Interim Report to
This report was duly
Jacob Matysek endorsed by directors
Interim CEO through resolution i 2021 INDIGENOUS VOICE REPORT
Erub Island INTRODUCTION
Zenadth Kes Secretariat is a newly
established body (March 2021)
operating under context of TSRA
Regional Assembly Transition Plan.
The Secretariat seeks to
collaborate with existing local
stakeholders and community to
form a new Regional Assembly
TORRES STRAIT REGIONAL VOICE
Government should strongly
consider Zenadth Kes Secretariat
as both the vehicle to establish
the Regional Assembly and the
Regional Voice to the National
THIRD CO-DESIGN GROUP
We recommend that The
Secretariat also be endorsed as a
third co-design group.
REGIONAL AND LOCAL
INDIGENOUS VOICE AND THE
We seek support for our regional
aspirations for a self-governing
body for the Torres Strait.
We respectfully ask that due
consideration be given to our
ii 2021 INDIGENOUS VOICE REPORT
The Zenadth Kes Secretariat Torres Strait Islander Corporation supports the
Uluru Statement from the Heart and ambitions for constitutional recognition for all
`First Nation Peoples.
Zenadth Kes Secretariat Torres Strait Islander
Corporation also acknowledges the hard work by
the many unnamed social justice advocates that
have come from all backgrounds and walks of
life. We further acknowledge the hard work of all
our elders and leaders (past, present, and
emerging) and thank them for their dedication to
our community and nation.
We also thank Honourable Minster Ken Wyatt,
The Australian Government and Australian
People for this opportunity.
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Zenadth Kes Secretariat Torres Strait Islander
Corporation (‘The Secretariat’) recommends that
Government endorse Zenadth Kes Regional
Assembly as Regional Voice of Torres Strait
Region (‘Zenadth Kes’) and/or Northern Peninsula
Area should all communities agree.
Should any shared issue emerge the National Voice
(as proposed) and Zenadth Kes Regional Assembly could
work together collaboratively. This could involve, amongst
other things, sitting jointly together and/or the making of
The Zenadth Kes Secretariat Torres Strait Islander Corporation is
constituted to be an independent body made up of current elected
Torres Strait leaders. We recommend, The Secretariat, whether under
ORIC or another agreed structure stand
in the shoes of Zenadth Kes Regional Assembly until that body is
fully established. Endorsing this model would ensure Minister
for Indigenous Australians (the Minister) is adequately
informed and able to respond to the needs of Torres
Strait, test ideas and build consensus on the issues
unique to our Zenadth Kes Region.
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We recommend the Zenadth Kes Secretariat be endorsed as a third
We recommend that consideration be given to the creation of Two
National Voices: a) The National Voice (as currently proposed); and
b) A Zenadth Kes Regional Voice to form part of the Zenadth Kes
Regional Assembly currently represented by the Zenadth Kes
Secretariat Torres Strait Islander Corporation until such time as the
Zenadth Kes Regional Assembly be established.
That funding be made available to support Zenadth Kes Secretariat
perform its function and purpose being the establishment of the
Regional Assembly including the specific function of the Regional
Voice for the Torres Strait.
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"Torres Strait Islands traditionally known as Zenadth Kes occupies the
sea country between two mainland areas, Australia (Koey Dhawdhay)
and PNG (Moegi Dhawdhay) and that sea country is the recognised
Native Land and Waters of Guda Maluyligal, Maluyligal, Kulkalgal, Kemer
Kemer Meriam, Kaiwalagal Sea Faring Nations of Zenadth Kes.
The Statehood of Zenadth Kes was governed by Kod Systems an ancient
form of traditional governing structure prior to colonisation. Our Aspiration
to re-govern our own affairs has been recognised partly facilitated by the
Westminster System in Australia over the past century.
As proud traditional owners of Zenadth Kes we have never ceded our
right to govern our own affairs. From the outset, we have maintained our
position thoughout the ensuing legislative reforms governing in the Torres
Strait and have seized every just opportunity to reinstate our position.
Our principle of unconditional freedom survived the era of the protector
under the segregation policy at the turn of the last century moving to
more conciliatory self-governing structures today. Our conviction never
wavered, although being awarded limited capacity to advise and be
consulted only, still took over a century.
Still our drive for self-management and self-determination continued and
was finally realised under the Whitlam and Fraser Governments in the
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"Our special and unique Ailan Kastom that is essentially our Kod
System and which is now commonly recognised by Australia
Judicial and Legislative System as our Inalienable Right has been in
place since time immemorial and it is time for clear recognition of
our voice and the aspirations of the people of the Torres Strait to be
Moving to Assembly means a greater level of autonomy to discharge
local, State and Commonwealth powers in one governing entity that
is appropriately resourced for best practice and in the pursuit of
excellent service delivery as the people of the Torres Strait
The State and Commonwealth Government endorsed the establishment
of Regional Assembly in 1997 when executed under the
Commonwealth 2005 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act (2005
ATSI Act), 1985 Torres Strait Treaty and the Declaration of
Indigenous Rights that Australia is a signatory to, at the United
Nations General Assembly.
The Torres Strait Regional Authority under Section 5 of the 2005 ATSI
Act binds the Crown in the right of the Commonwealth, of States and
TORRES STRAIT REGIONAL
ABORIGINAL AND TORRES
STRAIT ISLANDER ACT 2005
Link: 2018, Regional Assembly Transition Plan
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Zenadth Kes Secretariat Torres Strait Island Corporation (The Secretariat) is a
newly established body (March 2021) operating under an ancient vision. The
Corporation was setup under context of TSRA Regional Assembly
Transition Plan. A copy of the plan can be found via this link here.
The founding members of this organisation are intended to be Torres Strait
Island Regional Council (TSIRC), Torres Shire Council (TSC), Northern
Peninsula Area Regional Council (NPARC), Gur A Baradharaw Kod Torres
Strait Sea And Land Council Torres Strait Islander Corporation (GBK) and the
Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) who are representatives of the people
and communities of Zenadth Kes. Founding members have equal standing
ensuring they are best placed to represent the people and communities they
The organisation will be independent and will be able to focus on the
establishment of the Zenadth Kes Regional Assembly as it is difficult for
local governments and the TSRA to focus on this with cost pressures
and the other duties and obligations that local governments
and the TSRA have.
Note: The Secretariat is currently proposed to remain
incorporated under ORIC however it may be
reconstituted under a different structure for legal
reasons. Regardless of structure, the principles and
membership of The Secretariat are not proposed to
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The Secretariat has been set up purely as a secretariat to drive the
establishment of the Zenadth Kes Regional Assembly. However, this interim
body would be well placed to act as a regional voice for Torres Strait
communities until The Regional Assembly is formed. To achieve this, it is
expected that the corporation will focus and build on the good work already
done by the people and communities in the region and investigate and
implement the most appropriate process to achieve the establishment of the
Zenadth Kes Regional Assembly.
It is anticipated that the Corporation will also be able to access funding and
grants that might otherwise be unavailable to local governments and the
TSRA so that it, as an independent body, can drive this process.
Currently, TSIRC is the only
Member of the Corporation. However, we have consulted with
GBK, TSIRC, TSC, NPARC and TSRA where we hope all regional
bodies will soon join The Secretariat shortly whether under ORIC
or another structure.
We endorse submissions by all our proposed founding members
that seek the establishment of the Reginal Assembly and for this
body to be the Voice for Torres Strait.
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The Secretariat seeks to collaborate with existing local stakeholders and
community to form a new Regional Assembly that we submit would provide
Torres Strait with a more sensible governance model. The people and
communities of the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area have been
working passionately and collaboratively together towards greater autonomy
for many years.
The vision for our region is autonomous decision making in communities for
our communities, respect for Native Title, respect for almighty god, self-
governance, preservation of culture and traditional practices, economic
development on our terms, provision of services to our communities
avoiding duplication and waste with a view to improving outcomes in health,
education, employment, housing and the living standards of our
Torres Strait Leaders have met many times to discuss and workshop the
way forward to achieve this goal for our region.
It has been discussed by the parties that the vision can be
realised through the establishment of a governing body to be
known as Zenadth Kes Regional Assembly.
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TORRES STRAIT REGIONAL
The Terms of Reference for Senior Advisory Group suggest that
Government is committed to a process of co-design to determine options to
improve local and regional decision-making and a national voice. Our Torres
Strait Secretariat should be this voice for our Zenadth Kes because it is
formed by the leaders in the Torres Strait who know the aspirations of the
people and the communities where they already serve. The Secretariat
would dissolve naturally into Zenadth Kes Regional Assembly once it is
In order to achieve local, regional and national intentions The Secretariat
respectfully seeks funding and resources so that it can successfully engage
with stakeholders, communities and the people in the Torres Strait, to
enable the Secretariat to engage with government at all levels to fulfil the
vision of the people of the Torres Strait, to enable the Secretariat to perform
its functions as a corporation and to achieve its objectives as the appropriate
regional voice for Zenadth Kes. The Secretariat would be managed and run
by locally elected representatives equally represented by founding members
(TSRA, TSIRC, TSC, GBK and NPARC).
OUR ZENADTH KES VOICE
We submit that government should strongly consider Zenadth Kes
Secretariat as both the vehicle to establish the Regional Assembly and the
regional voice to the National voice because these are the objects of the
Secretariat as set out in the Corporations Rule Book. The Zenadth Kes
Regional Assembly would become this voice once it is formed.
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THIRD CO-DESIGN GROUP
THIRD CO-DESIGN GROUP
We understand that under the current proposal that the co-design process
would consist of two separate co-design groups, one to focus on local and
regional decision-making (Local & Regional Group) and the other to look at
options for a national voice (National Group).
Whilst we support the intention behind the two-groups, as part of this
submission, we seek an expanded scope. We seek endorsement and
funding support to enable The Secretariat to perform its function to establish
an important Torres Strait Regional decision-making body being the Zenadth
Kes Regional Assembly. We recommend that The Secretariat also be
endorsed as a third co-design group. Relevant documents, including our
Rule Book to give full context and depth to our proposal can be found here.
We hope that Decision Makers will appreciate the solid work already
invested by our local leaders (past, present, and emerging). We invite The
Government through this submission to walk with us on our shared vision for
regional prosperity and greater autonomy.
How will it work?
The Secretariat would act as the Regional Voice for the people of Zenadth
Kes and it would also be the vehicle to drive Regional Transition ambitions
to establish the Zenadth Kes Regional Assembly.
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Regional Assembly to be created under Special Legislation.
Local, State and Commonwealth Government Powers, Functions,
Resources conferred upon this Regional Assembly.
Members to absorb Discretionary Powers under applicable legislation.
Retain all Public Sector Funding to be devolved to the administration of
the Regional Assembly in accordance with its legislative responsibility.
Streamline duplication and retain savings to be redirected in areas of
need to “Close the Gap”.
Provide tailored economic solutions through proposed special economic
zoning to make it easier for businesses to operate in our region.
Encourage external investment to stimulate growth.
Enable continued protection of our cultural way of life that balances
economic opportunity with a priority to preserve our pristine and sacred
natural environment and resources.
Encourage whole of government investment, collaboration, and resource
Reduce duplicity, centralise management systems and support local jobs
(better attraction, recruitment, and retention policies).
Builds an enhanced employment framework providing a clearer career
pipeline for our local workforce.
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REGIONAL AND LOCAL INDIGENOUS
VOICE AND THE SECRETARIAT
WHY IS THE SECRETARIAT IMPORTANT?
The Secretariat acknowledges that to progress Regional Assembly a lot of
work and collaboration would be required across all levels of government.
We also understand that Regional Assembly could achieve its objectives in
several ways however consultation with community is key.
COLLARBORATION AND COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Collaboration has never been more important as the geo-political climate in
our Zenadth Kes Region has substantially shifted and is rapidly changing
considering both the affects Covid-19 and new challenges inflicted by rising
foreign influence. The Torres Strait is the only region to share a border with
another country. Our region is unique, and our issues are separate to
One of the tasks for the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) is to
work towards an Indigenous Voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
so that the Federal government can consider the views and aspirations of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in its decision-making
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As part of this process, the NIAA is currently undertaking consultation
processes with communities to consider a proposal for a regional level
governance structure that:
a) Is designed and led by local communities
b) Provides advice to all levels of government about matters of
importance for communities in their relevant regions
c) Develops a partnership with all levels of government to deliver and
implement services and programs consistent with community expectations
d) Provides local input into matters of national significance
The discussion at the current time is around considering structures that best
suit the particular communities that these regional governance structures are
designed to service including:
a) Use, build on or adapt existing structures or frameworks to include the
local and regional voice
b) Alternatively, a completely new body made up of community members,
interested groups and organisations and stakeholders to establish a
structure that best meets the aspirations of a particular region.
While the current proposal appears to be focussed on providing a VOICE to
Parliament from the relevant regions to drive policy and decision making to
improve lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, there would also appear
to be scope to expand the depth and breadth of regional level governance
As proposals are in preliminary stages, we submit our proposed Zenadth Kes
Regional Assembly and interim Zenadth Kes Secretariat fits well within the
parameters of the regional level governance structure as proposed. We further
submit that this is also a timely opportunity to reignite longstanding discussions
with government to support our regional aspirations for a self-governing body
for the Torres Strait.
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The Zenadth Kes Secretariat Torres Strait Islander Corporation (only formed in March
2021) appreciates that the intention behind the voice is to give Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander communities a greater say in public policy, programs, and service
delivery through shared decision-making processes with governments.
In a show of unity Zenadth Kes Secretariat Torres Strait Islander Corporation supports
Torres Shire Council’s view and approach (TORRES SHIRE COUNCIL INTERIM
REPORT TO THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT INDIGENOUS VOICE CO-DESIGN
PROCESS SUBMISSION – FEBRUARY 2021) to establishing the Regional Assembly
however we recommend that Zenadth Kes Secretariat (however constituted)
represented currently by Torres Strait Islander Corporation be the interim voice until
The Regional Assembly is fully established.
We acknowledge Torres Shire Council has recommended establishing a regional
assembly that nominates a representative/representatives to the National Voice where
they support this National Voice having a membership of 20, reflecting gender balance
and diversity. We also support balance and diversity however at this interim stage our
current rules mandate The Secretariat to be made up of 5 founding members being the
local governments, GBK (Land and Sea Council) and TSRA who operate in the region
and the directors of the Secretariat are drawn from these founding members.
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Current proposed directors for the Secretariat has a natural balance of
(1 male Mayor, 2 Male Chairs and 2 female Mayors) however once fully
established The Founding Members would be able to include any other such
members as resolved by The Corporation. The Zenadth Kes Secretariat could also
include an Advisory Council specifically for The Voice that could comprise of any
such number of agreed participants reflecting gender balance and diversity. We
look forward to working collaboratively with all stakeholders to discuss next steps.
Our next regional meeting for the Secretariat is proposed for May 2021 where
these discussions will be front and centre.
In light of all matters considered in this submission the Zenadth Kes Secretariat
Torres Strait Islander Corporation has provided three recommendations for
consideration. We respectfully ask that due consideration be given to these.
We appreciate this opportunity and would welcome any future opportunity to
provide more context to anything discussed. I also confirm that this submission
was duly endorsed by our current Directors in accordance with CATSI Act.
Interim Chief Executive Officer - Zenadth Kes Secretariat
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“WE NO LONGER NEED TO FIND RESOLVE IN
ONLY OUR CONVICTION ANYMORE THEN
DIVINITY IN OUR INACTION.”
WE CAN DO SOMETHING TO RIGHT THE WRONG
OF THE PAST, IMPROVE THE PRESENT AND
PROTECT THE FUTURE.
OUR HOPE INSTILLED IN THIS DOCTRINE,
CREATES A PASSAGE OF RIGHT FOR OUR
CHILDREN TO ENJOY THE SAME PRIVILEGES AS
THE AVERAGE AUSTRALIAN CHILD, DEVOID OF
ANY RISK OF INHERENT PROCEDURAL
INJUSTICE OR SYSTEMATIC BARRIER THAT ILL
AFFORD THEM EQUITY AND SELF
Mr Napau Pedro Stephen AM Chairperson Torres
Strait Regional Authority
2021 INDIGENOUS VOICE REPORT