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Native Title Services transition from TSRA to GBK

[by Jade Sciberras]


TSRA Chairperson Napau Pedro Stephen AM. Image: supplied

Traditional Owners and Prescribed Body Corporates (PBCs) will take control in delivering all Native Title services in the Torres Strait from 1 July 2022, when Gur A Baradharaw Kod Torres Strait Sea and Land Council (GBK) is recognised as the Native Title Service Provider (NTSP).


The Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) will cease being the Native Title Representative Body (NTRB) and stop providing Native Title services on 30 June 2022.


Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Honourable Ken Wyatt AM MP said it was the right time to transfer Native Title services.


“Under the National Closing the Gap agreement, all Australian governments committed to building Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled sectors to deliver services,” Minister Wyatt said.


“By recognising Gur A Baradharaw Kod as service provider for the Torres Strait region, the Morrison Government is continuing to do its part to deliver on this priority reform to strengthen and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and people.”


Since its inception on 1 July 1994, the TSRA has provided over $71 million for Native Title services, achieving 28 Native Title determinations for almost 100 islands, islets and cays and approximately 40,000 square kilometres of sea country, and the establishment of 21 PBCs.


An additional five claims are before the court – successful determinations would see Traditional Owners’ rights and interests recognised across the majority of the region’s sea country and remaining islands, including Waiben (Thursday Island) and Kirriri (Hammond).


TSRA Chairperson Napau Pedro Stephen AM said the TSRA provided quality and culturally appropriate professional services to Native Title holders and claimants for more than 25 years.


“TSRA is proud of the outcomes produced in its NTRB capacity and acknowledges the Board and administrative staff who have worked hard to maintain, protect and progress Native Title interests,” Mr Stephen said.


“TSRA has long supported GBK and its aspirations for autonomy.


“In November 2021, TSRA transferred its PBC Support Program to GBK.


“The transfer of the Native Title service will further solidify GBK as the region’s peak body for PBCs and Traditional Owners.”


GBK will build on and strengthen the successes of TSRA in advancing and protecting the Native Title rights and interests of all claimants, holders, and other constituents in the region.

The transition to GBK will be momentous for the region. It acknowledges the level of cultural authority that GBK has, as the peak body for all local PBCs, under both Aboriginal law and custom and Torres Strait Ailan Kastom.


GBK Chairperson Ned David said the appointment was a founding goal of the organisation.


“It is a credit to all of our Traditional Owners, PBC and stakeholders that we finally achieve our key aspiration,” Chair David said.


“This is indeed an exciting time.


“On behalf of all Torres Strait Traditional Owners, I acknowledge those Elders who have championed the cause and I pay respect to those Elders who are no longer with us.


“We are extremely grateful for the support of Minister Wyatt, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with key groups in the region, especially TSRA and National Indigenous Australians Agency.”

The TSRA will continue to provide Native Title services until the 30 June 2022. The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) is supporting GBK and TSRA in managing the service transition.


The role as a Native Title Service Provider is recognised under section 203FE of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) (NTA). 


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