Traditional Owners from the Torres Strait have built a replica seawall outside Parliament House this morning to call for stronger action from the Government to protect their island homes from climate change.
The action was led by members of the ‘Torres Strait 8’, a group of Torres Strait Islanders who in September 2022 made international legal history when they won their landmark case against the Australian Government at the United Nations.
The UN Human Rights Committee found that the Australian Government has violated its human rights obligations to Torres Strait Islanders by failing to act on climate change. The UN decision sets an international precedent, opening the door for further legal actions and compensation claims by those impacted by climate change.
A petition with 48,525 signatures supporting calling for greater action to be taken will also be presented to Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen today.
The action coincided with the first day of the United Nations COP27 climate negotiations in Egypt, which is being attended by Torres Strait 8 member Yessie Mosby, with his 12-year-old son Genia Mosby.
Torres Strait Islanders are on the frontline of the climate crisis, and urgent action is needed to ensure they can remain on their Islands. Rising sea levels, king tides, erosion, inundation and coral bleaching are threatening the homes and cultures of Torres Strait Islander people, and the Australian Government is failing to do enough to address the climate crisis.
Protect island homes
According to Kabay Tamu, Warraber man from the Kulkalgal Nation and claimant in the UN case, by building a seawall outside Parliament House, the group urges the Albanese Government to protect island homes, as the international community exhorts them to take stronger action on climate change at COP27.
‘Rising seas are threatening our homes, swamping burial grounds and washing away sacred cultural sites.
Colonisation all over again
‘If the government fails to take enough action, we could be removed from these islands we have called home for thousands of years. Removing a race of people from our islands is like colonisation all over again for us.
‘You can’t put a price on the connection we have to the land and the sea.
Mr Tamu said that every high tide, every monsoon season, he sees the damage of coastal erosion on his island home of Warraber. ‘Across the Torres Strait Islands, we lose metres of land all the time. It’s happening more often now.’
The action was part of the Our Islands Our Home campaign, a campaign led by Torres Strait Islanders to protect their island homes from climate change.
The Our Islands Our Home campaign has five demands of the Australian Government:
Fund adaptation programs that will allow Torres Strait Islander communities to adapt to climate impactsCommit to going 100% renewables in Australia in the next 10 years
Support Torres Strait Islander communities to build community-owned renewable energy
Transition away from fossil fuels as rapidly as possible through a just transition for workers
Push the world to increase global ambition and keep warming to less than 1.5 degrees.
More on the campaign can be found here: https://ourislandsourhome.com.