Torres Strait Islander traditional child rearing practice

In 2020, the Queensland Government undertook historic, nation-leading steps to recognise Torres Strait Islander traditional child rearing practice in law. Today, Torres Strait Islander people are able to apply for this legal recognition.

Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa update

The Queensland Government has taken another historic step forward, appointing Mr C’Zarke Maza as the inaugural Commissioner (Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa). Mr Maza will be responsible for independently considering applications for legal recognition of traditional child rearing practice and will take up his duties as Commissioner (Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa) on 12 July 2021.

Commissioner Maza is a Torres Strait Islander person and has a deep understanding of the diversity and sensitivity of traditional child rearing practice. He is a legal practitioner with experience establishing offices on Thursday Island, and a satellite office in Bamaga, and advocating for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Torres Straits and Northern Peninsula Area.

The Office of the Commissioner (Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa) is now receiving applications for legal recognition of traditional child rearing practice.

A Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa Program Support Office has been established to provide support to Torres Strait Islander people who are considering applying for legal recognition of traditional child rearing practice.

The department’s Regional Service Centre staff will also assist with the application and respond to enquiries.

Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa (Torres Strait Islander Traditional Child Rearing Practice) Act 2020

The Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa (Torres Strait Islander Traditional Child Rearing Practice) Act 2020 was passed in Queensland Parliament and royal assent was granted by the Governor on 14 September 2020. The Act came into force on 1 July 2021.

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

This ground-breaking Act provides legal recognition of Torres Strait Islander families' continued use of traditional child rearing practice, fulfilling a commitment by the Queensland Government to introduce the relevant legislation.

Legally recognising Torres Strait Islander traditional child rearing practice is 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 Act gives Torres Strait Islander families 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. The Act came into force by proclamation on 1 July 2021. Further announcements will be made later in 2021 about the opening of the Office of the Commissioner and when applications can be made.

The process to apply for a Cultural Recognition Order will ensure 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.

The granting of a Cultural Recognition Order will also facilitate the issuing of a new birth certificate which will help to resolve longstanding issues faced by Torres Strait Islanders whose legal identity does not reflect their cultural identity and lived experience.

The Act also 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 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 Act.

Consultations

Three Eminent Persons, Ms Ivy Trevallion, the Honourable Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC and Mr Charles Passi, were engaged to provide legal, cultural and gender expertise during the 2018 consultations undertaken with Queensland’s Torres Strait Islander community.

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 from the consultations were that all Torres Strait Islander children should be able to obtain a birth certificate that reflects their cultural identity and lived experience and any process for Torres Strait Islander people to obtain legal recognition should be affordable, accessible and culturally appropriate.

The consultations also highlighted that cultural lore and protocols dictate that discussion about traditional child rearing practices outside of the family is 'taboo', prohibited, and regarded as highly inappropriate.