The Torres Cape Indigenous Council Alliance (TCICA) Inc held its first meeting for 2020 on Wednesday 5 February.

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

Indigenous housing

TCICA Members discussed the Commonwealth’s commitment of $105 million towards remote Indigenous housing in preparation for the State and Commonwealth Government facilitated housing meeting on 6 February. It was agreed that determining a fair and equitable methodology for the distribution of funds is critical, as it understanding the timeline for the rollout of this funding.

Whilst the funding is welcome, Mayors acknowledged that it will not end the need for significantly more investment into new housing. Beyond this commitment, TCICA will continue to advocate strongly for a long term commitment to ensure that longstanding housing shortages can finally be overcome.

Service delivery

Members discussed what appears to a reduction in the level of services like mental health, social support, and health that are being delivered in communities. Service levels must be increased to better support people who are homeless, or currently displaced as a result of unrest in Aurukun.

TCICA will write to housing minister Mick de Brenni and health minister Steven Miles to raise these issues and ensure the appropriate level of support is being delivered, particularly in the communities currently home to Aurukun’s displaced residents.

Regional Roads and Transport Group

In November 2019, Members participated in a workshop to discuss the potential formation of a TCICA Regional Roads and Transport Group (RRTG) to manage the allocation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Transport Infrastructure Development Scheme funds. Following the workshop, a paper on the pros and cons of establishing a new RRTG and participating in an RRTG was provided to Members for consideration by individual councils during their December or January meetings.

Members discussed their individual positions following their councils’ deliberation and collectively agreed not to proceed with the formation of an RRTG at this stage. Whilst this is TCICA’s current position, Members agreed that the matter should remain in focus and be reconsidered at another time.

TCICA 2020 Strategic Plan

A 2020 Strategic Plan was presented to Members for discussion and endorsement. The Strategic Plan is intended to provide a clear direction for TCICA throughout 2020 and ensure that the Executive Officer is accountable to a set of agreed deliverables. It outlines the activities that TCICA will carry out in order to achieve each of the 13 objectives set out in the TCICA Charter.

Each objective is aligned to one of four overarching themes in the Strategic Plan:
• Collaboration and Cooperation.
• Advocacy and Engagement.
• Regional Growth and Economic Development.
• A Strong and Sustainable TCICA.

Key activities for the TCICA during 2020 include:
• developing regional policy positions and a strategic priorities plan;
• exploring opportunities to establish a TCICA Regional Waste Management Group and an Economic Development Group;
• implementation of a proactive media management and community engagement strategy;
• advocacy visits to Brisbane and Canberra; and
• prioritising and implementing recommendations, strategies and actions identified in the Cape, Torres and Gulf Opportunities Plan.

Cape, Torres and Gulf Opportunities Plan

Members discussed and endorsed the final Cape, Torres and Gulf Opportunities Plan, whilst acknowledging that it is a living document and is subject to ongoing revision as opportunities arise and new priorities emerge.

The Opportunities Plan sets out a long term vision for the sustainable economic, social and cultural development of the TCICA region. It focusses on five overarching regional development objectives in order to achieve this growth. These are:
• To be renowned for experiential tourism.
• To be known as an Australian leader in the curation and promotion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and culture.
• To be recognised as a ‘resilient region’.
• To be a leader in grass-roots education, learning from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
• To be the place of choice for environmental studies, research and management.

The Opportunities Plan is intended to guide public and private sector investment in the region, and can form a basis for discussion on a regional deal or similar tripartite-type agreement with the Queensland and Australian Governments. The Opportunities Plan can also underpin TCICA’s advocacy to the Queensland Government in the lead up to the State Election in October, and ongoing advocacy with the Commonwealth, providing a base case for investment in the region.

The Opportunities Plan is not intended to replace efforts already underway in the region. It recognises that there are a range of existing economic strategies, plans and programs at the community and sub-regional level; therefore it seeks to leverage these activities and identify region-wide projects and initiatives that address common challenges and opportunities.

The five RDOs outlined above are underpinned by a number of transformational strategies (TS) and supporting projects and initiatives. The projects and initiatives range from immediate or short term ‘quick wins’ to projects that will require a commitment to action over a much longer term, up to 10 years.

Members also endorsed the implementation of six ‘quick wins’ during 2020 due to their existing alignment with TCICA priorities. These are:
• Obtaining funding for a tourism development strategy and action plan which leverages State and Commonwealth commitments to Indigenous tourism and regional tourism planning.
• Establishing a baseline of all events happening in the region and collating all event information into one easy to find location to help stimulate events-based tourism activity.
• Investigating locations for potential food production hubs and exploring innovate food production methods, such as aquaculture ponds and cyclone proof greenhouses using renewable energy and recycled water.
• Forming a clean energy taskforce to explore regional transition to renewable energy.
• Establishing a regional resilience framework to manage the impacts of climate change, costs of living, infrastructure investment, etc.
• Undertaking a mobile coverage assessment and/or digital infrastructure gap analysis to address priority blackspots and the digital divide.

Proposed local government reforms – informal meetings

Members discussed proposed regulatory reforms dealing with informal meetings of councils. Many members raised concerns about the amendments and the impracticalities of implementing the reforms. As such, TCICA resolved to write to the Minister for Local Government Stirling Hinchliffe objecting to the need for additional regulation relating to informal meetings.