In a major milestone for Torres Strait Islanders, Queensland has progressed legal recognition of Torres Strait Islander traditional child rearing practice with the opening of the Office of the Commissioner (Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa) in Cairns.
A Torres Strait Islander blessing signalled the official opening of the office last week.
In the coming months, applications for cultural recognition orders will open, along with an additional office in the Torres Strait.
Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa Commissioner C’Zarke Maza said the office would support life-long aspirations among many Torres Strait Islanders by improving access to support, services and opportunities.
“This is a history-making moment and my office is proud to play a part by helping Torres Strait Islander families connect cultural identity and legal identity to access more opportunities,” he said.
“Something as seemingly simple as a birth certificate can make a world of difference in enrolling for school, obtaining a driver’s licence, securing employment and accessing government support.
“Our door is open and I warmly invite families to reach out to us with any questions, so we can help you understand the process.”
Member for Cook Cynthia Lui said the office opening was a landmark moment.
“It means we are another step closer towards allowing people to apply for legal recognition of the traditional child rearing practice, which if granted, means they can get a birth certificate that reflects their lived identity, and opens easy access to government services such as financial support and school enrolment,” Ms Lui said.
“Legally recognising Torres Strait Islander traditional child rearing practice and acknowledging the strength of this enduring culture is an important step in the Palaszczuk government’s journey to reframe its relationship with First Nations peoples.”
Acting Minister for Seniors, Disability Services and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Leeanne Enoch said the opening represented a reconciliation milestone for both the state and nation.
“Queensland is honouring the spirit, diversity, resilience and culture of Torres Strait Islander peoples by progressing legal recognition of Torres Strait Islander traditional child rearing practice” Ms Enoch said.
“Today, we take another step forward in our state’s reconciliation journey by opening this office, which will support and guide Torres Strait Islander families through the process of applying for cultural recognition orders.
“This community-led achievement, supported by the Government, builds upon decades of advocacy led by the Kupai Omasker Working Party to nurture strong futures for generations of Torres Strait Islander children and families.
“The Palaszczuk Government is committed to reframing the relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by working together to transform community aspirations into reality.
“Reconciliation actions recognising the cultures, traditions and enduring strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will continue to guide our state’s Path to Treaty towards a more just and inclusive future where all Queenslanders can thrive,” Ms Enoch said.
Member for Cairns Michael Healy welcomed the new office in his electorate.
The Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa Program Support Office in Cairns is located at Level 3 CitiCentral Building, 46-48 Sheridan Street.
For more information, free call 1800 571 102 or visit www.qld.gov.au/torreschildrearing
This article appeared in Cape York Weekly, 24 August 2021.