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Helicopter service for Torres Strait Islands

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The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Ian Viner said today that a helicopter which arrived in Thursday Island last night was the first step in improving transport and ' communication services in the Torres Strait Islands,

Mr Viner said, "the provision of the helicopter will significantly improve transport facilities in the Tories Strait. It will link the Eastern Island Group with other islands and will fill three major needs - air-sea, rescue, jnedlcaai; evacuation and general inter-island travel, it-will be operational in mid-July and will be co-ordinated with existing

fixed wing air services.8 1

He said the question of such services had been raised by the Islanddrs in November 1976 durilicf a visit to the area by the Prime Minister. Since then a joint investigation by the Departments,of Aboriginal Affairs Urid Transport had recomm­

ended a helicopter service as the best means of meeting the needs of the area, given the physical difficulties of providing airstrips on the islands.

The Minister said the service would be operated by Vowell Air Services (Helicopter) Pty Ltd under contract to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Passengers using the service would be required to pay for transport but the

Government would subsidise the operational costs.

Mr Viner said arrangements were well in hand for Telecom Australia to install a radio telephone system for communication between 13 islands in the Torres Strait. The first of the islands would have telephones by December this year and the

system would be fully operational by June 1979. Means of improving sea transport facilities were currently under study.

CANBERRA ACT 10 July 1978.