The first round of community consultations for the Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa (Torres Strait Islander Traditional Child Rearing Practice) Bill kicked off in Townsville on Monday August 3 following decades of lobbying.

The private member’s bill was introduced into Queensland parliament in July by Labor member for Cook and the first Torres Strait Islander to be elected to any parliament, Cynthia Lui.

During an emotional address to parliament Ms Lui, a Lamalaig woman from the Kulkalgal Nation of the Torres Strait said the bill “provides legal recognition of an ancient, sacred and enduring child rearing practice.”

“An integral part of Torres Strait Islander cultural fabric since time immemorial.”

“This practice ensures that the child’s cultural right is treated with the utmost respect and dignity they deserve.”

Under the proposed laws traditional adoption practices will be legislated allowing children to be adopted by relatives or community members for a range of reasons,

Within the Torres Strait Islander community relative or kinship care placements are the preferred care arrangements for Torres Strait Islander children who are unable to live with their parents.

However, a lack of recognition by the state has led to complications and caused great distress around cultural and personal identity for some families.

Current Chair of the Kupai Omasker Working Party, Ivy Trevallion, of the Dauan and Saibai Islands told Adelaide’s Wire Radio, “Torres Strait Islander children and adults who have been adopted have not had access to basic identification documents including birth certificates, passports and driver’s licenses.”

Public and private hearings in different locations will run until August 10 and will hear from community members whose legal identity does not reflect their cultural identity and lived experience.

Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Craig Crawford, said the bill has huge support throughout the Labor party and believes it will also have strong endorsement when it passes though parliament.

The State Government is aiming for a final vote on the bill in September when parliament sits again.

Ivy Trevallion says the bill represents a hope for families and their futures.

“For us it’s our livelihood, it’s piece of mind for our children.”

Craig Crawford MP speaking with Stephen Clarke