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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
4 - 10 April 2012 • Thursday Island • www.torresnews.com.au • firstname.lastname@example.org • Edition No. 1008 • $2.00 inc. GST
Council complaint over ‘false allegations’ By MARK ROY THE Torres Strait Island Regional Council has made an official complaint to the ABC about its story “Dugongs cruelly slaughtered in illegal meat trade” broadcast on its 7.30 Report on Thursday, March 8.
TSIRC Mayor Gela told the Torres News he had lodged the complaint on behalf of his constituents. He said the 7.30 Report had shamed people without any consideration of their circumstances or the reality of their tradition and customs.
“The report made false allegations and assumptions, was completely one-sided, and offended the very culture and heritage of the Torres Strait people,” Cr Gela said. “The reporter who filmed and visited the Torres Strait has been reported to have asked numerous
Hop to it:
Easter is coming! Rose Mosby and two-month-old Navaeh Mosby, Caitlyn Stephen, and Katie and Jefrica Pablo meet Blazer the Bear and Donut the Dog during their visit to Thursday Island Hospital. Blazer and Donut were touring the island with emergency services workers, handing out bags of goodies as part of their annual Easter Parade. More photos, page 13 >>
times to purchase dugong and/or turtle meat on various islands, and was knocked back each and every time with the response that it is a traditional practice and the hunting and consumption of this meat is only for the traditional people of the Torres Strait, not for profit. “ABC should have known better and collated the facts and views from the relevant stakeholders, and in our case, the first Australians, who are being victimised.” The program, by reporter Sarah Dingle and producer Lesley Robinson, used covert footage obtained by Sea Shepherd volunteer Rupert Imhoff and Port Douglas-based filmmaker Ben Cropp on Mabuyag late last year. The timing of the broadcast was reminiscent of the “Children Overboard” affair, in which highly emotive claims, later shown to be false, were aired one month before a Federal election in November 2001. The ABC broadcast, “Hunting rights hide horror for dugongs, turtles”, went to air two weeks before a Queensland state election in March, 2012, despite the fact that the filmmakers had been in possession of the footage since November 2011. Mr Gela said he was annoyed that the people of the Torres Strait were not given the opportunity to have a voice on the issue before it was aired. “A story based on assumptions and an individual making allegations based on a gut feeling is not ethically appropriate,” he said. 7.30 Report presenter Chris Uhlmann said the report “exposes a black market in animal meat”, alleging that “dugongs and sea turtles are being cruelly slaughtered in Queensland’s Torres Strait to supply an illegal meat trade”. The only evidence presented by the 7.30 Report of an “illegal meat trade” in the Torres Strait was footage of eskies, or poly boxes,
sealed with tape by Australian Quarantine Inspection Service officers, arriving at Cairns airport from Horn Island. Despite the underhanded work of the filmmakers, who misrepresented the purpose of their visit, the report failed to show any Torres Strait Islanders actually selling turtle and dugong meat. Cr Gela said islanders should not have to justify their livelihood and hunting methods that have gone on for generations to those who know nothing about it. “In the first instance, poly boxes are very regularly air-transported and filled with seafood for relatives in Cairns,” he said. The most likely contents of such boxes would be fish, shellfish, crays and crabs, he said. “Protein resources are primarily obtained from the sea, which remain an important part of diet to all people of the Torres Strait,” Cr Gela said. “Self-regulation and subsistence remains the responsibility of all councils within the Torres Strait.” He said the program failed to report that communities in the region had developed hunting policies in order to sustain these species. “There may be an issue enforcing and complying with these policies, which the tiers of government are working together to build a framework around enforcing the policies,” he said. However, recent research from James Cook University, led Professor Helene Marsh, has shown poaching is not the cause of a decline in dugong populations. Port developments, commercial fishing and natural disasters are much higher on the list. After Cyclone Yasi destroyed important seagrass beds along the coast in 2011, the number of sea turtle and dugong deaths rose sharply.
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Media ‘demonising’ traditional hunters THE Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) believes national media coverage of turtle and dugong butchering is failing to acknowledge efforts to sustainably manage these species and attempts to find more humane ways to process traditional foods. TSRA chairman John ‘Toshie’ Kris said the demonising of all Indigenous people because of a sensationalist report showed a deeply flawed understanding of the issues confronting remote communities. “It is unfortunate that good and innovative work done by Indigenous communities has been overshadowed by emotive and unbalanced coverage clearly scheduled to gain political leverage during the Queensland election campaign,” Mr Kris said. “I hope in the future the Australian media, and the ABC in particular, can demonstrate a better understanding of the different cultural groups in Far North Queensland and the Torres Strait and the progress they have made in resource management.” He said animal welfare organisations including the RSPCA had been consulted extensively in recent years on traditional hunting practices. “We have been seeking solutions but the experts simply can’t agree on acceptable procedures,” Mr Kris said. “People also have to appreciate, as in other seafarer cultures, meat has been processed this way for thousands of years.”
Mr Kris said allegations that Indigenous sea rangers were involved in sending dugong, turtle meat and turtle eggs to the mainland had not been substantiated. “TSRA rangers are traditional owners in their own right and have a native title right to harvest dugongs, turtles and turtle eggs,” Mr Kris said. “They also have the right under the Native Title Act and the Torres Strait Treaty to share dugong and turtle meat with their families on the mainland. “Any hunting must occur outside of work hours and the use of TSRA assets is strictly prohibited. “I have always said if there is alleged selling of turtle or dugong meat that the appropriate authorities should address the claims immediately.” He said the TSRA took the initiative years ago to encourage community management of sea resources. “In 2005 we held a workshop on Badu Island and began a process of asking how we as a region could address sustainable management. “We have for years now been encouraging communities through management plans to sustainability manage their own resources. “Fourteen communities are now in the process of adopting those plans.” Mr Kris said while TSRA was playing a key role in the sustainable management of
Photo by puuikibeach. A green sea turtle rests on a sandy cay. regional marine resources, it was not a law enforcement agency. “The Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) monitor fisheries compliance, and
if people have concerns, they should be reporting to those agencies,” he said. “From a traditional owner perspective, from a region’s perspective, and as chair of the TSRA, we have aspirations to locally manage both dugong and turtle sustainably.”
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