Main Content Anchor

Indigenous culture and parenting

The Family Law Act recognises the importance of children maintaining a connection with their Indigenous culture following a family breakdown. The court will consider these issues when making parenting orders.

The court may appoint an Indigenous adviser to help it understand how these issues will impact families.

An Indigenous interpreter can be arranged through the family law courts if an Indigenous person is having difficulty understanding or communicating with court staff in English.

Making a parenting order

When making a parenting order, the court must look at the impact it will have on the child’s right to enjoy their Indigenous culture.

When deciding what’s best for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, the court will look at:

  • the children’s and their parents’ lifestyle, culture and traditions
  • the child’s right to enjoy their culture, including the right to enjoy it with other people sharing the same culture
  • any kinship relationships that may impact the child
  • the child-rearing practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

Ailan Kastom child rearing practice in Torres Strait Islander families

Ailan Kastom child rearing practice is a culture practice followed by generations of Torres Strait Islander families raising children in supportive and loving extended families. Under Ailan Kastom child rearing practice a child’s biological (birth) parents may agree for another couple (the culture parents) within their extended family to permanently raise their biological child as the culture parent’s own.

A new law called Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa (Torres Strait Islander Traditional Child Rearing Practice) Act 2020 (Qld) allows Ailan Kastom child rearing practice to be legally recognised and establishes a process to do so. Under the law, a child or adult who has been raised under Ailan Kastom child rearing practice can now get their legal identity (eg their birth certificate, Medicare, and Centrelink records) to match their cultural identity. The person’s parentage is transferred from the birth parents to the cultural parents. They become a child of the cultural parents and the cultural parents become the parents of the person. You must apply for a cultural recognition order for a child or adult to get their Ailan Kastom child rearing practice legally recognised. Legal Aid Queensland and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (ATSILS) in Queensland can help you apply for a cultural recognition order. Call our Indigenous Hotline on 1300 650 143 or ATSILS on 1800 012 255.

Read our factsheet(PDF, 1MB) for more information. 

Indigenous adviser

The court may appoint an Indigenous adviser who understands Indigenous culture.

Their role is to help the court understand the relevant cultural issues so the court can provide a culturally appropriate service. They make sure:

  • the court process is not culturally biased
  • the Indigenous party (or parties) have an opportunity to present their views
  • the court process is sensitive to and responsive to Indigenous needs.

It’s not the Indigenous adviser’s role to directly represent the Indigenous party or to translate.

An Indigenous adviser may be appointed when the parties see a family consultant, a registrar or a judicial officer.

Indigenous interpreter

An Indigenous interpreter can be arranged through the Family Law Courts if an Indigenous person is having difficulty understanding or communicating with court staff in English.

Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if:

  • you have a family law dispute that can’t be resolved without family dispute resolution, mediation or court
  • there has been family violence or abuse.

Get legal advice

We may be able to give legal advice on family law disputes.

The following organisations may be able to give legal advice.

Community legal centres — give legal advice on a range of topics. Contact them to find out if they can help with your matter.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (ATSILS) — may be able to give legal representation and advice on family law matters for Indigenous people.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women's Legal Service NQ — may be able to give legal advice to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women about family law matters.

Women's Legal Service — gives free legal advice to women on areas of law including domestic violence and family law.

Queensland Law Society — can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for advice or representation.

Family Relationship Advice Line — gives information about the family law system in Australia.

Who else can help?

These organisations may be able to help. They don’t provide legal advice.

Family Relationship Centres — give information, referrals, dispute resolution and advice on parenting after separation. Some centres have Indigenous staff available for help.

Family law courts — deal with family law cases. Court forms and information on family court processes available online.

Related Links & Information

Last updated 23 July 2021

Back to top