Torres Strait Islander families a step closer to legal recognition

Published Thursday, 16 July, 2020 at 03:36 PM

Premier and Minister for Trade
The Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk

An historic day in State Parliament today (Thursday 16 July), after new legislation was introduced that brings Torres Strait Islander families and communities in Queensland a step closer to legal recognition of the traditional child rearing practices.

Torres Strait Islander and Member for Cook, Cynthia Lui today introduced a Private Member’s Bill, Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa (Torres Strait Islander Traditional Child Rearing Practice) Bill 2020.

This Bill was introduced with the full support of the Palaszczuk Government and was adopted by the Government.

The Premier said for generations, Torres Strait Islanders have supported their children and each other in loving supportive extended families, but these family relationships have not been fully recognised in law.

“This legislation means children and adults who have grown up with traditional adoptive parents will finally have their legal identity match their cultural identity, supporting and strengthening their connection to community and culture,” the Premier said.

“I know this is an issue close to the heart of the Member for Cook Cynthia Lui and it would never have happened without her as the first Torres Strait Islander being elected to Queensland Parliament.

“Not only is this nation leading but it’s world leading and this is very important and proud day for the people of the Torres Strait.”

Torres Strait Islander leadership has been advocating to have this cultural practice legally recognised for more than 30 years.  It aims to bridge the gap between traditional lore and western law for caregivers and children from extended Torres Strait Islander families.

Ms Lui said the Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa (Torres Strait Islander Traditional Child Rearing Practice) Bill 2020, is a long time coming. 

“Legally recognising Torres Strait Islander traditional child rearing practice and acknowledging the strength of this enduring culture is a historic milestone in the Queensland Government’s journey to reframe its relationship with First Nations peoples,” Ms Lui said.

“The legislation enables people to apply for legal recognition of the traditional child rearing practice which if granted, means they can get a birth certificate that reflects their lived identity, and opens easy access to Government services such as financial support and school enrolment.”

The Minister for Fire and Emergency Services and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Craig Crawford today introduced the Bill.

“Queensland is leading the nation with the Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa Bill 2020 on-track to become the first legislation of its kind in Australia,” Mr Crawford said.

“The Queensland Government has partnered with Torres Strait Islander communities to deliver on its election commitment supported by a $1 million investment delivered over three years to support this historic outcome.

“It is important our contemporary legal system evolves to recognise, accommodate and celebrate the diversity of Queensland families.”

Torres Strait Ministerial Champion Shannon Fentiman has met with families across the Torres Strait and heard directly from them about the importance of this legislation to them and their culture.

“This is an historic piece of legislation that will ensure Torres Strait Islander children and adults who have been part of this traditional family structure can have their legal identity match their cultural identity,” Ms Fentiman said.

“This will mean they will be able to do things we take for granted such as having a passport in their own name or being able to obtain a drivers licence.”

Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women Di Farmer said cultural background and identity were integral to the wellbeing of children.

“The translation of Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa is for our children’s children, but today it means so much more as we acknowledge the enduring culture that unites Torres Strait Islander families and communities,” Ms Farmer said.        

A panel of Eminent Persons with legal and cultural expertise — Ms Ivy Trevallion; former Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia the Honourable Alastair Nicholson; and Mr Charles Passi — led extensive community consultation ahead of the Bill’s introduction to State Parliament.

The Queensland Government’s role is to establish a legislative framework that recognises the cultural practice — not to determine whether the cultural practice should or should not have occurred.

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Media contact: Hope Fabillar - 0428 343 432