In a direct misalignment with Torres Strait Islander aspirations to re-govern their own affairs, the Torres Strait region today, has excessive and often duplicated levels of governance. The Westminster System in Australia over the past century has introduced intermittent legislative changes to the region, however as outlined in the Torres Strait Regional Authority’s Regional Assembly Transition Plan (2018), there is still significant reform required to address these aspirations. A key pillar of this transition, being the acknowledgement of the traditional regional name; Zenadth Kes.
Moving to a Regional Assembly model means a greater level of autonomy to discharge Local, State and Commonwealth powers in one governing entity, reducing unnecessary duplication and formally recognising the principles of Ailan Kastom, and traditional systems of governance.
- Formal acknowledgement of the Torres Strait Island region’s traditional name, being Zenadth Kes, through;
a. Endorsement of Council’s name change from the ‘Torres Strait Island Regional Council’ to the ‘Zenadth Kes Regional Council’.
b. Endorsement of the Local Government Area name change from ‘Torres Strait Island Regional’ to ‘Zenadth Kes’.
c. Support and facilitation of the place name change from ‘Torres Strait’ to ‘Zenadth Kes’ with the applicable State and Federal agencies.
d. Adjustment of existing local government boundary in alignment with the intent and movement of traditional inhabitants under the Torres Strait Treaty, and to effectively facilitate marine infrastructure responsibility.
- Formal support of the Torres Strait Regional Assembly entity, encapsulating Local, State and Commonwealth Government functions, through;
a. Supporting the establishment of a secretariat function to coordinate the transition plan.
b. Supporting the establishment of a Special Policy Zone, acknowledging the KOD system of governance.
Regional Assembly Transition Plan:
The Regional Assembly Transition Plan, as authorised by the Torres Strait Regional Authority in June 2018 (and published in July 2018), provides a detailed regional history, articulation of a preferred model, and a roadmap for the successful delivery of the Regional Assembly body.
The abovementioned plan, as previously endorsed by regional leaders, was formally endorsed by Council during a Special Meeting on 28 July 2020.
Zenadth Kes name change:
Council formally endorsed both the local government name change (to Zenadth Kes Regional Council), and the place name change (to Zenadth Kes) during its Ordinary Meeting on 21 July 2020.
The Zenadth Kes name originated as part of discussions led by the late Adhi Ephraim Bani during a Cultural workshop in 1989.
The Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa Bill:
The introduction of the Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa (Torres Strait Islander Child Rearing Practice) Bill 2020 by the Palaszczuk Government, carried an important significance as a new nexus between LORE and LAW. Unlike previous notions within Queensland legislation, this bill signifies a true acknowledgement of both traditional governance and language, and a continual progression from the Mabo Decision to the aspirations set forth in the Regional Assembly Transition Plan.
Torres Strait Treaty:
The Treaty sets the boundary between Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) and established the Torres Strait Protected Zone to protect the traditional way of life of Torres Strait Islanders and the coastal people of PNG who live adjacent to the Torres Strait. The Protected Zone also protects the land and sea environment of the Torres Strait.
The Treaty allows free movement (without passports or visas) between Australia and Papua New Guinea for traditional activities within the Protected Zone and nearby areas. PNG traditional inhabitants come from Bula, Mari, Jarai, Tais, Buji/ Ber, Sigabadaru, Mabadauan, Old Mawatta, Ture Ture, Kadawa, Katatai, Parama and Sui (the 13 PNG Treaty Villages). They can make traditional visits (free movement without passports) into the Protected Zone. PNG traditional inhabitants can travel south into Australia as far as the 10 degrees 30 minutes South latitude (near Number One Reef).
Australian traditional inhabitants come from Badu, Boigu, Poruma, Erub, Dauan, Kubin, St Pauls, Mabuiag, Mer, Saibai, Ugar, Warraber, Iama and Masig, and can make traditional visits to the PNG Treaty Villages and travel north as far as the 9 degrees South latitude (just north of Daru). The current local government area boundary is therefore not consistent or aligned with the intent set forth within the treaty for the 14 communities within the Torres Strait Island local government area.