Towards greater autonomy for Torres Strait: Political and economic dimensions

Author/editor: Altman, JC, Sanders, WG, Arthur, W
Year published: 1996
Issue no.: 121


After a brief introduction, this paper comprises the text of a submission to the House of Reprentatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs for its inquiry into greater autonomy for 'the people of the Torres Strait'. The paper distinguishes between the political and economic dimensions of greater autonomy and discusses each in turn. Under political autonomy, it discusses current representative structures in the Torres Strait region and their possible future restructuring into a more fully-fledged form of regional government. Under economic autonomy, it examines major resource and financial flows to and from the Torres Strait region and the current pattern of control and influence over these flows. It suggests some possibility for renegotiating this pattern of control and influence under a future regional government. The final section of the paper identifies comparative models of self-government drawn from the Australian external territories and from international experience. It suggests that, while these may provide useful ideas for Torres Strait, they will not provide ready-made solutions. It also suggests that Torres Strait will not become a precedent for other developments towards greater Indigenous group autonomy elsewhere in Australia, although Torres Strait, too, may provide ideas for other Indigenous groups in other areas. The paper concludes that it should be possible to satisfy expressed desires for a greater degree of autonomy in Torres Strait, but that to advance the process much further will probably require a constitutional convention of interested constituencies.

ISBN: 0 7315 1795 4

ISSN:1036 1774

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