I would like to welcome everyone here today. Before I begin I would like to call upon the traditional owners on whose lands we stand today (Wulgurukaba and Bindal people) and to acknowledge them. We live in a beautiful part of Queensland and I always tell people the Torres Strait is such a beautiful place.
Welcome again. My name is Nekina Maryann Whap. I have family ties to Zenadh Kes, to Lag Mabuiag. I'm a proud Goemuliag from Wagadagem & Panai tribe and Samu clan-Saibai Island.
I'm here to talk about the issue of climate change up in the Torres Strait and the devastating impacts it has on the Islands and residents.
This affects the livelihoods of people living up there through everyday life. I have watched for years the impacts with the sea levels rising, washing out sea walls. The tides rising where Yam Island caused devastation. When the monsoonal weather starts it causes havoc.
We see the media coverage down here where the mainland. Does anyone ever ask them up home about how they are affected??
Just because they live in a remote location, shouldn't they be entitled to the same things we have down here?
Over a period of years with the rising sea levels and has caused erosion on the beach it has washed away sacred sites. Cemetery on Saibai Island ruined with the with water rising up and destroying it...
On Masig (Yorke Island) there are wongai trees being washed ashore. Mr Yessie Mosby, one of the claimants and traditional owner watched the remains of loved ones being washed out to sea and it's just heart-breaking. This affects their mental well-being.
The land and sea hold significance to Islanders, this is how we do things in everyday life... Hunting to provide for food from the sea and gardening as well. The foods are affected and the ecosystem will be wiped out. It's like a breakdown and a link has been broken.
These are important because they provide for everyone. Once the ecosystem is slowly being wiped out what will be left for future generations??
The king tides come up to Islands which are low lying and coral cay. It comes into the villages and causes residents to move from their homes affecting their homes once again affecting their mental well-being. Year after year we see the images on the news about this. This is heart-breaking when I see this.
This is why 8 claimants from the Islands, decided to lodge a case to the UN Human Rights committee last year, accusing the government of violating their HUMAN RIGHTS by not ADEQUATELY reducing emissions or helping them to adapt to changing conditions. ✊✊✊
As nothing was done by the Australian Government and they stated that Australia is not the only country using fossil fuels, they told the United Nations that it could not be singled out and be responsible because climate change is a global problem.
The #TorresStrait8 are taking the Australian government to the UN for failing to act on climate change, putting their homes, land and futures at risk.
If nothing is done by the Australian Government they will be forced to leave their island homes.
Let me ask you a question. Should they be forced to leave their island homes??? Would you accept this fate where your life is being affected by climate change?? No.
Can you imagine if nothing is done and in the next 20 years they will become refugees in their own country? That is a denial of their basic human right. This will become a humanitarian issue. I do not accept that and neither should they.
The attachment to their Islands is of strong spiritual connection, cultural knowledge and it's a place of identity. Its life, it's everyday connection to land and sea.
I ask you to support the #TorresStrait8 and to sign the petition which will be presented to the Australian Government. What do claimants want to achieve? Reduced emissions and cut down on fossil fuels.
We have a responsibility to support them as this will because a humanitarian crisis. Indigenous people in our own country as refugees??
They will lose all that is known to them. Their attachment to their Islands. I describe it as removing a child from its mother. This is their life-culture knowledge, place of identity and belonging, and the connection to land and sea.. it's the air they breathe.
If forced to relocate it will become a violation of human rights for Torres Strait Islanders. Zenadh Kes is part of Queensland, Australia. This must be a priority!!
What do the claimants want to achieve? The government must put a plan of action in place, not band aid solutions, so that in the next 20 years there will be something there for the future generations... sea walls are being damaged... money fixes that but what about the future... they want to protect their island homes up in Boigu Island by getting funding to build a sea wall. They want consultation and a plan that will have ongoing measures to put in place.
I ask you for your support in signing this petition to get to 30,000 which will be presented to the Australian Government.
I saw the colours during NAIDOC WEEK, glowing brightly in Brisbane... I looked at it and thought what are we really celebrating? We have an environmental issue up in the Straits and I wanted something done!
Follow the campaign - "Our Islands, Our Home" and share with others in signing the petition. I admire the strength and courage of claimants who have started this. We must fight the fight with all our might. Keep having this conversation as to why this is important.
We must honour our forefathers who paved the way for us so that our legacy will remain.
If the claimants are successful this is the first of its kind and hopefully islands in the Pacific will follow...🌴🙏🌺✊
I will now call upon Mark to speak, he has connections to Masig & Poruma.
I will then call upon Lisa who is part of the 350.org/Pacific warriors who has connection to Tokelau.
The Pacifics are also affected by the effects of climate change. They have also shown their support behind the #Torres Strait8 . I'll hand it over to Lisa who will tell you more about this.
I hope you all listened and have an understanding as to why this is important...
*There is a virtual town hall to hear the claimants speak next Monday on the 14th.
*Go online to our islands our home page to register
*Thank you to NQCC for helping me co-host this event and helped me organise this event.
Thank you to Lisa from 350.org and Lisa and Mark our guest speakers. Our Islands, Our Home campaign and Amnesty International.
This is the reason I'm here to raise awareness. I will not stop until I know something is a achieved.
Thank you all that have supported this with your feedback.
Thank you all for coming
- Written and presented by Nekina Whap (December 2020)