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Byron Shire
June 10, 2023

Tong stands with Torres Strait over climate action

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Uncle Fred Pabai, Uncle Paul Kabai, former President of Kiribati Anote Tong and Uncle Lalaitie Gilbert Akiba on Boigu island in the Torres Straight. Photo supplied.

Former President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, has been visiting communities in the Torres Strait between to stand alongside Uncle Paul Kabai on Saibai island and Uncle Pabai Pabai on Boigu island as they bring the landmark Australian Climate Case against the Australian government.

The case demands a reduction in emissions in line with the science.

President Tong, a well known advocate for greater global climate action, is visiting as part of the Pacific Elders Voice, a group of former Prime Ministers, Presidents and high level officials in the Pacific.

During President Tong’s tour of Boigu and Saibai the community members across all ages, from children to Elders, are taking part in workshops and training about the causes, impacts and solutions to climate change run by the Edmund Rice Centre’s Pacific Calling Partnership.

Examining the damage caused by climate change

Elders have been taking President Tong on tours of their islands to examine the damage caused by climate change and discuss the impacts on community, culture, food security and fears of displacement due to sea level rise.

The Elders say that people living in Pacific nations are suffering from much the same climate change impacts as people living in the Torres Strait such as severe erosion from rising seas, salt water inundation of fresh water areas, salt water pollution of soil preventing families from growing fruit and vegetables, changes to fishing patterns and impacts on cultural sites including the flooding of cemeteries on Boigu and Saibai. The trip is a reminder of their ancient links and shared cultures.

Landmark climate case

Uncle Pabai and Uncle Paul’s landmark climate case is the first of its kind in Australia. Uncle Pabai and Uncle Paul will argue that by failing to prevent climate change the Australian government has unlawfully breached its duty of care to Torres Strait Islanders, because of the severe and lasting harm that climate change would cause to their communities.

They are seeking an order from the court requiring the government to prevent this harm to their communities by cutting greenhouse gas emissions in line with the best available science. The first hearing will be held by the Federal Court on-country in Boigu, Saibai and Badu, followed by Cairns in June.

Muru Kalmel Sipa statement

Today, these communities together release the Muru Kalmel Sipa statement:

At the invitation of the Saibai and Boigu Island Elders, the Chairman of the Pacific Elders’ Voice and former President of Kiribati, HE Anote Tong, visited the Islands in April 2023 and noted that climate-related threats faced by the communities there are similar to those faced by other Pacific Island countries like Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, as well as other Pacific communities on the frontline of climate change impacts.

The Pacific Elders’ Voice, together with Saibai and Boigu Elders, stand in solidarity with each other’s homelands and peoples, and our shared experience in the face of the climate crisis.

We stand together in calling for governments to move away from subsidising fossil fuel projects and take urgent and decisive climate action that will ensure global warming remains below 1.5C.

We stand together in friendship and solidarity in the pursuit of climate justice.

We stand together in asking Australia and those responsible for perpetuating the climate crisis, including the fossil fuel industry, to hear our voices and act immediately to ensure the survival of our homelands, peoples, cultures and way of life. 


Herbert Warusam
Chair, Saibai Mura Buway PBC
Dhoeybaw Clan Chair and community member

Conwell Tabuai
Saibai Councillor, TSRIC
Director Ait Koedal Clan and community member

Uncle Ialatie Gilbert Akiba
Saibai Migi Buwai Clan Elder and community member

Uncle Elvis Terrigton Warusam
Koey Buwai Clan Elder and community member

Aunty Vera Toby
Custodian of Boigu Island

Uncle Dick Gibuma
Boigu Samu Clan Elder and community member

Uncle Percy Maitie
Boigu Koedal Clan Elder and community member

Brian Peter
Boigu Karbay/Baidham Clan and community member

Pastor Namia Marama
Boigu Spiritual Leader and community member

Tanaio Anau
Boigu Dhoeybaw Clan/Environmental health worker, TSIRC

HE Anote Tong
Former President of the Republic of Kiribati
Chair, Pacific Elders’ Voice

*Mura Kalmel Sipa means ‘all together we stand’ in KKY language.

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  1. President Tong is a gift.

    The denier mob in the Echo pages need to sit down and have a listen to President Tong, they just might learn themselves a thing or two.


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