Shire of Torres

The Shire of Torres is a local government area located in Far North Queensland, Australia, covering large sections of the Torres Strait Islands and the northern tip of Cape York Peninsula north of 11°S latitude. It holds two distinctions—it is the northernmost Local Government Area in Australia, and is the only one to abut an international border – it is at one point just 73 kilometres (45 mi) from Papua New Guinea. It is administered from Thursday Island.

Shire of Torres
Population3,848 (2018)[1]
 • Density4.3529/km2 (11.274/sq mi)
Area884 km2 (341.3 sq mi)[1]
MayorVonda Malone
Council seatThursday Island
RegionFar North Queensland
State electorate(s)Cook
Federal division(s)Leichhardt
WebsiteShire of Torres
LGAs around Shire of Torres:
Papua New Guinea Torres Strait Island Region Papua New Guinea
Torres Strait Shire of Torres Coral Sea
Gulf of Carpentaria Cook Coral Sea


Map of Torres Division and adjacent local government areas, March 1902

The Hann Division was created on 11 November 1879 as one of 74 divisions around Queensland under the Divisional Boards Act 1879.[2][3] On 30 October 1885, the coastal islands of Hann Division were separated to create Torres Division.[4][5]

With the passage of the Local Authorities Act 1902, Balonne Division became Shire of Balonne on 31 March 1903.

Most of the islands were unincorporated until the 1970s, but Thursday Island had a town council going back to 1912. In 1939, the Torres Strait Islanders Act was passed by the Federal Government, allowing for a form of local government on each island. On 27 January 1942, after the fall of Singapore during World War II, the Australian government gave the order to evacuate all civilians from Thursday Island, which now became a military base. In 1946, civilians started returning to the island. In 1952 the Council was dissolved and replaced by administrators.

On 9 May 1974, the Shire was established and gazetted by the Bjelke-Petersen government, in an effort to gain leverage on a boundary dispute between the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments.[6] It was created from the following parts:[7] However, elective government was not restored to the Shire until March 1991—along with the Shires of Mornington, Cook and Aurukun, it was administered by the Local Government Department's Far North regional office.[8]

Original entity Area transferred Population
km2 sq mi
Thursday Island Town 3.23 1.25 2,237
Cook Shire 2041.22 788.12 1,120
Unincorporated islands 751.55 290.18 2,909

When the Community Services (Torres Strait) Act 1984 was enacted, 15 island councils were created. Each was responsible for local basic utilities and services, and worked with the Queensland Police to provide for community police officers—hence extending well beyond the normal functions of local government.[9] The remaining areas were governed under the Local Government Act like most other parts of Queensland.

In March 1991, elected Council status was restored by the new Goss Labor government, and in 1994 Pedro Stephen became its first and so far only mayor.[10]

Geography and jurisdiction

Since 1984, the Shire of Torres only administers those sections of its area which are not autonomous. It is effectively colocated with the Northern Peninsula Area Region, which covers a number of Deed of Grant in Trust (DOGIT) areas on the peninsula, and the Torres Strait Island Region, which replaced 15 autonomous island councils in March 2008. During statewide local government reform in 2007–08, the Queensland Government considered merging the Shire with the other areas, but felt that having one area subject to three different types of legislation would be inefficient, and the Shire was one of a handful to remain unchanged through the process.[11]

The shire covers a land area of 1,856.9 square kilometres (717.0 sq mi), of which it controls and administers 885.9 square kilometres (342.0 sq mi) under the Local Government Act 1993. Areas under its jurisdiction include as of 2008 included:[12][13]


The population of the Shire of Torres, along with Cook, Aurukun and Mornington, have been singled out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), who conduct the quinquennial census, as particularly difficult to measure accurately. Reasons for this include cultural and language barriers, transport and geographical spread of the population, who are located in isolated communities and on small islands. As such, all figures are likely to be lower than the actual population on the census date.

In addition, until 1 July 2002, the Australian Bureau of Statistics included the Island and DOGIT councils within the Shire of Torres statistical local area. Information for the reduced Shire back to 1996 has been provided on the ABS website through the Time Series Profile.

Year Population Combined

Mayor and council

Until the 2007–08 reforms, the council consisted of seven councillors, but this was reduced to four. A mayor is elected separately by the entire Shire. Meetings are held on the third Tuesday of each month at the Torres Shire Council offices at Douglas Street, Thursday Island.

On 15 March 2008, Pedro Stephen, an ordained Full Gospel minister first elected in 1994 and the first ever Torres Strait Islander to be elected as a mayor of a local government area, was re-elected with almost 50% of the vote.[14]



The Torres Shire Council operates Ngulaig Meta Municipal Library at 121 Douglas Street on Thursday Island.[20]

See also


  1. "3218.0 – Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2017-18: Population Estimates by Local Government Area (ASGS 2018), 2017 to 2018". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 27 March 2019. Archived from the original on 27 March 2019. Retrieved 25 October 2019. Estimated resident population, 30 June 2018.
  2. "Proclamation [Hann Division constituted]". Queensland Government Gazette. 11 November 1879. p. 25:1008.
  3. "Agency ID 936, Hann Divisional Board". Queensland State Archives. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  4. "Proclamation [Torres Division constituted]". Queensland Government Gazette. 31 October 1885. p. 37:1508.
  5. "Proclamation [Hann Division amended]". Queensland Government Gazette. 31 October 1885. p. 37:1508.
  6. Hughes, Colin A. (Dec 1974.) "Political Chronicles (May–August 1974)", Australian Journal of Politics and History 20(3), University of Queensland Press, p.390.
  7. Australian Bureau of Statistics (1979). 2411.0 Population And Dwellings : Summary Tables : Queensland. 1976 Census of Population and Housing. Canberra. ISBN 0-642-90405-7.
  8. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Queensland Office. (1986) Queensland Year Book (under "Local Government")
  9. Kaye, Stuart (1997). The Torres Strait. Boston: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. pp. 12–15. ISBN 90-411-0506-9.
  10. Torres Shire Council (20 June 2006). "Corporate Plan 2006–2010" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 October 2007. Retrieved 31 March 2008.
  11. "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island local government" (PDF). Report of the Local Government Reform Commission. State of Queensland. July 2007. pp. 59–65. ISBN 978-1-921057-10-6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 July 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2008.
  12. Torres Shire Council. "Torres Shire Council (About The Shire)". Archived from the original on 17 March 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2008.
  13. "About the Torres Strait". Torres Shire Council. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  14. Electoral Commission Queensland (31 March 2008). "2008 Torres Shire Council – Mayoral Election – Election Summary". Archived from the original on 27 July 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2008.
  15. "2008 Torres Shire Council - Mayoral Election - Election Summary". Archived from the original on 7 April 2019. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  16. "2012 Torres Shire Council - Mayoral Election - Election Summary". Archived from the original on 22 March 2019. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  17. "2016 Torres Shire Council - Mayoral Election - Election Summary". Archived from the original on 17 March 2019. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  18. "Mayor - Torres Shire Council". Archived from the original on 21 October 2019. Retrieved 14 February 2020.
  19. "2020 Local Government Elections: Saturday, 28 March 2020". Electoral Commission of Queensland. 2020. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  20. "Torres Shire Council". Public Libraries Connect. 20 September 2016. Archived from the original on 5 February 2018. Retrieved 5 February 2018.

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