Reconciliation Week 2022: Making change in marine safety

Monday 23 May 2022
Life in Australia’s Torres Strait Island region revolves around the water.
NAIDOC Week 2022

The Torres Strait stretches 150 kilometres from the tip of Cape York Peninsula in North Queensland to the south-west coast of Papua New Guinea (PNG). The region’s total population is about 8300, of which more than 6100 are Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people.

These beautiful marine environments carry risk. People living in the Torres Strait unfortunately have a much higher chance of being involved in a marine incident than other coastal Australians. They rely on seaborne transport, usually in small open boats across long stretches of open ocean. We work with a number of agencies to increase marine safety in the region.

Be brave. Make change.

The theme of National Reconciliation Week this year is ‘Be brave. Make change’.  We provide subject matter expertise and assistance to Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) for the Torres Strait Marine Safety Program (TSMSP). This program makes change through education and training for communities so they can build marine safety skills and understandings. The Torres Strait residents can create safer work practices and safer ways to engage with their marine Country. Since the TSMSP’s beginnings in 2006, the number of maritime incidents among Indigenous and Torres Strait communities has fallen from 202 incidents per year in 2006-2007 to 41 in 2020-2021.​

To address the risks that come with a life connected to the Torres Strait marine environment, and in response to a high level of search and rescue call outs in the area, in 2006 AMSA began working with MSQ and the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) to develop the TSMSP. The Queensland Police Service (QPS) and National Maritime Safety Authority (NMSA) of Papua New Guinea became program partners in the following years.

Torres Strait Marine Safety Program—making change and saving lives

The aims of the TSMSP are to improve boating safety and increase survival rates when an incident occurs. The BoatSafe program is one of the TSMSP initiatives. This program has been run at over 23 school campuses across the region. Students from Thursday Island and Northern Peninsula Area Colleges receive BoatSafe training and graduating students leave school with a recreational marine driver’s licence and other maritime safety skills and qualifications. This knowledge benefits current students and graduates, and also makes change for succeeding generations who learn from these students in the future.

Find out more

Learn more about the Torres Strait Marine Safety Program.