Vanuatu women in Australia urge action on climate change

Campaigns and Advocacy, GROW, Media Releases, News article written on the 30 Jul 2014

Australians can learn about how one of our Pacific neighbours is meeting the challenge of climate change at public events around the country from next week.

Oxfam and CARE International are hosting a national speaking tour with Shirley Laban and Mala Silas, two women at the frontline of efforts to tackle climate change in Vanuatu.

The public events are in Melbourne (5 August), Hobart (7 August), Sydney (8 August) and Brisbane (14 August).

With Vanuatu home to several active volcanoes and lying in the Pacific cyclone belt, communities are no strangers to natural disasters. But changing weather patterns, warmer temperatures and rising seas are making it harder for people to grow, buy and catch enough food to eat.

“Vanuatu is paying a heavy price for the failure of rich countries to confront the reality of climate change,” said Shirley Laban, manager of Oxfam’s climate change program in Vanuatu and coordinator of the Vanuatu Climate Action Network.

“While Australia continues to take backward steps, in Vanuatu we cannot afford to waste time in adapting to changes and preparing for a future of greater risks and uncertainty.”

Mala Silas, field officer with CARE International in Vanuatu, remembers growing up on Tanna, an island in the south of Vanuatu.

“I remember going to the coconut plantations along the coast, but they’re all gone now. Rising sea levels and soil erosion have destroyed them,” she said.

Oxfam and CARE International in Vanuatu are both part of a group of local and international organisations working together across nine islands to support Vanuatu communities build resilience to climate change and ensure that people have enough to eat into the future.

“On the island of Futuna in the south-east of Vanuatu, communities are trialling new crops such as tomatoes, cabbage, cucumber and carrots, as well as agricultural techniques such as composting, mulching and pest management, to help farmers adapt to changing weather patterns and ensure that islanders have a secure supply of food,” Ms Silas said.

Between 2010 and 2012, Australia provided vital support to Pacific countries in dealing with climate change. But today Australia has left Pacific countries in the lurch, providing no guarantee of ongoing assistance.

Oxfam Australia climate change spokesperson Simon Bradshaw urged people to come and learn about how communities in Vanuatu were responding to climate change and how Australia could better support our Pacific neighbours.  

“To understand climate change – both the challenges and the solutions – we need to hear from people like Shirley and Mala. Not only do they have a very direct understanding of the impacts of climate change, they are working hard to help their communities adapt, and to hold the international community, including Australia, to account,” he said.

For interviews please contact Laurelle Keough on 0425 701 801.