After a week of hearings in Boigu and Badu the Australian federal court will be moving to Saibai next as part of a climate class action case against the Australian government.
The class action was filed in October 2021 by Paul Kabai and Pabai Pabai who argue that failure by the Federal Government to prevent climate change has breached its legal ‘duty of care’ towards Torres Strait Islanders.
Saibai community member Aunty McRose Elu says the island will be showing the federal court the impacts climate change has had on Saibai.
“They will be showing them the areas that have been eroded, the areas that have been effected by this climate change crisis”, she said.
Aunty Elu says erosion has damaged the islands hunting grounds, resting places and garden pastures.
She hopes after the hearings the federal government will do something more “impactive” to support the Torres Strait.
“I would like to see that, for the government to come up and have a look for themselves and then make a thoughtful decision.
Make the decisions for building up the seawalls, doing something more impactive to cater to the lives for these people in this part of the world,” the Aunty said.
The hearings began this week on Boigu near the coast of Papua New Guinea.
Prior to federal court’s visit the island transformed their local communal hall into a court room adorned with handwoven mats and plant pots.
Boigu community member Benny Dau says during the hearings the community talked about how climate change was effecting the island’s “cultural way of life.”
“The landmarks that we base our culture around, you used to be able to visit these sacred grounds.
But because of the corrosion of the land a lot of our sacred grounds have been washed away.
Me personally growing up in the late 80s and early 90s we’d only hear this cultural significance through songs and dances.
Imagining our cultural inheritance, these sacred grounds and seeing it is two separate things,” Dau said.
Without further action Dau is worried people will need to be evacuated from the Island.
“I fear for my kids because we are slowly losing what we call home.
It’s our culture, it’s our way of life, it’s how we live.
I believe if climate change keeps on heading in the way that it’s going, in the next couple of years we may lose what we have left of Boigu,” he said.
The hearings will continue next week in Saibai and Cairns.
Listen to the full interview with Saibai community member Aunty McRose Elu here:
Image Credit: Ruby Mitchell