Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders will help to develop new legislation that officially recognises traditional Torres Strait Islander child rearing practices.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Jackie Trad said that this was history-making.
“Developing legislation to recognise traditional child rearing practices will be a historic step, not only for the Torres Strait but for Queensland and Australia,” Ms Trad said.
“This is a true step towards bridging the gap between Torres Strait Islander culture and Queensland law.”
Member for Cook Cynthia Lui today announced the start of community consultation and release of the public discussion paper, ‘Akuar Thoeridhay Kazi – For our children’s children’.
“Generations of Torres Strait Islander children have been raised in supportive and loving extended family environments.
“Legal recognition of this ancient and enduring cultural practice will acknowledge the importance of Torres Strait Islander culture and cultural decision-making processes in Torres Strait Islander community and family life.
“Queensland families are wonderfully diverse and it’s important our legal system evolves to recognise this. It makes common tasks such as enrolling in school and opening a bank account much easier for families.
“The Palaszczuk Government has invested $1 million over three years to support the community to shape new laws with the help of legal and cultural experts, including Ms Ivy Trevallion, Mr Charles Passi and the Honourable Alastair NicholsonAO RFD QC.
“We recognise there are many legal complexities to explore, but the aim of any new legislation will be for Torres Strait Islander children and their families’ cultural practices to be recognised, particularly around cultural and legal identity, so these families are able to enjoy the same rights as other Queensland families.
“This includes giving consideration to rights enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“Since the 1990s, Torres Strait Islanders and in particular the Kupai Omasker Working Party have lobbied the Queensland Government for legal recognition of this common traditional practice.
“We are continuing the legacy of many passionate advocates past and present to ensure these practices are recognised and strengthened for Torres Strait Islander families raising the leaders of tomorrow and future generations.”
Ministerial Champion for the Torres Strait Shannon Fentiman said untold generations of Torres Strait Islanders had supported their children and each other with traditional parenting approaches.
“These practices have meant generations of loving, caring homes but these extended family relationships have not been fully recognised by Australian law in the same way as Western Adoption,” Ms Fentiman said.
“This has meant Torres Strait Islander children being cared for by traditional adoptive parents have been unable to do things we take for granted, such as have a passport in their own name.
“This historic piece of legislation will ensure Torres Strait Islander children and adults who have been part of this traditional family structure can have their legal identity, including their birth certificate, match their cultural identity.”
The Queensland Government has engaged three Eminent Persons:
Ms Ivy Trevallion
First Torres Strait Islander social worker, having graduated from Queensland University in 1986 and current Chair of the Kupai Omasker Working Party.
Honourable Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC
Former Chief Justice of the Family Court with extensive knowledge and experience of traditional Torres Strait Islander childrearing practices including previous assistance with consultations and advisory to the Kupai Omasker Working Party since 2010.
Mr Charles Passi
Torres Strait Islander member of the Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group and former Chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation (2013-2015).
Community meetings will occur in the Torres Strait and locations across Queensland from late October to early December.
Community feedback will close on 30 November 2018.