Yarrabah played host to the Torres Cape Indigenous Council Alliance’s fifth and final meeting for 2022 on 15 November, attended by nearly 30 Mayors, Councillors and Chief Executives from across the Torres Strait, Cape York and Lower Gulf region.  Leaders participated in important discussions on matters such as health equity, housing, Indigenous economic outcomes, grant funding opportunities, and TCICA’s upcoming advocacy visit to Canberra.  Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire Council presented on their Yarrabah Leaders Forum initiative, highlighting the value of collaborative leadership and collective action.

The meeting followed on from TCICA’s Annual General Meeting, where Mayor Robbie Sands, Councillor Cameron Hudson, and Mayor Peter Scott were re-elected to the positions of Chair, Deputy Chair, and Treasurer respectively.

During their time in Yarrabah, members were treated to a traditional Kup Murri lunch featuring cultural foods and highlighting the cooking skills of Yarrabah’s works and infrastructure team.

Canberra Advocacy Visit

A delegation of TCICA members is heading to Canberra for a series of meetings on 30 November and 1 December with ministers and shadow ministers to progress priorities areas such as overcrowded housing, high living costs, water quality issues, digital connectivity, funding for land and sea infrastructure, economic opportunities, and the financial sustainability of local governments.  This is TCICA’s first visit to Canberra since the change of government in May and represents a significant opportunity for elected leaders to engage with their federal counterparts and put forward a strong case for investment to help Close the Gap in the TCICA region.

Gambling Community Benefit Fund

Gambling Community Benefit Fund Committee Chair Alan Sparks and committee member Petina Tieman briefed members on the objectives of the fund and the types of projects likely to have a greater level of success under the funding guidelines.  Around $60 million is available each year to help not-for-profit community groups, including local governments, provide services, activities and opportunities to their communities.  Eligible projects include community events, equipment purchase, facility improvements, machinery, printing of publications, workshops and conferences, and the purchase of vehicles or boats.  Applications that consider how the project can benefit multiple organisations or community groups and those that clearly explain the need are more likely to be recommended for funding.  Members were reminded of the upcoming ‘super round’, which provides funding of up to $100,000.  Applications open in mid-January and will close on 28 February.

Yarrabah Leaders Forum

Sue Andrews of Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service and Ailsa Lively of Gindaja Treatment and Healing Centre presented to TCICA on the establishment and development of the Yarrabah Leaders Forum.  Funded initially by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Forum brings community organisations together into a shared agreement focussed on improving lives by addressing community needs in a coordinated way.  The YLF represents community-based leadership in decision-making, devolving responsibility and ensuring that government funded services are directed towards goals agreed to by the community.  Joint priorities are represented within six pillars – A Safe Community, Employed Community, Smart Community, Sustainable Community, Healthy Community, and Supportive Foundations – setting strategic frameworks for a better and stronger future for the community of Yarrabah.

Local Government Association of Queensland

Simon Booth updated Leaders on the ongoing work of the LGAQ, including housing advocacy, government cost shifting, regional waste management plans and natural resource management matters.  LGAQ is working through actioning the policy motions from the recent annual conference, including a motion on the disproportionate impact of conflict-of-interest laws on Indigenous communities, and a motion calling for local governments to have first right of refusal to deliver State Government-funded infrastructure projects to deliver the works themselves or through local Indigenous businesses.

LGAQ has committed to reviewing the purpose, function and value of the Indigenous Leaders Forum and is seeking feedback from Councils, as well as nominations for a steering committee to undertake the review.

Productivity Commission Closing the Gap Review

The Productivity Commission has released a review paper on the National Agreement on Closing the Gap to hear views on the proposed approach to the review, ideas for case studies to demonstrate what is and is not working, and perspectives on progress towards each of the priority reforms and socio-economic outcomes.  Members were encouraged to read the paper and consider making a submission by 12 December.

Health Service Delivery Reforms and Health Equity

Renee Williams from QAIHC updated members on the progress of the TORCH project and the new Queensland Health TORCH project team.  The next project milestone is a formal bilateral agreement between the Australian and Queensland governments.  Queensland’s Health Minister is proposing that the bilateral be signed in March 2023 at TCICA’s meeting.  The timeline for community engagement in the project has been extended to allow for deeper conversations about the TORCH model, to be lead by QAIHC during 2023.

Napau Namok and Keziah Bin Sali of the Torres Cape Hospitals and Health Service briefed members on the development of the Health Equity Strategy for the TCHHS.  The collection of feedback is now complete, with over 180 instances of feedback received from across the region. Issues such as the Patient Travel Scheme and the cost of travel for people from remote outer islands when not approved as patient escorts were just some of the equity issues identified.  It was acknowledged that consultation could have been more comprehensive during the development phase of the project, however there are opportunities for engagement during the implementation stage to authenticate the process in the journey towards health equity.  Members recommended that the findings of the Coronial Inquest into the three deaths at Doomadgee be considered and incorporated into the strategy.

Ming Lo and Tristan Ceccato from Impact Co presented to TCICA on the Torres Cape Hospitals and Health Service Guiding Principles project, the purpose of which is to identify a set of guiding principles for TCHHS that will inform how the organisation approaches healthcare across its communities.  The principles are intended to describe how TCHHS should be delivering healthcare in order to produce positive health and wellbeing outcomes.  Impact Co has consulted across the Northern Peninsula Area, Cape York and Torres Strait to develop the principles.  While not all communities were able to be consulted due to time and budget constraints, the feedback from more than 300 people highlighted very similar themes across the region.  TCICA members are encouraged to provide further validation of the draft principles.  Fundamentally, the principles are about driving accountability within the health system and devolving decision-making on health needs and outcomes to the local level.

2023 Schedule of Meetings

8 March (Cairns)

9 & 10 May (Cairns)

11 May – TCICA Local Government Disaster Resilience Forum (Cairns)

4 & 5 July (Kowanyama?)

6 & 7 September (Wujal Wujal?)

8 & 9 November, including AGM (Cairns)