Torres Strait Treaty, 1978 – Fact Sheet 258

The Torres Strait Treaty is an agreement between Australia and Papua New Guinea which describes the boundaries between the two countries and how the sea areas may be used. In defining the two main boundaries – the Seabed Jurisdiction Line and the Fisheries Jurisdiction Line – as well as a 'protected zone', the Treaty takes account of traditional activities (including sea and land use, trade, ceremonies and social gatherings) of the indigenous residents of the Torres Strait area.

Negotiation of the Treaty involved lengthy discussions between the national governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea, the Queensland state government and Torres Strait Island representatives. The Treaty was signed at Papua New Guinea (PNG) House in Sydney on 18 December 1978, but did not come into effect until February 1985. Further information about the Torres Strait Treaty is available from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Records about the Torres Strait Treaty

The National Archives holds records of a number of the Australian Government agencies that helped develop and negotiate the Torres Strait Treaty, including the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney-General's Department, and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The National Archives also holds records of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, which conducted two inquiries into aspects of the Treaty during the late 1970s. Relevant material from the personal records collections of Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and Attorney-General's Department official John Greenwell has also been identified. A selection of our holdings is listed below.

Department of Foreign Affairs (CA 1382)

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesWorking papers of the negotiations for the Torres Strait Treaty1973–78A10580
ItemRecords of Treaty and negotiations1976–78A1838, 3080/18/1/3/23 PART 1
ItemRecords of Treaty and negotiations1976–78A1838, 3080/18/1/3/23 PART 2
ItemRecords of Treaty and negotiations1976–78A1838, 3080/18/1/3/23 PART 3
ItemTorres Strait Treaty1977–79A1838, 3080/18/1/3/15 PART 1
ItemTorres Strait Treaty1977–79A1838, 3080/18/1/3/15 PART 2
ItemTorres Strait Treaty1977–79A1838, 3080/18/1/3/15 PART 3
ItemTorres Strait Treaty1977–79A1838, 3080/18/1/3/15 PART 4
ItemTorres Strait Treaty1977–79A1838, 3080/18/1/3/15 PART 5
ItemTorres Strait Treaty1977–79A1838, 3080/18/1/3/15 PART 6
ItemTorres Strait Treaty1977–79A1838, 3080/18/1/3/15 PART 7
ItemTorres Strait Treaty1977–79A1838, 3080/18/1/3/15 ANNEX
ItemTorres Strait Treaty – implementing legislation1978–79A1838, 3080/18/1/3/16 PART 1
ItemTorres Strait Treaty – implementing legislation1978–79A1838, 3080/18/1/3/16 PART 2
ItemTorres Strait Treaty – arrangements for signing ceremony1958 - 1987A1838, 3080/18/1/3/19 PART 1
ItemTorres Strait Treaty – legal challenge to the Treaty1978–80A1838, 3080/18/1/3/21 PART 1
ItemBrief for Australian delegation to official discussions with Papua New Guinea on the Torres Strait Treaty1978A2539, B1978/26
ItemBrief for Minister for Foreign Affairs for discussions with Queensland Ministers and Torres Strait leaders on Torres Strait Treaty1978A2539, B1978/27

Australian Customs Service, Central Office (CA 4416)

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
ItemTorres Strait Treaty – passenger concessions section interests1976–86A425, 1979/4060

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (CA 1401)

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
ItemTorres Strait Agreement – Treaty signing ceremony and Secretary’s luncheon – invitation lists1978A463, 1978/2694

Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs [I] (CA 1955)

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
ItemTorres Strait Treaty negotiations1978–85A446, 1979/95006

Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence (CA 2491)

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesInquiry into Torres Strait boundary1976–77A12882
SeriesInquiry into Torres Strait Treaty1977–83A12745

Rt Hon John Malcolm Fraser (CP 51)

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
ItemTorres Strait Treaty1975–79M1268, 231
ItemTorres Strait Treaty – 18 December 1978 – speech notes1978M1263, 753

John Henry Greenwell (CP 1000)

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
ItemTorres Strait Treaty1973–81M4835, 36
ItemTorres Strait – Australia–Papua New Guinea border1974–78M4835, 231

Photographic records

The National Archives also holds several photographs of the Torres Strait Treaty signing ceremony taken by the Australian Information Service, which may be viewed on PhotoSearch. Conduct searches using either the series and item number details provided below or the keyword phrase 'torres strait agreement'.

Australian Information Service (CA 1578)

How to find more information

Search the collection to identify further records items held in the Archives on the Torres Strait Treaty. Try keyword phrases such as: 'torres strait treaty' or  'torres strait agreement'.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017