Voices from the frontline of climate change: Pacific Islanders tell it like it is

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 16 Jul 2009

Hear first-hand accounts of how climate change is affecting Pacific communities right now at special events in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Cairns.

Voices from the Frontline – Climate Change and the Pacific, a national speaking tour organised by Oxfam and Greenpeace, brings three Pacific Islanders from the nations of Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), to share compelling personal stories of how climate change is affecting their homelands.
Speakers at the event include former Attorney-General of the Federated States of Micronesia Marstella Jack, Churches Education Directors Association in Kiribati (CEDAK) chairperson Pelenise Alofa Pilitati (a Banaban woman from Kiribati), and Tuvalu Climate Action Network chairperson Reverend Tafue Lusama. They will highlight the actions already being undertaken by Pacific Islanders to cope with the changing climate.
“The future of Kiribati is in our hands,” said Ms Pilitati. “We work very hard each year to support and help students be successful. But what is the future of our children when our country is being threatened by global warming?”
Reverend Lusama said people of the Pacific were united in not wanting to leave their homelands due to climate change. “I do believe people are listening, and trying to do what needs to be done. What is needed now is political will,” he said.
Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett highlighted the urgent need for a strong global climate treaty at the UN climate negotiations this December that will secure the survival of Pacific small island states, some of which would become uninhabitable if climate change continued unabated.
“Pacific Islanders are at the frontline of climate change, facing some of the first and most dramatic effects, including tidal surges and sea level rise, which destroy fresh water sources and staple food crops,” Mr Hewett said. “Yet the carbon footprint of these countries is negligible when compared to a high per capita polluter such as Australia.
“These realities underscore the urgent need for a global climate agreement that will save the Pacific and the rest of us from dangerous climate change.”
Greenpeace Chief Executive Officer Steve Shallhorn said climate change was “a preventable humanitarian disaster unfolding in our own backyard.”
“Pacific Islanders are standing up for their communities’ right to survive and Australians who care about climate change should stand alongside them in demanding a strong global climate treaty,” Mr Shallhorn said.
Media enquiries to Laurelle Keough on 0409 960 100 or laurellek@oxfam.org.au


Sydney – Thursday 23 July, 6.30pm. Mitchell Theatre, Sydney Mechanics School of Arts, Level 1, 280 Pitt Street, Sydney.

Brisbane – Tuesday 28 July, 6.00pm. Brisbane Room, Brisbane City Hall, 1st Floor, King George Square (between Adelaide and Ann Streets).  Features a performance by student members of the local Kiribati Australia Association.  RSVP to Ann Matson, annmatson@oxfam.org.au or 0409 641 721.

Melbourne – Thursday 30 July, 6.00pm. Supper Room, Melbourne Town Hall, 3rd Floor, Corner Swanston and Collins Streets, Melbourne. The event will include Kiribati and Tuvaluan dancers, Merethan Vision Youth, and songs from Tuvaluan-born Lia Avene.  RSVP to Tom Schauble at toms@oxfam.org.au or 03 9289 9332.
Cairns – Sunday 2 August, 4.00pm. Western Events Lawn, Cairns Esplanade (western end of lagoon).  Live Entertainment.