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What we do

ROLE

The TSRA is the leading Commonwealth representative body for Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people living in the Torres Strait, including two communities (Bamaga and Seisia) in the Northern Peninsula Area. It was established on 1 July 1994 under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Act 1989 (Cth), and is currently enabled by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (Cth).

The TSRA also performs separate functions under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) as the NTRB for the Torres Strait region. In 2018-2019, the former Minister for Indigenous Affairs renewed the TSRA’s NTRB status until 30 June 2021.

PLANNING FRAMEWORK

Under section 142D of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (Cth), the TSRA is required to formulate the Torres Strait Development Plan, to improve the economic, social and cultural status of Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people living in the region.

The Torres Strait Development Plan 2019-2022 details the TSRA’s eight programmes and how they contribute to regional outcomes, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Closing the Gap strategy, the Australian Government Indigenous Advancement Strategy and the United Nations Articles on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Regional outcomes are defined in the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area Regional Plan 2009-2029. The Regional Plan was developed by the TSRA, TSC, TSIRC and NPARC, in consultation with Torres Strait communities, and captures community challenges, priorities and aspirations.

The TSRA is a corporate Commonwealth entity under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (Cth), which requires the TSRA to develop a corporate plan each year.

The TSRA’s Corporate Plan, which sets out its programme activities and performance measures for the financial year, flows directly from the Regional Plan and the Torres Strait Development Plan (Figure 3-2).

 TORRES STRAIT REGIONAL AUTHORITY INTEGRATED PLANNING FRAMEWORK
FIGURE 3-2: TORRES STRAIT REGIONAL AUTHORITY INTEGRATED PLANNING FRAMEWORK

LEGISLATED FUNCTIONS AND POWERS

The functions of the TSRA, as defined in section 142A(1) of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (Cth), are:

(a) to recognise and maintain the special and unique Ailan Kastom of Torres Strait Islanders living in the Torres Strait area;

(b) to formulate and implement programmes for Torres Strait Islanders, and Aboriginal persons, living in the Torres Strait area;

(c) to monitor the effectiveness of programmes for Torres Strait Islanders, and Aboriginal persons, living in the Torres Strait area, including programmes conducted by other bodies;

(d) to develop policy proposals to meet national, State and regional needs and priorities of Torres Strait Islanders, and Aboriginal persons, living in the Torres Strait area;

(e) to assist, advise and co-operate with Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal communities, organisations and individuals at national, State, Territory and regional levels;

(f) to advise the Minister on:

  1. (i) matters relating to Torres Strait Islander affairs, and Aboriginal affairs, in the Torres Strait area, including the administration of legislation;
  2. (ii) the co-ordination of the activities of other Commonwealth bodies that affect Torres Strait Islanders, or Aboriginal persons, living in the Torres Strait area;

(g) when requested by the Minister, to provide information or advice to the Minister on any matter specified by the Minister;

(h) to take such reasonable action as it considers necessary to protect Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal cultural material and information relating to the Torres Strait area if the material or information is considered sacred or otherwise significant by Torres Strait Islanders or Aboriginal persons;

(i) at the request of, or with the agreement of, the Australian Bureau of Statistics but not otherwise, to collect and publish statistical information relating to Torres Strait Islanders, and Aboriginal persons, living in the Torres Strait area;

(j) such other functions as are conferred on the TSRA by this Act or any other Act;

(k) such other functions as are expressly conferred on the TSRA by a law of a State or of an internal Territory and in respect of which there is in force written approval by the Minister under section 142B;

(l) to undertake such research as is necessary to enable the TSRA to perform any of its other functions;

(m) to do anything else that is incidental or conducive to the performance of any of the preceding functions.

The powers of the TSRA are outlined in section 142C of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (Cth), which states:

  1. The TSRA has power to do all things that are necessary or convenient to be done for or in connection with the performance of its functions.
  2. The powers of the TSRA include, but are not limited to, the following powers:
    1. to accept gifts, grants, bequests and devises made to it;
    2. to act as trustee of money and other property vested in it on trust;
    3. to negotiate and co-operate with other Commonwealth bodies and with State, Territory and local government bodies;
    4. to enter into an agreement for making a grant or loan under section 142GA to the State of Queensland or an authority of that State (including a local government body);
    5. to enter into an agreement (other than an agreement referred to in paragraph (d)) with a State or a Territory.
  3. Despite anything in this Act, any money or other property held by the TSRA on trust must be dealt with in accordance with the powers and duties of the TSRA as trustee.

The powers of the TSRA may be exercised in or out of Australia.

GOVERNMENT POLICY FRAMEWORK

Closing the Gap is a commitment by the Australian Government and state and territory governments to improve the lives of Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal Australians and, in particular, to provide a better future for Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal children.

A national, integrated Closing the Gap strategy has been agreed by COAG, the peak intergovernmental forum in Australia. COAG brings together the Prime Minister, state premiers, territory chief ministers and the President of the Australian Local Government Association.

Closing the Gap is linked to a wider reform of Commonwealth–state financial relations. COAG’s national agreements and partnerships, in areas such as education, housing and health, are focused on overcoming Indigenous disadvantage.

The TSRA’s programme structure is based on the Building Blocks that COAG has endorsed for Closing the Gap: Early Childhood, Schooling, Health, Economic Participation, Healthy Homes, Safe Communities and Governance and Leadership.

In 2014-2015, the Australian Government introduced the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, with the objective of achieving real results in the key priority areas of getting children to school, getting adults into work, and building safer communities.

The TSRA has aligned its programme outcomes to the streams of the Australian Government’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy while continuing to deliver against the COAG targets:

  • to close the life expectancy gap within a generation
  • to halve the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five within a decade
  • to ensure access to early childhood education for all Indigenous four-year-olds in remote communities within five years
  • to halve the gap in reading, writing and numeracy achievements for children within a decade
  • to halve the gap for Indigenous students in

Year 12 (or equivalent) attainment rates by 2020

  • to halve the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade.

INTEGRATED SERVICE DELIVERY

A key element of the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area Regional Plan 2009-2029 is its focus on integrated planning, development and service delivery. The TSRA’s Integrated Service Delivery project aims to coordinate the effective delivery of a range of government services to local communities and minimise duplication between agencies.

The project has identified and documented over 1,600 gaps in service delivery across 20 communities. The TSRA has published a series of booklets detailing service gaps in each community, which are available from the TSRA’s website.

The TSRA Board has requested that local, state and Commonwealth government agencies refocus on relationships to build stronger partnerships for the delivery of services in the Torres Strait.

In September 2019, the TSRA hosted the inaugural Regional Interagency Forum, inviting senior officers from relevant government agencies, TSRA portfolio members and regional mayors and councillors to provide input into the future Integrated Service Delivery framework for the region.

The interagency forum will be held annually by the TSRA in collaboration with the three regional local government agencies and the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships.

The TSRA Board has requested that local, state and Commonwealth government agencies refocus on relationships to build stronger partnerships for the delivery of services in the Torres Strait.