The TSRA Board, as the accountable authority of the TSRA, presents the 2019-2020 annual performance statements of the TSRA, as required under section 39(1)(a) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (Cth). In the Board’s opinion, these annual performance statements accurately reflect the performance of the TSRA and comply with section 39(2) of the Act.
Napau Pedro Stephen AM Chairperson
The purpose of the TSRA is encapsulated in the agency’s single outcome:
Progress towards Closing the Gap for Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people living in the Torres Strait region through development planning, coordination, sustainable resource management, and preservation and promotion of Indigenous culture.
RESULTS AND ANALYSIS
The key performance indicators for the TSRA were set out on page 288 of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Portfolio Budget Statements 2019-2020 and page 21 of the TSRA Corporate Plan 2019-2020.
Increase in the number of Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal owned commercially viable businesses
In 2019-2020, three business loans were approved to support Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal businesses (Table 2-3), and business mentoring and support were provided to 13 clients.
Under the Regional Economic Investment Strategy:
Three Fisheries Business Growth Package applications were received and one was approved.
Four Tourism Business Growth Package applications were received and one was approved.
No Arts and Creative Industries Business Growth Package applications were received.
TABLE 2-3 NUMBER AND VALUE OF CONCESSIONAL BUSINESS LOANS, 2014-2015 TO 2019-2020
Increased availability of approved business training
The You Sabe Business workshops series is a new service replacing the Into Business workshops that the TSRA delivered in partnership with Indigenous Business Australia. The new service is contextualised to the Torres Strait region and targets the business incubation stage. It aims to encourage and support the development of business skills and business growth for local Indigenous start-ups.
Over the next two financial years, the You Sabe Business project will align with training outcomes of the Wapil initiative through the provision of a holistic package of support that facilitates the sustainability of the fishing industry and reduces unemployment.
As a part of Wapil, up to 90 trainee positions will be made available across the region in the first year, to support entry into the commercial fishing and seafood processing industries. The You Sabe Business workshops will be customised to provide trainees and fishing entities with industry-specific knowledge and business practices relevant to those industries.
The TSRA conducted two business workshops in 2019-2020 (Table 2-4).
TABLE 2-4 BUSINESS WORKSHOPS PARTICIPATION, 2014-2015 TO 2019-2020
Increases in catches by Torres Strait and Aboriginal Fishers relative to total allowable catch, strengthening claims for increased ownership
Implementation of the Torres Strait Fisheries (Quotas for Tropical Rock Lobster (Kaiar)) Management Plan 2018, which commenced in December 2019, has secured access for the Traditional Inhabitant Boat (TIB) sector to an ongoing quota allocation of 66.2 per cent of the total allowable catch.
In the 10 years prior to the plan’s implementation, reported catches in the tropical rock lobster fishery by the TIB sector regularly amounted to a share of around 45 per cent to 50 per cent of the Australian total allowable catch per season. However, in the 2018-2019 season the TIB catch was 52.5 per cent of the Australian total allowable catch (Table 2-5).
Reported catches from the TIB sector in the finfish fishery have been consistently low in recent years (Table 2-6). Reported catches in the bêche‑de‑mer fishery (total and relative to the total allowable catch) decreased between 2018 and 2019 (Table 2-7).
The catch statistics are estimates at time of printing and are likely to be updated in future publications. The best available and up-to-date catch data for Torres Strait fisheries can be obtained from the Fishery Status Reports published each year by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences.
Daily fisher logbook catch reporting for the TIB sector remains voluntary. There are ongoing discussions within the Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA) to identify and implement opportunities for better data collection; however, this is likely to be a medium- to long-term outcome and remains a challenge for the PZJA.
TABLE 2-5 TROPICAL ROCK LOBSTER CATCH STATISTICS, 2017-2018 TO 2018-2019
Traditional Inhabitant Boat (TIB) catch (tonnes)
TIB Total Allowable Catch (TAC) (tonnes)
Australian TAC (tonnes)
TIB catch share of TIB TAC (%)
TIB catch share of Australian TAC (%)
Note: Fishery statistics are provided by fishing season, unless otherwise indicated. The tropical rock lobster fishing season is 1 December to 30 September.
TABLE 2-6 FINFISH CATCH STATISTICS, 2017-2018 TO 2019-20
Traditional Inhabitant Boat (TIB) catch (tonnes)
Total Allowable Catch (TAC) (tonnes)
TIB catch share of TAC (%)
TIB catch (tonnes)
TIB catch share of TAC (%)
Note: Fishery statistics are provided by fishing season, unless otherwise indicated. The finfish fishing season is 1 July to 30 June.
TABLE 2-7 BÊCHE-DE-MER (ALL SPECIES COMBINED) CATCH STATISTICS, 2017 TO 2019
Traditional Inhabitant Boat (TIB) catch (tonnes)
Total Allowable Catch (TAC) (tonnes)
TIB catch share of TAC (%)
Note: Fishery statistics are provided by fishing season, unless otherwise indicated. The bêche-de-mer fishing season is 1 January to 31 December.
The percentage ownership of Torres Strait Commercial Fisheries by Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal People in the region
The TSRA has the lead on behalf of the PZJA in the development of a roadmap towards 100 per cent ownership of the commercial fisheries by Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal Traditional Owners.
TABLE 2-8 PERCENTAGE OF TORRES STRAIT COMMERCIAL FISHERY OWNERSHIP, 2017-2018 TO 2019-2020
Tropical rock lobster*
Trochus and crab
* Provisional allocation under the Torres Strait Fisheries (Quotas for Tropical Rock Lobster (Kaiar)) Management Plan 2018.
Increase in the number of emerging and professionally active artists and cultural practitioners that have access to information and support to ensure copyright and intellectual property rights
In 2019-2020, the TSRA continued to support the development and promotion of the arts industry in the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area. Initiatives offered under the Culture, Art and Heritage Programme included direct support through grant funding and projects, and delivery of initiatives through the Gab Titui Cultural Centre.
The yearly highlights included opportunities for artists and cultural practitioners to take the lead and facilitate art and cultural maintenance workshops, acquire relevant knowledge and experience of marketing and exhibition development, and teach and mentor art and cultural skills to school students, adults and older people.
The TSRA continued to provide partnership support to the three regional art centres: Badhulgaw Kuthinaw Mudh, Ngalmun Lagau Minaral and Erub Erwer Meta. Artists associated with the art centres have increased their skills and experience in producing and marketing their works and have presented exhibitions in national and international institutions.
TABLE 2-9 ACTIVE ARTISTS AND CULTURAL PRACTITIONERS, 2014-2015 TO 2019-2020
Number of Native Title claims successfully determined
The Native Title Representative Body (NTRB) in the Torres Strait is operating predominantly in a post-determination environment with 29 Native Title claims successfully determined.
The claims currently being determined within the region are:
QUD 27/2019 Torres Strait Regional Sea Claim (Part B)
QUD 9/2019 Warral and Ului
QUD 26/2019 Kaurareg People #1
QUD 10/2019 Kaurareg People #2
QUD 24/2019 Kaurareg People #3.
Responses have been provided to all of the Future Acts notices received in 2019–20.
TABLE 2-10 KEY NATIVE TITLE REPRESENTATIVE BODY RESULTS, 2014-2015 TO 2019-2020
Active Native Title claims under consideration
Future Acts notices received
Number of Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUA) that have compensation or other benefits as part of ILUA terms
One Indigenous Land Use Agreement was registered with the National Native Title Tribunal in 2019-2020 (Table 2-11).
TABLE 2-11 INDIGENOUS LAND USE AGREEMENTS FINALISED, 2014-2015 TO 2019-2020
Indigenous Land Use Agreements finalised
Number of endorsed community based management plans for the natural and cultural resources of the region being actively implemented
Sustainable development is critical to reconciling economic growth, human wellbeing and biodiversity conservation. As the TSRA works to improve social, economic and health outcomes for Torres Strait people, sustaining the Torres Strait’s unique natural and cultural values is critical.
Through its Land and Sea Management Unit, the TSRA aims to support decision-making within communities through collaborative land use and sea use planning. The TSRA’s approach is transdisciplinary and participatory, integrating traditional ecological knowledge and scientific knowledge and methods.
The number of community-based management plans increased to 58 in 2019–20 (Table 2-12).
TABLE 2-12 COMMUNITY-BASED MANAGEMENT PLANS, 2014-2015 TO 2019-2020
All community management plans developed by the TSRA are underpinned by the Land and Sea Management Strategy for Torres Strait 2016-2036.
Developed by critical stakeholders and Traditional Owners across the Torres Strait, the strategy provides a framework to support communities to continue to sustainably manage and benefit from their land, sea and cultural resources into the future. It sets out the vision and guiding principles for land and sea management in the region and identifies 16 key values and associated management directions.
An excerpt of the strategy, Management Directions: Land and Sea Management Strategy for Torres Strait 2016-2020, will be reviewed and updated in 2020-2021, in order to report on progress against the guiding principles.
Dugong and Turtle Management
The purpose of dugong and turtle management plans is to empower traditional governance practices with sustainable and adaptive management approaches underpinned by a deep respect for biocultural knowledge of the species. The plans support ongoing traditional uses and practices while ensuring sustainable populations of these marine species across the Torres Strait.
Dugong and turtle management plans have been in place for all outer island communities since 2016. During 2019-2020, a review process was conducted to update community aspirations, legislative requirements, compliance initiatives and the status of species, and to move towards a clear implementation component at the community scale.
A dugong and turtle management plan and permit system for the Kaiwalagal region has been developed by Kaurareg Traditional Owners with support from the TSRA. Kaurareg Traditional Owners are working towards endorsing the plan and determining how it can be implemented. The TSRA serves as a resource for assistance where necessary and when requested.
Biodiversity and Biosecurity
Guided by community priorities, the TSRA has developed a suite of plans to address local and regional partnerships and directives for the management of biodiversity, biosecurity and invasive species.
At a local level, this includes profiles for the management of the habitats and related ecological and cultural resource values of 13 islands, and 18 biosecurity action plans to manage biosecurity threats within each inhabited island community in the Torres Strait. These local plans were developed and are being implemented in close collaboration and consultation with Traditional Owners, Registered Native Title Bodies Corporate (RNTBCs), government partner agencies and other stakeholders. The biosecurity action plans serve as Local Government Area biosecurity management plans for the Torres Shire Council (TSC) and the Torres Strait Island Regional Council (TSIRC).
At a regional level, the Torres Strait Regional Biosecurity Plan 2018–2023 works to manage local biosecurity threats through collaborative efforts of Torres Strait communities, government agencies and other stakeholders represented through the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area Biosecurity Working Group and the Torres Strait Invasive Species Advisory Group.
The TSRA continues to work with communities to develop management plans to reduce the impacts of feral animals on natural and cultural resources.
Working on Country
Working on Country (WoC) plans are local, community-based management plans that have been developed by Traditional Owners and community stakeholders in partnership with the TSRA rangers. The plans reflect Traditional Owner aspirations for land and sea country management and guide the work of rangers on the ground over a 10-year timeframe.
WoC plans are in place to guide the work of Indigenous ranger groups in the 14 outer island communities. The TSRA has commenced a rolling update of the plans and aims to have all 14 updated by 2023. The refreshed plan for Masig was finalised early in 2020 and an additional three plan updates, for the islands of Moa, Mer and Erub, will be completed during 2020.
Indigenous Protected Areas
An Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) is an area of Indigenous-owned land and/or sea where Traditional Owners have entered into an agreement (in most cases, with the Australian Government) to promote biodiversity and cultural resource conservation.
The three IPAs in the Torres Strait – Warraberalgal Porumalgal, Ugul Malu Kawal and Kalalagaw (formerly Pulu) – are managed under endorsed IPA Management Plans. The plans have been progressively updated over the past three years; the final update, for Kalalagaw IPA, was completed in June 2020.
Climate Adaptation and Resilience
Local climate adaptation and resilience plans for outer island communities, to align with and complement the Torres Strait Regional Adaptation and Resilience Plan 2016-2021, have been in development over several years. These plans are designed to help communities to identify local actions that can be undertaken to prepare for possible climate change impacts and to assist in building greater community strength and resilience.
Increase the level of engagement of elected Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal leaders in policy development and decision-making
Elected Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal leaders are becoming more engaged in state and Commonwealth policy development and decision-making mechanisms. TSRA Board members and mayors and councillors of the region are also more actively involved in representation on government committees and advisory groups that help shape effective policies for the region.
Indigenous voice co-design process
On 30 October 2019, the Minister for Indigenous Australians announced the commencement of the Indigenous voice co-design process, a mechanism established to develop models to enhance local and regional decision-making and provide a voice to government for Indigenous Australians. The Senior Advisory Group is guiding the co-design process, and provides advice and support to the Minister.
The Minister announced the establishment of the National Co-design Group on 15 January 2020 and the Local and Regional Co-design Group on 4 March 2020. These two groups are tasked to look at ways to create local, regional and national elements of an Indigenous voice.
The elected Torres Strait Islander representatives to the Indigenous voice co-design process are:
Cr Vonda Malone, TSC Mayor – Senior Advisory Group
Mr Joseph Elu AO, TSRA Member for Seisia and Portfolio Member for Economic Development – National Co-design Group
Mr Getano Lui Jr AM, TSRA Member for Iama and Deputy Chairperson – Local and Regional Co-design Group.
Policy development and decision-making
In addition to her appointment to the Senior Advisory Group, Cr Vonda Malone is Chair of Community Enterprise Queensland, a Queensland Government statutory body with responsibility for providing goods and essential services to Torres Strait, Northern Peninsula Area and mainland Aboriginal communities in remote areas. Mr Napau Pedro Stephen AM, TSRA Chairperson, serves as a board member of Community Enterprise Queensland.
Cr Malone also serves as Chairperson of the Torres and Cape Indigenous Councils Alliance and Chairperson and founder of the Torres Health Indigenous Corporation. She is a member of the Northern Australia Indigenous Reference Group, which advises the Australian Government to shape implementation of the northern Australia agenda to ensure that it benefits local Indigenous landowners, communities and businesses, and supports and advises the Ministerial Forum on Northern Development.
In addition to his appointment to the National Co-design Group, Mr Joseph Elu AO serves as Chairperson of Seisia Enterprises Pty Ltd.
Mr Aven S Noah, TSRA Member for Mer, is a member of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Round Table on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics. The round table provides the ABS with grassroots perspectives and advice on tactical and operational components of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander statistics programme. This includes providing advice and guidance around understanding conceptual issues from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective.
Mr Horace Baira, TSRA Member for Badu, Alternate Deputy Chairperson and Portfolio Member for Native Title, serves on the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service Board, with additional duties as a member of the Finance and Performance Committee and the Safety and Quality Committee.
Mrs Patricia Yusia, TSRA Member for Bamaga and Portfolio Member for Healthy Communities, was elected Mayor of the Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council (NPARC) in March 2020. The local government elections held in March 2020 also saw Mr Philemon Mosby from the community of Poruma elected as Mayor of the TSIRC. Mr Mosby also serves as Chair of the Porumalgal (Torres Strait Islanders) Corporation RNTBC, and Chair of the Torres Strait Local Disaster Management Group. Mr John Abednego, TSRA Member for TRAWQ, was re-elected to the TSC.
Engagement with ministers
In December 2019, the TSRA hosted an official visit to the region by the Minister for Indigenous Australians and the Queensland Minister for Employment and Small Business, Minister for Training and Skills Development and Queensland Government Champion for the Torres Strait. The visit facilitated meaningful dialogue between the ministers, local councils and the Traditional Owners of the region.
The TSRA continues to engage with Commonwealth and state ministers, as well as senior government officials, to influence appropriate policy development for the region.
Number of PBCs that achieve Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) compliance as at 31 December each year
The majority of RNTBCs in the region have met many, if not all, of the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations compliance requirements.
Two RNTBCs have maintained a level of capacity which has reduced their dependency on grant funding by operating on a fee-for-service cost recovery model. In 2019-2020, those RNTBCs made a commitment to provide support to other RNTBCs in the region as result of the fee-for-service cost recovery model.
Increased investment into new and existing regional environmental health infrastructure
The Australian Government and the Queensland Government provided $30 million for the TSRA to undertake the Major Infrastructure Programme Stage 6. This rolling three-year programme (2017-2020) will complete 12 essential health infrastructure projects across the three regional council areas.
The TSRA continued to fund a range of minor infrastructure projects through the three regional councils in 2019-2020.
The TSRA has also secured $40 million in investment from the Australian Government and the Queensland Government to commence Stage 2 of the Torres Strait Seawalls Programme. This important programme ensures that crucial coastal protection work is undertaken for the most endangered islands in the Torres Strait: Boigu, Poruma, Warraber, Iama and Masig.
Improve regional environmental health, telecommunications and marine infrastructure
Since 2011, the TSRA has delivered infrastructure projects through the Transport Infrastructure Development Scheme, a co-funding initiative of the Queensland Government Department of Transport and Main Roads. The TSRA contributes $500,000 annually to the scheme under a memorandum of understanding with the department.
In 2019-2020, the scheme delivered an airstrip security fence replacement on Warraber, pavement repairs on Erub, and the development of a marine access channel dredging study that covers Erub, Masig, Poruma, Saibai and Boigu.
The TSRA has been provided with $6 million in infrastructure funding from the Australian Government for the Prince of Wales Island Safe Landing Facility project. The TSRA is working with the TSC to seek development approval for the safe landing facility.