An ancient Torres Strait Islander adoption practice could be legally recognised in Queensland after a bill was introduced into state parliament today.
Named Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa (for our children's children), the bill allows children to be adopted by a relative or community member to benefit the child culturally, among other factors.
State member for Cook and Iamalaig woman from the Torres Strait, Cynthia Lui, fought back tears as she introduced the bill in parliament this morning.
"This has been an incredibly long journey for Torres Strait Islander peoples to see this traditional practice be legally recognised in Queensland law, and the introduction of this bill today puts us one step closer to realising this long-fought recognition," Ms Lui said.
"As a child, I wondered why as Torres Strait Islanders, we do not publicly discuss our traditional child rearing.
"Today, I speak in my cultural truth that children who are raised under this practice deserve only love, respect, dignity and acceptance, and the questions about who they are and where they come from are irrelevant.
"This practice ensures that the child's cultural right is treated with the utmost respect and dignity they deserve.”
Known culturally as Kupai Omasker, before a child is born, senior family members look at a number of factors to decide if that child should be raised by another relative. Reasons might include:
To carry on the family name;
Strengthen family ties;
Ease the burden on a young mother;
Give an infertile relative the chance to raise a child, or;
Provide comfort and care to an ageing family member.
For more than three decades, Torres Strait Islander leaders have been advocating to have the cultural practice, which has been done for thousands of years, legalised.
Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Craig Crawford, said it was crucial for the Australian legal system to adapt.
“It is important our contemporary legal system evolves to recognise, accommodate and celebrate the diversity of Queensland families.” Mr Crawford said.
The bill aims to bridge the gap between traditional lore and western law for caregivers and children from extended Torres Strait Islander families.
It was introduced with the full support of the Palaszczuk Government.