Thursday Island Community Luncheon
Torres Shire Council Mayor, Councillor Yen Loban, Deputy Mayor, Councillor Gabriel Bani and CEO, Mrs Dalassa Yorkston; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen.
I begin by acknowledging the original custodians of the lands on which we gather, the Kaurareg people, and pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging, and to any First Nations people here today.
I am so happy to be here with you all, in this beautiful part of the world, which I feel very privileged to be able to visit.
Thursday Island and the Torres Strait more broadly are such a vital part of our State and our Nation, historically, economically, and of course culturally.
At my swearing-in as Governor in late 2021, I made a pledge to visit Queenslanders wherever they live in this incredibly vast and varied State.
I have just come from Thursday Island Primary School, where the students and I read the Government House children’s book A Place for all Queenslanders, which tells the story of our beautiful Government House and estate in Brisbane.
Another goal of mine as Governor, to support and promote Indigenous literacy and the merits of a good education for all Queensland children.
In fact, one of my first trips, within weeks of taking office back in 2021, was to the Indigenous community of Woorabinda, where I attended a luncheon much like this at Woorabinda State School, before touring the Depot Hill and Baralaba state schools.
Then, in June 2022, I made my first trip to the Far North – far north by our standards anyway - to Cape York.
I visited Cooktown and Cape York, including the Aboriginal Australian Academy campus and Bloomfield River State School.
These visits have reaffirmed my faith that communities such as yours are growing and thriving. However, the statistics tell us that we must do better at reducing disadvantage in remote communities such as this, relative to other parts of the State.
Very remote communities such as yours undoubtedly face exceptional challenges when it comes to accessing many of the services the rest of Queensland takes for granted.
Among these, it’s safe to say, are affordable housing, high-quality and specialist health care, opportunities for business growth, and improved incentives for young people to continue their education and find gainful employment.
I have been very pleased to hear about some of the initiatives being undertaken to benefit the local community, including:
- Upgrades to health services, including to the Torres and Cape Health and Hospital Service for its ENT service transition, and refurbishment of Thursday Island Hospital, which I look forward to touring later today;
- an athlete talent identification program aimed at the 2032 Brisbane Olympics, which I understand ran a testing session at Tagai College late last year;
- and various tourism and Indigenous arts initiatives to benefit the entire region, some of which I’m sure I will learn more about during my visit to The Gab Titui Cultural Centre this afternoon.
I believe that despite the time it takes to travel here from Government House in Brisbane, or even from the mainland Australia, our feeling of connection to Torres Straight communities remains strong.
Last year, I had flagpoles installed at Government House on which the Torres Strait flag flies permanently, in recognition of First Nations People and my commitment toward reconciliation.
When I see those flags each day, I know I will think back to my trip here and any matters we have the opportunity to discuss today. Thank you.