Traditional Torres Strait Islander child rearing practices

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

The Queensland Government is committed to introducing new laws to recognise Torres Strait Islander families’ continued use of traditional child rearing practices.

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.

The Queensland Government has committed $1 million over three years to support the progress of this historic initiative.

To date, this funding has supported community consultations, including engaging three Eminent Persons who are working closely with the Queensland Government and Torres Strait Islander communities to inform the development of a new law that recognises Torres Strait Islander families’ continued use of this cultural practice.

Eminent Persons

Three Eminent Persons have been 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

First Torres Strait Islander social worker, having graduated from The University of Queensland 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 child rearing practices, including leading the development of the Family Court’s Kupai Omasker program in the 1990’s, supporting government consultations in 2011–2012 and advisor to the Kupai Omasker Working Party since 1996.

Mr Charles Passi

Member of 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 traditional Torres Strait Islander child rearing practices.

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

The Queensland Government is developing new legislation to provide for the legal recognition of traditional Torres Strait Islander child rearing practices, based on community feedback.

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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