Abbott arrives in the Torres Strait

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has touched down on an island in the Torres Strait to honour his promise to spend a week each year in indigenous communities.


Mr Abbott was officially welcomed to the Torres Strait by children and elders on Horn Island on Sunday evening, ahead of his week in the region.

On the way there, he stopped off in Broome and Kununurra, in Western Australia, where he spoke to indigenous leader Pat Dodson about the move that community has made to change native title areas into freehold land.

“We can read all the briefing papers in the world, we can read the books, we can talk to the experts but there’s nothing like being present on the spot to see the good and the bad and to see a way forward,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Kununurra, near the WA and Northern Territory border.

“Once I get to Thursday Island and other parts of the Torres Strait, once I get to the tip of Cape York I’m looking forward to learning some more.”

The self-declared prime minister for indigenous Australians has long spent time in remote communities each year.

“To spend just a week a year, just one week in 52, focused on indigenous issues is not too much … given that section of our population have to a considerable extent been neglected for the last couple of hundred years,” he said.

About eight ministers, including Health Minister Sussan Ley and Attorney-General George Brandis, are expected to join the prime minister on his week-long visit.

Mr Abbott will spend time with local communities, focusing on education, health and defence.

It’s the second time Mr Abbott has relocated the machinery of government to a remote indigenous community, having visited Nhulunbuy in Arnhem Land in September last year.

The prime minister had to cut his Nhulunbuy trip short after announcing Australia’s involvement in the war against extremism in Iraq, and flying out to farewell troops bound for the Middle East.

The Torres Strait is the birthplace and resting place of Eddie Mabo, the man who paved the way for indigenous land rights in a High Court case that led to native title.

It faces significant border protection and biosecurity issues because of its close proximity to Papua New Guinea.

Mr Abbott will be in the region until Friday.