The narrow way in which family relationships are legally certified has been reformed in Queensland to recognise traditional child rearing practices of Torres Strait Islander people.

After decades of campaigning, applications are open for cultural recognition orders enabling new birth certificates to be issued naming “cultural parents”.

The legislation meaning “children and adults who have grown up with traditional adoptive parents will finally have their legal identity match their cultural identity” passed the state parliament in September 2020.

“Legally recognising Torres Strait Islander traditional child rearing practice and acknowledging the strength of this enduring culture is a historic milestone in the Queensland government’s journey to reframe its relationship with First Nations peoples,” Torres Strait Islander and Member for Cook, Cynthia Lui said after the law passed.

Torres Strait Island man C’Zarke Maza was appointed in July as a commissioner who will be responsible for independently considering applications, and said he believed the day would be marked in future conversations and history books.

“Torres Strait Islander people are expert astronomers, they’ve observed the skies for a millennia. They’re master mariners who have navigated the most treacherous seas. But above all, Torres Strait Islander people are family people,” he said.

“We’re fiercely unified by our strong family values, and our complex extended family structures.

“I believe today is more than just an application process. I believe today will be part of this country’s future conversations and history books.”