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Treaty between Australia and the Independent State of Papua New Guinea

Category: Agreement
Date: 15 February 1985
Sub Category:Treaty (International)
Location:Torres Strait, Queensland, Australia and Papua New Guinea
Alternative Names:
  • Torres Strait Treaty
  • Subject Matter:Cultural Heritage | Environmental Heritage | Marine
    Summary Information:
    The Torres Strait Treaty between Australia and Papua New Guinea was signed in December 1978 after six years of negotiation, and entered into force on 15 February 1985. The Treaty primarily concerns matters of sovereignty and maritime boundaries in the Torres Strait. It defines the border between Australia and Papua New Guinea and provides a framework for the management of the common border area. As well as defining boundaries, the Treaty protects the traditional way of life of the inhabitants and is one of the earliest international agreements to reflect a greater environmental awareness.
    Detailed Information:
    The Torres Strait Treaty establishes the Seabed Jurisdiction Line, the Fisheries Jurisdiction Line and the Torres Strait Protected Zone.
    The Seabed Jurisdiction Line is the main boundary between Australia and Papua New Guinea. Australia has rights to all things on or below the seabed south of this line, and Papua New Guinea (PNG) has the same rights north of the line, although PNG recognises Australian sovereignty over 15 islands and cays north of the line including Boigu, Saibai and Dauan.

    The Fisheries Jurisdiction Line encompasses the additional areas surrounding the islands north of the Seabed Jurisdiction line, and gives Australia rights over swimming fish south of the line and PNG the same rights north of the line.

    The Treaty also designates the 'Torres Strait Protected Zone' within which traditional cross-border movement is recognised in accordance with the livelihood and way of life of the traditional inhabitants. This allows traditional people from both countries the ability to move freely (without passports or visas) within the zone for the purpose of traditional activities. Under the Treaty these include activities on land (such as gardening, food collection and hunting), activities on water (such as fishing), ceremonies or social gatherings and traditional trade. Business dealings and employment for money are not allowed as traditional activities under the Treaty.

    The Protected Zone also works to preserve and protect the land, sea and air of the Torres Strait, including native plant and animal life. A ten year prohibition on mining and drilling in the Protected Zone was agreed as part of the Treaty and was extended for a further eight years. The Treaty also ensures that commercial fishing in the Protected Zone is in harmony with traditional fishing. The environmental provisions of the Treaty are considered important for the well-being of the traditional inhabitants; for the preservation of the traditional and commercial fisheries; and for protection of the fragile Torres Strait environment for its own sake.

    A range of Commonwealth agencies are involved in the implementation of the Treaty, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has overall responsibility and coordinates the bilateral relationships with PNG. The Australian and PNG Treaty Liaison Officers regularly meet and discuss Treaty matters. Fisheries, Customs, Police, Immigration and environmental officials meet separately, and there is also a Joint Advisory Council to look at how the Treaty is working. The council is made up of members from each country including national and state/provincial and traditional representatives. The Torres Strait Regional Authority is one of the main peak bodies in the region which represents the interests of the Australian traditional inhabitants.

    Related Entries

    Agreement
  • Andrew Passi on behalf of the Meriam People v State of Queensland [2001] FCA 697 (14 June 2001)
  • Dauan People v State of Queensland [2000] FCA 1064 (6 July 2000)
  • Mabuiag People v State of Queensland [2000] FCA 1065 (6 July 2000)
  • Masig People v State of Queensland [2000] FCA 1067 AND Damuth People v State of Queensland (7 July 2000)
  • Poruma People v State of Queensland [2000] FCA 1066 (7 July 2000) AND Warraber People v State of Queensland
  • Organisation
  • Torres Strait Regional Authority
  • Commonwealth of Australia - Signatory
  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Cth)
  • People
  • Torres Strait Islander People

  • References

    Book
    Murray Edmunds (1999) Regional Agreements: Key Issues in Australia
    Conference Paper
    David Hallet (1998) The Practical Operation of the Torres Strait Treaty
    Resource
    Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (1985) Treaty between Australia and the Independent State of Papua New Guinea concerning Sovereignty and Maritime in the area between the two Countries, including the area known as Torres Strait, and Related Matters

    Glossary

    Treaty

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