This paper has been written as CAEPR's second response to the terms of reference of the current HRSCATSIA inquiry into greater autonomy for 'the people of the Torres Strait'. It notes that Islander submissions to this inquiry have predominantly interpreted these terms of reference as being about Torres Strait Islander autonomy, as a cultural group Australia wide, and have used the inquiry to further calls for a national statutory Torres Strait Islanders organisation; a Torres Strait Islanders Commission as we have indicatively referred to it.
The paper explores the demographic background to this call for a national Torres Strait Islanders Commission and also the position of Torres Strait Islanders within the current ATSIC structure. It then goes on to discuss issues that are likely to arise in a move towards a Torres Strait Islanders Commission, under the headings of representation, funding, organisational scale, dual identification and Aboriginal people in Torres Strait. The paper argues that a national Torres Strait Islanders Commission is a real possibility, but that it would raise some quite significant and difficult issues. Because of this, the paper also discusses another reform possibility; better representation and funding arrangements within ATSIC and the TSRA for Torres Strait Islanders resident outside the Strait. The paper argues that Torres Strait Islanders themselves must determine which of these reform possibilities they want to pursue and to facilitate this it suggests a national Torres Strait Islander convention as a necessary next step. The final brief section of the paper attempts to clarify relationships between reform towards a Torres Strait Islanders Commission, or better representation and funding arrangements within ATSIC and the TSRA for Torres Strait Islanders resident outside the Strait, and reform towards Torres Strait regional government. Both, it argues, can be legitimately pursued under the rubric of seeking 'greater autonomy for the people of the Torres Strait'.
ISBN: 0 7315 2567 1