As described by the TSRA Chairperson, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic occupied most of TSRA core business in 2020.
The TSRA Administration operationalised the Board’s directive to reprioritise up to $1 million towards a COVID-19 Community Response Initiative fund for organisations in the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area, to sustain operations essential to the community and provide additional community support during and after the pandemic.
In addition, to provide financial relief, the Economic Development Programme offered existing home loan and business loan clients a six-month moratorium on loan repayments, collectively worth over $325,000 at 30 June 2020. This opportunity was welcomed by our clients.
In support of our local artists in the region, the Culture, Art and Heritage Programme launched the first Gab Titui Cultural Centre online shop during National Reconciliation Week. Our online presence has allowed our artists in the region to reach audiences across Australia and the globe.
I commend the work of the TSRA Administration staff, who through uncertain times have adapted to remote work requirements whilst responding to the COVID-19 challenges from an operational perspective. In the 2020 environment we have had to think and act differently to achieve organisational goals.
I reiterate the Chairperson’s sentiments that we are a resilient people – we are also a resilient organisation, which I am proud to lead. COVID-19 forced us to think outside the box when it comes to business, revealing to us the true potential of our capability.
Looking back to look forward
I congratulate the TSRA for celebrating 25 years in 2019. What an incredible achievement.
It has been an honour to be the first Torres Strait Islander woman to substantively hold the position of Chief Executive Officer at the TSRA. I am committed to the equal representation of women in leadership across the region. This year we celebrated International Women’s Day and hosted a presentation by National Gallery of Australia Senior Curator Franchesca Cubillo. It was a successful event and a wonderful opportunity to gain insight into the work of the gallery.
To realise and further harness the capability of the TSRA, we deepened existing partnerships and forged new working relationships with the National Indigenous Australians Agency, Australian Public Service Commission, Australian Border Force, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Australian Fisheries Management Authority. At the local level, the TSRA continues to build on its productive relationships with the Queensland Government and local government, including the Torres Shire Council, Torres Strait Island Regional Council and Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council.
Now more than ever before, we must take advantage of our collective regional strength to formulate policy and deliver programmes for the betterment of Torres Strait Islander people and Aboriginal people living in our region.
Outlook for 2020-2021
The challenges of an ever-changing world are imminent. Our island geography and remoteness from mainland Australia present considerable challenge and opportunity. We will proactively engage to enhance regional coordination and delivery of services to improve the lives and livelihoods of our people and communities.
The TSRA will continue to advance organisational reform to modernise operations and service delivery, including to provide active policy advice. We will invest in our workforce and create opportunities for interagency exchanges. We will use innovative technology and resources to improve productivity, explore new economic sources for local and regional growth, and strengthen our working relationships at the local, state and national levels.
In conclusion, I would like to thank our Chairperson, Mr Napau Pedro Stephen AM, and the TSRA Board for their leadership and support. I echo the sentiments of the Chairperson in respect to the late Mr Donald Banu. He will be dearly missed by the TSRA family.
I look forward to the future of the TSRA, working with the Board and Administration to produce better outcomes for our people and communities. Koeyma Eso, Au Esoau.