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Treaty between Australia and the Independent State of Papua New Guinea concerning Sovereignty and Maritime Boundaries in the area between the two Countries, including the area known as Torres Strait, and Related Matters

Treaties Maritime law Aboriginal Australians customs Indigenous peoples Torres Strait Islanders Cultural awareness Australia Torres Strait Islands Papua New Guinea

The Torres Strait Treaty was signed in December 1978 and entered into force in February 1985. It defines the border between Australia and Papua New Guinea and provides a framework for the management of the common border area. Both Australia and Papua New Guinea have liaison officers, based respectively at Thursday Island and Daru, who consult regularly on the implementation of the Treaty at the local level.

Key Findings:

There are two main boundaries described by the Treaty. They are:

  1. the Seabed Jurisdiction Line. Australia has rights to all things on or below the seabed south of this line and Papua New Guinea has the same rights north of the line.
  2. the Fisheries Jurisdiction Line. Australia has rights over swimming fish south of this line and Papua New Guinea has the same rights north of the line. The two countries have agreed under the Treaty to share these rights.
  • The main reason for the Protected Zone is so that Torres Strait Islanders and the coastal people of Papua New Guinea can carry on their traditional way of life. For example, traditional people from both countries may move freely (without passports or visas) for traditional activities in the Protected Zone.
  • A special provision of the Treaty allows free movement (without passports or visas) between Australia and Papua New Guinea for traditional activities. This is only for Torres Strait Islanders and for coastal people from Papua New Guinea who live in and keep the traditions of the region.
  • The formation of the Protected Zone has also helped to preserve and protect the land, sea and air of the Torres Strait, including the native plant and animal life.
  • A part of the Treaty deals with commercial fisheries. In brief it:

        1. makes sure that commercial fishing in the Protected Zone is in harmony with traditional fishing.

        2. provides for commercial fishing by both Australia and Papua New Guinea.

        3. includes arrangements for the sharing of commercial catch.

        4. allows both countries to work together in licensing and policing as well as in the preservation, protection and management of fisheries.


Publication Details
Australian Treaty Series 1985 No 4