Farming, Pacific and Indigenous community leaders bring climate realities to Canberra

Climate Change, General, GROW, Humanitarian Advocacy, Indigenous Affairs, Media Releases, News article written on the 19 Oct 2015

A New South Wales farmer, community leaders from Indigenous Australia and Kiribati, and Oxfam Australia’s Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke joined more than 20 Australians from all walks of life at Parliament House to meet with key decision-makers to urge substantially stronger action on climate change today.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Helen Szoke said the group were united in their deep concern over the impacts of climate change on food, poverty, inequality, livelihoods and their collective futures.

“While climate change affects us all, it is impacting some harder than others, including Pacific Islanders, indigenous Australians, the poor and vulnerable around the world, and all those who depend on the land for their livelihoods,” Dr Szoke said.

Grain and sheep farmer Peter Holding, New South Wales, said politicians needed to wake up to the fact that climate change was serious concern for farmers.

“Everyone always talks about climate change happening in the future, but from my point of view it is happening right now,” Mr Holding said.

“We are getting short seasons and this is having a large impact. At the moment are seeing crops folding around the country, and over the next couple of months it is likely to get worse.”

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, climate change is exacerbating existing injustices and disadvantage. In the Torres Strait, communities are losing precious land to the sea. Prolonged drought, rising temperatures, and increasing bushfire risk are also disproportionately impacting on indigenous communities.

Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network National Coordinator Larissa Baldwin, of Queensland, urged decision makers to get serious about reducing emissions and ditch fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy sources.

“It’s time to transition our economy to one that doesn’t rely on fossil fuels, but by one that is powered by the sun and the wind,” Ms Baldwin said.

“People are losing their lives, their homes, their families and their cultures. We have no other choice.”

The Philippines was again pummeled by a powerful typhoon over the weekend. Climate change is increasing the destructive impacts from typhoons, with a likely increase in windspeed and rainfall, and storm surges heightened by rising sea levels.

Kiribati Health Retreat Association president Tinaai Teaua said the people of Kiribati were already suffering from the effects of climate change, but that worst case scenarios, including forced relocation, were still avoidable.

“I don’t want to leave my beloved home where my ancestors have been fighting for our lands,” Ms Teaua said.

“Our land is our identity. So I challenge big countries like Australia and I call upon the world to decrease emissions and keep the temperature rise below 1.5 degrees.”

Dr Szoke said Australia was at a crossroads.

“The government must choose whether Australia will be part of a sustainable, prosperous future, or whether it will abandon our poorer neighbours and future Australians by continuing to swim against the tide of international action on climate change,” Dr Szoke said.

“Real action on climate change means upping our weak emissions reduction targets, committing new funding to support developing countries, like those in the Pacific, to meet the challenges of climate change, and phasing out coal from our energy supply.”

NB. Dr Helen Szoke and Tinaai Teaua will be in Paris for the UN climate change negotiations.

For more information, please contact Angus Hohenboken on 0428367319 or