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News & events of the Kaurareg homeland of Kaiwalagal, the Torres Strait homeland, and Cape York homelands of the Anggamuthi, Atambaya, Wuthathi, Yadhaykenu and Gudang Peoples
21 - 27 March 2012 • Thursday Island • www.torresnews.com.au • firstname.lastname@example.org • Edition No. 1006 • $2.00 inc. GST
Outrage over southern media hunting claims By MARK ROY
Digging the past Goemulgaw traditional owner Maitui (Beboy) Whap during an archaeological dig at the coastal village of Dabangay on Mabuyag late last year. Archaeologists unearthed evidence of traditional hunting, including turtle and dugong bones and stone tools, that traces the practice in the Torres Strait back 7000 years. See full story, page 6 >>
Search seeks seven missing at sea STOP PRESS A SEARCH was underway on Thursday, March 15 (when this edition of the Torres News went to press) for a boat that went missing en route from Dauan to
Badu on Wednesday, March 14. Thursday Island Police received a distress call at 6pm said the boat, carrying seven people, was taking on water. An air and sea search in-
d e i r t u o y e v Ha u n e m w e n e th at the
? L A R E D FE
volving helicopters, fixed wing aircraft and fishing boats failed to find any sign on the vessel. At the time of going to press Thursday the search was continuing over a 1200 sqnm area.
TRADITIONAL owners in the Torres Strait are outraged by national media reports which they say paint Torres Strait Islanders as cruel, heartless poachers engaged in an illegal meat trade. Footage shot using a concealed camera was aired on the ABC 730 Report on Thursday, March 8. The program made unsubstantiated claims that Islanders were selling turtle and dugong meat on the black market. Torres Strait elder Father Getano Lui said he was disappointed by the report, which he said misrepresented traditional hunting practices. “Nobody from the ABC took the time to sit down with us to talk about traditional hunting,” Fr Lui said. “The report ignored the fact that we have turtle and dugong management plans in place in the Torres Strait, and that we take these animals for traditional celebrations, such as tombstone unveilings, weddings, and initiations - not for commercial purposes.” Elders have told the Torres News they are “sick and tired” of having to justify and explain their traditional rights and practices to people from “down south”. Filmmakers Rupert Imhoff and Ben Cropp visited the Torres Strait in controversial circumstances in November last year, claiming to be conducting PhD research for a university. The Torres News presented a page
one report on their visit in the November 23-29 issue, after Mr Cropp threatened to sue the newspaper if it published concerns raised in an email circulating at the time. “We were not doing any filming. It’s a total lie,” Mr Cropp told the Torres News at the time. Film footage taken during their visit was screened on the 730 Report, showing a turtle being struck on the head and cut up, and a dugong being towed behind a boat. The footage was shot by Mr Imhoff on Mabuyag using a concealed camera. Mr Imhoff was invited onto Mabuyag as part of a traditional “gud pasin” welcome, in which elders welcome strangers to their island on the understanding they are of good character, they said. The traditional owners say they feel betrayed by Mr Imhoff’s actions, as he was specifically asked not to film on the island and then made a show of leaving his video camera on Mr Cropp’s charter boat. Traditional owners on Mabuyag say the turtle and dugong were being prepared for a wedding feast, and were not part of any “illegal trade”. TSRA chairperson Toshie Kris there was no evidence of an illegal trade in turtle and dugong meat in the Torres Strait. “If there is any, we would certainly want to know,” Mr Kris said. “Under the community management plans we would be looking at taking action against any illegal trade.”
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It’s official: PNG and Australia are friends and partners AUSTRALIA’S commitment to the people of Papua New Guinea was affirmed during an official visit last week. Parliamentary Secretary for Defence David Feeney and Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs and Foreign Affairs Richard Marles met with a broad range of citizens and officials and as part of “Australia Week”. “The strength of the relationship between PNG and Australia is demonstrated by the cooperation between our nations on important matters of state,” Senator Feeney said. “Our nations work together as partners in defence, on economic issues, on education, health and environmental issues.” The Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the PNG Defence Force (PNGDF) cooperate on a regular basis through training and exercises, he said. “As the national elections approach, the ADF is assisting the PNGDF to lease two medium helicopters in time for elections and for two years beyond,” he said. “This capability will give the PNGDF additional air transport appropriate to the country’s rugged terrain.” Mr Marles said PNG’s upcoming elections would be a defining opportunity for the people of PNG. “I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to hold elections on schedule. Australia is proud to be playing a supportive role to ensure the elections uphold PNG’s robust democratic tradition,” Mr Marles said. Senator Feeney said Australia and PNG will continue their work together on strategic matters such as Defence White Papers and the Pacific Maritime Security Program. “We have a proud shared history of friendship and cooperation which will endure,” Senator Feeney said.
Call for bulk carrier safety on reef REEF pilots say more can be done to ensure the safety of the Great Barrier Reef following the recent influx of foreign bulk carriers entering Australian waters and the UNESCO’s investigation into the health of the Reef. Australian Reef Pilots chief executive Simon Meyjes said the increased bulk carrier traffic posed a significant risk to the country’s national treasure, as many of the foreign flagged ships lacked the necessary local knowledge to safely navigate the vessels through the reef waters. “We’re seeing more large ships in our waters due to the booming coal trade so it’s more important than ever to take measures to protect the Great Barrier Reef from another ‘Shen Neng 1’ type disaster,” Mr Meyjes said. “Some of the foreign flagged vessels trading into Australian waters lack sophisticated risk mitigation strategies and are often manned only to minimum levels with low cost crews who lack experience and rely largely on modern technology as opposed to local knowledge. “While we can do all in our power to guide them through the mandatory pilotage areas, it’s the unpiloted areas which are facing the threat and this has been where the unfortunate mishaps have occurred. “All it takes is one accident to cause serious detrimental damage to our waters and the Reef, at huge cost to the Government and taxpayers.” Mr Meyjes said while the company had taken steps to introduce modern procedures to complement the years of practical seafaring
experience of its pilots, there was still room for the industry and the Australian Government to exceed the safety boundaries promulgated by international shipping conventions. “Our hands are tied with the current International Maritime Law which only enforces compulsory pilotage to certain areas of our waters, leaving vast areas of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park unprotected. That’s why we’re appealing to the Government and industry as a whole to extend the mandatory pilotage areas as well as find innovative and cost effective ways to ensure all foreign flagged ships have a coastal pilot onboard while they are within the Great Barrier Reef environs,” he said. Mr Meyjes said ARP had been steadily raising the organisation’s safety standards. “Safety has long been the cornerstone of our organisation. ARP has an impeccable safety record and has always enacted standards beyond what is legally required,” he said. “The steps we’ve taken to raise the bar include investing in the latest state of the art fleet, safety management system and fatigue management regime. We’ve also developed a strategy to train and recruit the next generation of pilots. “We encourage all stakeholders to look at innovative ways to better manage the increasing risks posed by single ship operators in our waters.” ARP has been ensuring the safe passage of ships through the Great Barrier Reef for more than a hundred and twenty five years.
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