Torres Strait seeks autonomy from the mainland

27 May 2013

Self determination for Torres Strait communities has been a long running battle, with plans for an independent territory like the ACT falling flat. But over the weekend at a Queensland community cabinet meeting on Thursday Island islanders push for reforms at the council level that could offer greater control over their lives.

The issue of self-determination for Torres Strait has re-emerged over the weekend at the Queensland community cabinet meeting on Thursday Island.

Residents of the vast archipelago of islands between the northern Australian mainland and Papua New Guinea have fought for decades for self government. They were given a glimmer of hope in 2011 at the last community cabinet meeting when the then premier Anna Bligh promised to take the issue to the federal government.

They're now hoping the Newman Government's push to give Queensland local councils greater powers will provide a new opportunity for Torres Strait.

Torres Shire mayor Pedro Stephen says there are over 35 commonwealth and state agencies operating in the Torres Strait and islanders are over governed.

‘[What we want] is not to actually start all over again and to have our own education system or a policing system and a local government system,' he said. 'It’s to actually look that here in this region decisions are still being made in Brisbane, and in Canberra, for how you can deliver services on Sai Bai and Boigu, just a few kilometres from the New Guinea coastline.'

‘I think if you bring that decision-making much closer to the coalface, then you would actually be able to adopt appropriate policy that would actually bring outcomes.’

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