Indigenous economic development in the Torres Strait: Possibilities and limitations

Author/editor: Arthur, W
Year published: 1991
Issue no.: 4


The Torres Strait is an archipelago populated predominantly by Torres Strait Islanders, officially recognised by the Federal Government as Australia's other Indigenous minority. At present, the Strait's economy is characterised by significant public and private service sectors, and by a productive sector based entirely on commercial fishing. There are pressures from Islander interests and from Federal Government policies to decrease dependency on the public purse by increasing the opportunities for Islander employment. However, in the context of the region's fishing industry, these policies appear ambiguous. Furthermore, expansion is limited by the size and availability of fish stocks. A corollary of this is that in regions, such as the Torres Strait, Federal Government policies for Indigenous people may have to accept that there are real limits to the economic growth that can occur from primary production alone.

This paper summarises the social and economic characteristics of the region. The possibilities for expanding the non-welfare economy as well as for increasing Islander involvement in it and some of the apparent constraints to these changes are examined. In conclusion, some policy implications of this analysis, especially for the Federal Government's Aboriginal Employment Development Policy (AEDP), are raised.

ISBN: 07315 1166 2

ISSN:1036 1774

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