Torres Strait Islander traditional child rearing practice

The Queensland Government is taking historic, nation-leading steps to recognise Torres Strait Islander traditional child rearing practice in law.

Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa (Torres Strait Islander Traditional Child Rearing Practice) Bill 2020 introduced in Parliament

The Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa (Torres Strait Islander Traditional Child Rearing Practice) Bill 2020 has been introduced into the Queensland Parliament as the next step towards legal recognition of Torres Strait Islander families’ continued use of traditional child rearing practice. The introduction of the Bill fulfils a commitment by the Queensland Government to introduce the relevant legislation in the current term of government.

Shared child rearing is a common and enduring Torres Strait Islander cultural practice. Generations of Torres Strait Islander children have been raised in supportive and loving extended family environments.

Legally recognising Torres Strait Islander traditional child rearing practice would be a momentous step forward in the Queensland Government’s journey to a reframed relationship with First Nations and acknowledges the strength of Torres Strait Islander culture.

The Bill provides a process for making an application for legal recognition. If granted this will result in a permanent transfer of parentage from the biological parents to the cultural parents.

If passed this will resolve longstanding issues faced by Torres Strait Islanders whose legal identity does not reflect their cultural identity and lived experience.

It would ensure that cultural parents can make parental decisions (for example, education and health) about their child without difficulty and the child will have the same legal rights as other children of the cultural parents, including inheritance rights.

Further, the Bill promotes the right of Torres Strait Islanders to enjoy, maintain, control, protect and develop their kinship ties under the Human Rights Act 2019, while still ensuring the protection of children in their best interests.

The name of the Bill incorporates language terms from Torres Strait Islander languages. 'Meriba Omasker' and 'Kaziw Kazipa' together translate to 'for our children's children'.

The proposed legislation is the first of its kind to align Torres Strait Islander lore with Queensland law.

Community consultations were undertaken in 2018, including engaging three Eminent Persons who worked closely with the Queensland Government and Torres Strait Islander communities to inform the development of the Bill that is now before Parliament.

Eminent Persons

Three Eminent Persons were engaged to provide legal, cultural and gender expertise during the complex and culturally sensitive consultations with Queensland’s Torres Strait Islander community.

Ms Ivy Trevallion

Ms Trevallion is the first Torres Strait Islander social worker. Ms Trevallion graduated from The University of Queensland in 1986 and is current Chair of the Kupai Omasker Working Party.

Honourable Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC

Mr Nicholson is the former Chief Justice of the Family Court with extensive knowledge and experience of traditional Torres Strait Islander child rearing practices, including leading the development of the Family Court’s Kupai Omasker program in the 1990s, supporting government consultations in 2011–2012 and acting as advisor to the Kupai Omasker Working Party since 1996.

Mr Charles Passi

Mr Passi is a member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisory to the Domestic and Family Violence Implementation Council and former Chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation (2013–2015).

Community meetings

In November and December 2018, the Queensland Government and Eminent Persons held a series of community meetings, forums with non-government organisations, legal sector representatives, and State and Commonwealth government agencies, as well as closed meetings with individual Torres Strait Islander people and smaller groups to consult on the legal recognition of Torres Strait Islander traditional child rearing practice.

Over 350 Queenslanders participated in more than 30 meetings across the state, including at Thursday Island, Cairns, Bamaga, Townsville, Mackay, Badu Island, Mer Island, Caboolture, Goodna, Brisbane City and Carindale.

Key consultation findings

The following are some of the key findings from the consultation sessions:

  • Cultural lore and protocols dictate that discussion about traditional child rearing practices outside of the family (particularly those directly involved) is 'taboo', prohibited, and regarded as highly inappropriate.
  • All Torres Strait Islander children should be able to obtain a birth certificate that reflects their cultural identity and lived experience.
  • Any process for Torres Strait Islander people to obtain legal recognition should be affordable, accessible and culturally appropriate.

Next steps

Parliament will now consider the proposed legislation and the usual Parliamentary processes will be followed.

Public submissions on the Bill open until 31 July 2020

The Bill was referred to the Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee for detailed consideration. The Committee must make its report to the Parliament by 28 August 2020.

The committee has invited submissions from interested parties addressing any aspect of the Bill by 5pm on Friday 31 July 2020.

For more information read the:

Contact us


Post: Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships
PO Box 15397
City East Qld 4002

Call: 07 3003 6303
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