Protest calls for blood relatives to decide inheritance, not courts

Wednesday October 02, 2019 Written by Published in Environment

Protesters will gather outside the High Court tomorrow to oppose the court making decisions on ancestral land matters like the inheritance of adopted children.


Businesswoman and landowner Ellena Tavioni said every Cook Islands landowner should have the final say on their ancestral land, not the court.

“Our land custom is we adopt blood children who can automatically succeed to their blood adoptive parent’s lands,” Tavioni said, “or we adopt non-blood children who can succeed to their non-blood adoptive parent’s lands with the unanimous approval of the blood connected successors.”

If not the above, she said the adoptive parents usually made some land arrangement for the non-blood adoptee.

Every non-blood Maori adoptee came from a tribe who had their own ancestral lands, said Tavioni, adding all adopted children had automatic rights to succeed to their blood ancestral lands.

This has been the custom and recognised in the local courts over the years, she said.

“Unfortunately one case slipped through due to foreign judges ignoring our custom and their ruling is now being promoted by unethical lawyers as precedent.

“The foreign court of appeal and Privy Council judges also ignored court-documented instructions by the adoptive parents in regard to the adoptee’s succession rights.”

Tavioni said the House of Ariki held meetings around Rarotonga and have unanimously made recommendations to government to legislate land custom in regard to the above.

In August the Ui Ariki resolved that adopted children should be allowed to inherit land, if they had no chance of ever knowing their biological parents – but that decision should be made by families, they said, not by the courts.

The ground-breaking decision on Maori protocol comes after the judicial committee of the Privy Council last year ruled in favour of an adopted son, Richard Browne. An appeal from two sisters, the biological children of Browne’s adoptive parents, who said he should not be entitled to inherit family land was dismissed by a London court.

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