The Torres Cape Indigenous Council Alliance (TCICA) Inc recently held its third meeting for 2019, which followed on from TCICA’s Annual General Meeting on 6 August.

Leaders from across the Torres Strait, Cape York and Gulf regions met in Cairns over two days to discuss key priorities for the TCICA and initiatives to deliver better social, cultural, economic and environmental outcomes for all communities in the region.

2019 Annual General Meeting

Mayor of Torres Shire Council Vonda Malone, was re-elected as TCICA Chair for a second term. Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council Mayor Eddie Newman was elected as Deputy Chair and Cook Shire Council Mayor Peter Scott was elected as Treasurer, with both Mayors to serve a second term on the TCICA Executive.

Mayor Vonda Malone reflected on the past year in her role as Chair and the achievements of TCICA during that time. She spoke about the growing awareness of the work of TCICA among Queensland Government ministers and within key government agencies, and the work underway to build awareness within the new Federal Government.

During the year TCICA responded to the Transport and Public Works Committee’s inquiry into coastal shipping, provided a submission to the Department of Transport and Main Roads on the draft Far North Queensland and North West Queensland Regional Transport Plans, and made deputations on the Local Fare Scheme.

Leaders continued their strong advocacy on the issue of remote Indigenous housing and welcomed the commitment by the Morrison Government to directly fund Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island local governments to deliver new housing. Leaders also presented a unified front to the Queensland Government to ensure the Local Thriving Communities service delivery reform agenda is co-designed in partnership with local governments.

TCICA strengthened relationships over the course of the year with key regional stakeholders such as Skytrans, Qantas, Tourism Tropical North Queensland, the Torres and Cape Health and Hospital Service, and local members of Parliament, Member for Cook Cynthia Lui, and Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch.

Leaders look forward to the next 12 months as TCICA continues to grow in presence and increase its recognition as the most respected and credible voice for the Torres Strait, Cape York and Gulf regions.

Cape York Regional Package – Tranche 2

TCICA met with senior officials from the Department of Transport and Main Roads to commence discussions on the next tranche of funding for the sealing of the Peninsula Development Road (PDR) and community access roads.

The Federal and State Governments have committed a combined total of $237.5 million to the second tranche of the Cape York Regional Package, which is anticipated to be rolled out over the next five years. $190 million is to be spent directly on the PDR and is funded under the Commonwealth’s Roads of Strategic Importance initiative. The remaining $47.5 million will be allocated towards surrounding access roads. TCICA’s Members will discuss and prioritise community access road projects over the coming weeks.

The road upgrades will help improve access to and from communities, improve the safety of road users, reduce freight costs, and better support mining, tourism and agricultural development. It is expected that another two tranches of funding will be required to fully complete the sealing of the PDR.

Advocacy and Engagement

Leaders discussed and agreed to plan for an advocacy visit to Canberra at the end of November, coinciding with the second-last sitting week of the Federal Parliament. Although Mayors regularly visit Canberra and Brisbane to represent the needs of their individual Councils, this will be the first time the TCICA as a group will descend on Canberra to advocate for regional priorities and represent the collective interests of local governing authorities from across the Torres Strait, Cape York and Gulf regions.

Key areas for discussion will include the $105 million commitment by the Morrison Government to remote Indigenous housing, addressing the cultural and social impacts of climate change, improving regional and remote telecommunications and digital connectivity, and the future direction of the Northern Australia development agenda.

TCICA welcomed the attendance of Member for Cook Cynthia Lui at the meeting and updated her on issues of concern and opportunities to strengthen engagement, as well as hearing from the Member for Cook about her work to address a range of matters impacting the region, including health and education.

TCICA also welcomed a number of senior government officials at the meeting, including Dr Chris Sarra, Director-General of the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships and Government Champion for all Indigenous communities, Michael Hogan, Director-General of the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women and Government Champion for the Torres Strait, and Natalie Wilde, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs.

Leaders acknowledged the significant value of the Government Champions program in providing Indigenous local governments an opportunity to engage directly with heads of departments in the Queensland Government.

Waste Management

Leaders were briefed on the progress of the Indigenous Waste Management Strategy which has been funded by the Queensland Government and is being project managed by the Local Government Association of Queensland. The project is expected to identify strategies that will provide a clear pathway for each discrete Indigenous community to achieve improved waste management and resource recovery outcomes.

Representatives of Container Exchange (COEX) presented to TCICA on the progress of establishing container exchange points across the region to help reduce the number of drink containers littering the environment and reducing the amount of rubbish going into landfill. Work will continue to set up permanent exchange points in communities with the support of local governments.

Communities including Weipa are already seeing the benefits, with local children collecting as many empty containers as they can find and returning them for recycling. Not only is the community looking tidier, the environment is also benefitting from less rubbish entering waterways.

Local Government insurance

Leaders discussed skyrocketing insurance premiums, with some councils experiencing increases of 30 to 40 per cent. This is simply unsustainable and cannot continue.

TCICA will work with LGAQ to develop a strategy to reduce premiums through initiatives such as pooling of assets and bulk purchasing arrangements.

Other matters

The Torres and Cape Health and Hospital Service’s (TCHHS) new Chair Ms Ella Kris, and Chief Executive Bev Hamerton, updated TCICA on TCHHS’s strategic plan. Leaders welcomed the focus on preventative health as well as new and expected investments in health service delivery and infrastructure, and look forward to building a strong relationship with Ms Kris and the TCHHS.

Leaders heard from the Department of Housing and Public Works on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Housing Action Plan and progress of the State’s $40 million commitment to housing in remote Indigenous communities. TCICA urged the Department to progress the rollout of funds as soon as possible to councils ready to start building, while acknowledging the challenges for some communities having to resolve long-standing land tenure issues to free up land new housing.

TCICA also heard from Andrew Kerr at Preston Law on the issue of Native Title and the expiry of provisions in the Native Title Act 1993 late next year that will impact the delivery of infrastructure in communities. TCICA will participate in discussion with the Australian Government to ensure the delivery of vital community infrastructure can proceed in a timely fashion into the future.

The next meeting of the alliance will be held in November.