First Islander MP in another milestone


TRADITIONAL Torres Strait Islander child rearing practices would be legally recognised under a historic Bill introduced to State Parliament.

An emotional Cynthia Lui, Australia's first Torres Strait Islander MP, said children who were raised under the practice deserved only love and respect with questions about who they were and where they came from irrelevant.

The Bill seeks to legally recognise the Ailan Kastom child rearing practice, which involves birth parents permanently giving their child to cultural parents.

They are usually extended family, with the practice occurring for a number of cultural reasons.

The parents take on all responsibilities, with the child able to inherit the same surname and entitlements like inheritance.

Ms Lui, who is the Member for Cook and who introduced the Bill yesterday, said the recognition would allow Torres Strait Islanders to access fundamental human rights, including a birth certificate and easier access to Government services such as financial support and school enrolment.

Member for Cook Cynthia Lui introduces the Bill to parliament yesterday. Picture: Tara Croser
Member for Cook Cynthia Lui introduces the Bill to parliament yesterday. Picture: Tara Croser

She said the practice was an integral part of the "cultural fabric since time immemorial".

"If passed, the implementation of this very important legislative reform will resolve longstanding issues faced by Torres Strait Islanders whose legal identity does not currently reflect their cultural identity and lived experience," she said.

"This sacred cultural practice supports the permanent transfer of parentage for a child from the biological parents to the cultural parents, in accordance with Ailan Kastom.

"It is a consent based, verbal agreement that usually occurs within an extended family."

Torres Strait Islander families have been pushing for the practice to be legally recognised for more than three decades.

The law will rely on three principles; consent of biological parents, suitability of cultural parents and the rights and best interests of the child throughout their life.

Ms Lui said under the practice, the child's biological parents were never lost to a child, as the child is usually placed within the family network.

Ivy Trevallion, of the Dauan and Saibai Islands, said all the "sweat, tears, frustrations" was now like "water under the bridge".



Originally published as First Islander MP in another milestone