The Queensland Government has taken steps toward recognising traditional family practices, introducing the Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa (Torres Strait Islander Traditional Child Rearing Practice) Bill 2020 into Parliament last week.

Introduced by Torres Strait Islander and Member for Cook, Cynthia Lui, the Private Member’s Bill received full support from the Palaszczuk Government and was adopted by the Government.

The name of the Bill, Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa, translates to ‘for our children’s children’.

For generations, raising children in Torres Strait Islander communities has meant the full support of extended families, however this has never been recognised by law.

Lui said the introduction of the Bill was an historic milestone for Queensland and would help the state on its “journey to reframe its relationship with First Nations peoples”.

“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,” Lui said.

Passing the Bill will recognise a child’s cultural parents by law, allowing important decision-making to occur with ease. The child would also have the same legal rights, including inheritance, as a biological child of the parents.

Torres Strait Ministerial Champion Shannon Fentiman, who met with families about the Bill, said this will allow Torres Strait Islanders’ legal identities to match their cultural identities.

“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,” Fentiman said.

Before the Bill’s introduction, a panel of ‘Eminent Persons’ with cultural and legal expertise led community consultation across the state, with over 350 people participating in more than 30 meetings.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the introduction of the Bill would never have happened without Lui being the first Torres Strait Islander elected to Queensland Parliament.

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

After the Bill was introduced, Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Science, and the Arts, Leeanne Enoch, took to LinkedIn to share her thoughts on the moment.

“There are special moments in time that deserve to be described as historic. This moment holds even greater weight than that,” Minister Enoch wrote.

“With the introduction of Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa (Torres Strait Islander Traditional Child Rearing Practice) Bill 2020 we recognise cultural practices maintained for hundreds of generations; we acknowledge the truth of a non-Indigenous system that is not designed to value those practices; and we seek a path to a reconciled future that embraces those practices and so much more.

“Today I was overwhelmed with pride to witness Cynthia Lui introduce legislation that will finally recognise Torres Strait Islander cultural adoption. An incredibly significant moment in history and a moment that will serve to move us further in Queensland’s journey toward reconciliation and our path to Treaty.”

By Hannah Cross