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Issue #1559      8 August 2012

Disgruntled Torres Strait Islands leaders in walk out

Torres Strait Islands leaders last week walked out of a consultation meeting with Queensland government officials over proposed changes to Queensland’s Animal Care and Protection legislation. Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) chairman Toshie Kris, mayor Fred Gela and Torres Strait Council mayor Pedro Stephen led a walkout of about a dozen people who had gathered to discuss the changes.

It’s understood they made statements saying that the hastily arranged meeting was not proper consultation at all and that they didn’t want to be “tainted by association”.

“The bureaucrats weren’t expecting much better. They had been sent up here to do the dirty work,” a source told the Koori Mail newspaper.

The disgruntled mayors have since written a protest letter to Premier Campbell Newman complaining of the haste in which his government was trying to ram the legislation through Parliament.

The Bills, which have had their first reading, are still to be passed, and there has been no indication from the government about when they will again go before Parliament. It was still to be signed off and forwarded at the time the Koori Mail went to press.

“Significant impact”

Earlier last month, the TSRA had called on the government to consult properly with Torres Strait Islanders over the proposed changes, saying they would have “significant impact on customary practices for dugong and turtle hunting”.

Mr Kris said the hunting practices had been carried out “by our ancestors for thousands of years and are vital for our cultural identity and cultural well-being”.

“For this reason it is critical that we are meaningfully consulted and that our views and recommendations are considered in a genuine way as part of this process,” he said.

Torres Strait leaders are particularly angry about requirements that would prevent turtle or dugong meat being sent for ceremonial purposes to communities in places like Cairns and Townsville.

Queensland Agriculture Minister John McVeigh introduced the legislation to State Parliament late in June to make dugong and turtle hunters meet animal welfare standards. At the time, Mr McVeigh said the current exemption of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to hunt dugongs and turtles was “too easily exploited by some rogue hunters who have no regard for animal welfare”.

The changes fulfil an LNP election promise made after the ABC aired footage of hunters cutting the flippers off a turtle lying struggling on its back.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Minister Glen Elmes also promised that the government would work with Indigenous communities to ensure the new standards were met.

Koori Mail  

Next article – Qld unions plan state-wide strike

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