Cynthia Lui


I now know it’s not about where you come from, it’s about who you are. Anything is possible, you just have to believe in yourself.

Ms Lui is the First Torres Strait Islander elected to Queensland State Parliament and first female Member for Cook.

My parents are both Torres Strait Islanders.  I was born on Thursday Island and raised on Yam Island. I am a proud Iamalgal woman from the Kulkalgal people of the Torres Strait.

As the State Member for Cook, I represent a unique electorate with very diverse issues.

Coming from a remote Indigenous community, I am very passionate about community issues and have a vision to build stronger communities through building their capacity to take control of their own future.

I’m starting this journey with a good understanding of the complexities that exists with regional and remote communities.  I also understand that due to the geographical make-up of the region, there are many challenges preventing positive and meaningful outcomes.

My priorities are Health, Education and Employment.  I want to support people and community aspirations – especially around Health, Education and Employment.

Everyone wants a strong, stable future but in an electorate such as Cook, you need to first identify the strengths that already exist and work with communities to build their capacity leading into the future.

I am doing the very best I can in my capacity as State MP in trying to make it all work – to find out how best we can meet community needs and expectations. It is impossible to expect to achieve outcomes in isolation and that is why I believe in creating strong partnership and working in collaboration with across level of governments, communities and stakeholders to meet the needs of our people.


How important was your culture and heritage growing up?

Coming from a remote Indigenous community, I can say that culture played a big part in my life growing up.

There were very limited things to do on Yam Island, and as such, I did not have a great deal of other things apart from my culture – everything we did revolved around the strong cultural practices “ilan pasin”.  My culture kept everything together – my culture was a big part of my learning process, it was instilled in me.  The most obvious would be through song, dance and story telling which reflects our way of life.

For me it is a system based on respect for our elders, our family and our community.   I have my position in this system. This position gives me a strong foundation and sense of belonging that I need to guide my journey because no matter where I go or what I do, I know that I represent my family, my community and my culture with pride and this means a lot to me.  As a Torres Strait Islander woman, I am proud of my culture, of who I am and where I come from.

Do you celebrate NAIDOC Week?

I do celebrate NAIDOC in the sense that it’s a day for recognition. I do it because it’s about showcasing of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and creating awareness for the richness and uniqueness of Australia’s oldest living culture.

It is educational and provides all people the opportunity to understand our culture a bit better, and opens up a different window of opportunity for learning.

I’ve always been a person that celebrates my culture in small ways every single day, so it is NAIDOC Day plus the 364 days outside of that, that I choose to celebrate being an Indigenous women of this country.

How have you reflected on this year’s them ‘Because of Her We Can’?

Because of Her We Can is not just people who have excelled, it’s about every single person. I could name every person on my island who has had an influence on my life, but in different ways.

I’ve reflected on this theme and on the people who have influenced me in the past. I’m very luck in the sense that I’ve had good people around me who have supported me and really played a big part in pushing me towards this direction I find myself in now. I know will continue to grow from this influence and support.

I want to specifically acknowledge my Mother, who is such a strong women. She has been a huge foundation on how I approach life. She’s a teacher, so education was important to her and she impressed the importance of education to me and my siblings.

My Mum left Yam Island at an early age to study at Rockhampton Girls Grammar School. She spent a large part of her life away from home, so there was a challenge for her in coming back to Yam Island and fit into the cultural happenings as she missed that part of her life.

My Grandmother, who was another strong foundation in my life, really supported my Mum in everything she did. Mum wanted to be a teacher, so my Grandmother would always be there to help her with us. I spent a good part of my childhood with my grandmother who I was very close to.

She was very different from my Mum who was very career-driven. My Grandmother was a humble woman who was very cultural and very homely and never worked in her life but gave my to raising her children and grandchildren and was very involved in her community.

My mum and grandmother are two very different people from the same world.

Another influence on me later in life was Robyn White – a nurse I met when I was 17.  We eventually worked together on Yam Island and became really good friends.  Robyn mentored me to always strive for whatever it was I wanted to do in life.

She introduced me to happenings outside of Yam Island and I would say that is probably where my interest for politics began.

Robyn was always the one in the background pushing me and giving me that support and telling me it was okay to do what I wanted to do. She was part of my community and my world but had such different perspective. I felt like I could see the outside world through Robyn and we could talk about anything.

Home is always going to be home, you can always go back as it’s not going to run away from you.

Robyn retired this year and moved back to NZ. She gave over 20 years of her life to improving health outcomes in the Torres Strait and I’ll always take my hat off for people who believe in the cause.

What message do you have for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women this NAIDOC Week?

My life has been about knocking down barriers and confronting challenges, and that has shaped who I am today.  I want every child, especially children in remote communities, to know that you can be whatever you want to be and anything possible.   It takes hard work, it takes perseverance, and you’ve got to just keep at it.

I now know that it’s not about where you come from, it’s about who you are. Anything is possible, you just have to believe in yourself.