towards the 100 per cent ownership of our fisheries,” Mr Stephen said.

“Training and employment opportunities through our Regional Economic Investment Strategy continue to be delivered, the Torres Strait Climate Change Strategy has been launched to address rising sea levels in our communities, a biosecurity plan and strategy was introduced to safeguard against disease and pests entering our country and the TSRA continues to represent Traditional Owners on Native Title issues.”

Pictured: TSRA Representatives with members of the Saibai Island community.

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