This month the Climate Frontlines collective met to reflect on the Torres Strait climate advocacy project. Starting in March last year, the project aimed to educate and mobilise support for climate change issues in the Torres Strait. This meeting was a good opportunity to reflect on the project’s achievements. Kate Morioka, from The Goodness Inc, and Uncle Thomas Sebasio, two of the key project team, both attended the meeting and were pleased with the project outcomes. The project involved two trips to the Torres Strait and four community forums. The visits and the forums in Cairns and Thursday Island provided good opportunities to build relationships with the Torres Strait community. The Climate Frontlines collective will meet again next month to plan the next stage of the project. New members welcome!
Imagine what it would be like to have the sea encroach into your home and slowly wash away your island. Imagine a coconut tree that stood on the beach yesterday is gone today.
This is the situation being faced by residents of Poruma (Coconut) Island, a low-lying coral cay in the Central Islands group of the Torres Strait.
The community is calling for urgent action to help protect their island from coastal flooding and erosion, which have caused significant damage across the islands. On the island’s southwest, erosion has led to the direct loss of coastal land.
Their message to the government is simple: We are part of Australia and our people are Australian citizens so please help us.
Earlier this year the Poruma community organised a protest to demand all levels of government to promptly act on their funding commitment towards the Torres Strait Seawalls Project. While the Abbott Government confirmed $12 million in funding for the Seawalls Project in February, work is yet to begin on the construction and repair of seawalls in the affected islands.
Residents are concerned about their island’s future if immediate action is not taken to protect their homeland. Please support the Poruma community by sharing the above video link with your family, friends and the wider community.
For more information, please contact the Member for Poruma.
The third community forum: ‘What about our islands?’ will be held at PKA Hall, Thursday Island. Please come along to discuss information, stories and concerns about the impacts of climate change in the Torres Strait, and how Torres Strait communities can protect the islands and adapt to climate change in the longer term.
Details of the community forum:
Date and time: 3 – 5pm, 3 March 2014
Venue: PKA Hall, Thursday Island
On the 26th of February, the Australian Government confirmed it will invest a total of $12 million for the Torres Strait Islands Seawalls Project to protect six low-lying islands from the impacts of king tides and coastal erosion.
Of the total funding announced, $5 million will come from the Community Development Grants Program, $6 million from the Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program and $1 million has already been provided for the preliminary design stage. The Queensland Government will match the funding dollar for dollar.
The Torres Strait Climate Advocacy Team would like to thank everyone who supported the seawalls campaign by signing the petition. Big eso!!!
While there will be celebrations across the islands, there is more work ahead. Seawalls will not make the problem of climate change go away. We have to look beyond the seawalls to make sure the Torres Strait Islands are here to stay for our current and future generations.
The need for a long term approach will be discussed at a community meeting on Thursday Island on Monday 3 March. Everyone is invited to come to the PKA Hall at 3pm to find out the latest update on the Seawalls Project and to share their ideas and thoughts on the future of the islands.
The details of the community meeting are as follows:
Date: Monday 3 March
Time: 3 pm – 5 pm
Venue: PKA Hall, Thursday Island
Date: Friday 28 February
Time: 5pm for 5.30pm Start
Venue: Junior Eisteddfod Hall, 76 Greenslopes St, Cairns
RSVP by Monday 24 Feb to email@example.com or 0439 771 692
Please see the attached flier for more details.
This is a great opportunity for Torres Strait Islanders and their family and friends to share information and stories on the cultural, health, economic and environmental impacts of king tides, coastal erosion, sea level rise and other climate-related threats.
King tides have yet again swept across the low-lying islands in the Torres Strait, flooding homes, roads and other infrastructure.
Poruma residents gathered at the seafront this month, calling on all levels of government to protect their island from coastal erosion and flooding. They held placards, some of which read “Help” and “What about us”, indicating a desperate cry for urgent action.
While king tides are an annual occurrence in the Torres Strait, residents are finding it harder and harder to deal with.
Federal and state government funding for the Torres Strait Coastal Protection Works (Seawalls) Project is still pending, leaving many residents concerned about the next king tide.
Today the Abbott Government confirmed they will honour some of the $12 million promised for the Torres Strait Coastal Protection Works (Seawalls) Project.
Following the Senate Estimates hearing in November, the Abbott Government has confirmed $5 million from the Regional Development Australia Fund will be allocated to the Seawalls Project.
The remaining $7 million from Commonwealth Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FHCSIA) still remains in limbo.
Please SIGN THE PETITION to ensure the Abbott Government honours the full amount of funding, which will then allow the project to proceed.
Funding for the Torres Strait Coastal Protection Works (Seawalls) Project remains uncertain despite the issue being raised at the Senate Estimates earlier this month.
At the Rural and Regional Committee hearing on 18th of November, Labor Senator Jan McLucas sought clarity regarding the status of the Regional Development Australia Fund (RDAF) contracts. In June 2012, the federal government pledged a total of $12 million towards the Torres Strait Seawalls Project, which $5 million was to be sourced from RDAF and the remaining $7 million from Commonwealth Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. This funding was matched by the Queensland Government through the Major Infrastructure Program earlier this year.
However the RDAF contract between Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) and Torres Strait Island Regional Council was not finalised before September’s federal election, leaving doubts about whether the funding will be honoured by the new Abbott Government.
TSRA appeared before the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee on 22nd of November to express their concern about the funding uncertainty.
Torres Strait Islanders and their family and friends are being urged to show their support by asking the Prime Minister to uphold the funding promise by signing an online petition available at: http://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/prime-minister-tony-abbott-deliver-promised-funding-for-seawalls-in-the-torres-strait
Listen to this interview with Thomas Sebasio (Senior Elder from Brisbane South West), conducted by Jenny Enosa (4MW), about why it is important to sign the petition for seawall funding to be granted to the Torres Strait.
Then SIGN THE PETITION. Help us reach our target of 200 signatures by the end of the month. Esso!
Yesterday, thousands of people in cities and towns across the country gathered in solidarity as part of the National Day of Climate Action.
In Brisbane, a group of Torres Strait Islanders and their supporters joined a strong crowd of 5,000 people in Queens Park, calling on Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his government to take serious action on climate change.
Dressed in traditional dress and in island colours, and carrying signs that read: ‘Torres Strait needs Climate Action Now’ and ‘Save Torres Strait’, a small contingent of Torres Strait Islanders caught the attention of the crowd, including the Greens Party Leader and Senator Christine Milne.
Mr Thomas Sebasio from Erub/Darnley Island (Senior Elder for Brisbane – South West) spoke to Senator Milne about the uncertainty over federal government funding for the construction and repair of seawalls in Boigu, Saibai and other affected islands.
Since taking office in September this year, the Abbott Government has not confirmed whether it will honour the promise made by the former government to fund the seawalls project in the Torres Strait.
Torres Strait Islanders and their family, friends and supporters are being urged to show their support by asking the Prime Minister to uphold the funding promise via an online petition available at: http://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/prime-minister-tony-abbott-deliver-promised-funding-for-seawalls-in-the-torres-strait
We are calling on Torres Strait Islanders and their families, friends and supporters to join the National Day of Climate Action in their towns and cities this Sunday, 17th of November.
All around the country, people will be taking the streets to let the Prime Minister know enough is enough. We need serious action on climate change and we need to act now.
As part of our campaign on the promised seawall funding for the Torres Strait, we are encouraging people to come dressed in Torres Strait Islander colours/dress and with their messages to the Prime Minister on signs and placards.
Please join us in solidarity so we can speak in one voice. This is our moment to put the Torres Strait at the top of the climate change agenda. United we stand, in unity we must.
National Day of Climate Action
Sunday 17th November 2013
CAIRNS – Esplanade Lagoon 11 AM
BRISBANE – Queens Park 10 AM
SYDNEY – Prince Alfred Park, 11 AM
MELBOURNE – Treasury Place 11 AM
CANBERRA – Garema Place 11 AM
For other towns and cities, check here.
*** Dress: Torres Strait Islander colours or dress. Bring: Family and friends, bottle of water and signs with your message to the PM and the Australian Government ***
If you haven’t already signed our petition to the Prime Minister, please do so now. It only takes a minute to sign!
An online campaign has been launched to mobilise national and international support for the delivery of seawall funding for the Torres Strait.
The campaign calls on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to honour the funding commitment made by the former federal government towards the construction and repair of the seawalls in Boigu and Saibai Islands.
People can show their support by signing the petition available at: http://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/prime-minister-tony-abbott-deliver-promised-funding-for-seawalls-in-the-torres-strait
The target is to reach 2,000 signatures by the end of November so everyone is encouraged to let their family, friends and colleagues know about the importance of signing the petition.
The details of the campaign will be published in today’s Torres News and broadcasted on Radio 4MW 1260AM, also today at 11.30am.
Background on Promised Seawall Funding
In June 2012, the Gillard Government pledged a total of $12 million for the construction and repair of seawalls and related sand nourishment works for the worst affected islands. This funding was matched by the Queensland Government earlier this year.
While $3.2 million has been signed off between the Torres Strait Regional Authority and Torres Strait Islands Regional Council for the preliminary design and planning stage of the Torres Strait Coastal Protection Works (Seawalls) Project so far, this is far short of the $26 million needed.
Each year, communities in the Torres Strait are severely affected by inundation from king tides and cyclonic weather. Flooding of homes, schools, roads and other major infrastructure are a common occurrence in low lying islands of Boigu and Saibai, and the central coral cay islands of Iama, Warraber, Masig and Poruma.
“We must speak out in one voice” was the key message from an event held on Tuesday night to raise public awareness about climate change issues in the Torres Strait Islands.
A crowd of 40 people gathered at Wesley House in Brisbane CBD to find out how climate change impacts were affecting island communities and what actions were being taken to address them.
Senior Elder Thomas Sebasio from Erub/Darnley Island began the panel discussion explaining Torres Strait Islander people’s strong connection to the land. Mr Sebasio described how global warming is delivering negative consequences to people on the islands by damaging essential infrastructure including houses, roads and even cemeteries and other sacred places that have cultural and spiritual significance for Torres Strait Islanders. He called on Torres Strait Islanders across the country to come together in unity and speak in one voice to advocate for the future of the islands.
The second panellist, Nancy Bamaga expressed concerns about the impact of climate change on people’s culture and identity. In 1948, Nancy’s grandfather was forced to relocate from the island of Saibai to the mainland on the tip of Cape York due to severe flooding. Houses were drowned by seawater and people were evacuated out of the island. Nancy was born in Bamaga (named after her grandfather) and has never been to Saibai yet she retains strong cultural and spiritual ties with the island. She stressed the importance of strengthening the Torres Strait Islander culture to mobilise support and to protect the islands from erosion, flooding, sea level rise and other climate change impacts.
Holding governments to account was the emphasis of the third panellist, Stefan Armbruster who is one of few journalists who has been covering news of climate change in the Torres Strait. He argued how the Torres Strait’s call for funding to construct seawalls in worst affected islands of Boigu and Saibai fell on deaf ears of the federal and state governments, and the $12 million funding finally awarded by the Gillard Government is now up in the air with the election of a new government.
The organisers of last night’s forum, Friends of the Earth Brisbane Frontlines and The GOODNESS Inc, are asking people to show their support by writing a letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, urging him to honour the funding commitment made by the previous government for the construction and repair of the much needed seawalls. An online letter can be sent to the Prime Minister by clicking here.
The forum also included the screening of ‘Dire Straits’, a photo-documentary capturing the images of flooding in Saibai, produced by Zoe Reynolds during her visit to the island earlier in the year.
People living on low-lying islands in the Torres Strait are among the first and worst affected by climate change and need their fellow Australians to recognise this and join them in advocating to all levels of government.
For enquiries, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The GOODNESS Inc and the Friends of the Earth Brisbane Climate Frontlines are working with key organisations in the Torres Strait to advocate for culturally-appropriate, locally-based and timely responses to climate change issues.
The two non-governmental organisations are organising a forum on Tuesday 22nd of October in Brisbane to help raise public awareness and to strengthen the voice of island communities so their climate change messages are delivered to the wider community.
The forum will begin with the screening of ‘Dire Straits’, a photo documentary of Saibai Elder Mebai Warusam, produced by photo-journalist Zoe Reynolds during her visit to the islands early this year. This will be followed by a panel discussion involving Thomas Sebasio (Senior Elder from Erub/Darnley Island), Nancy Bamaga (descendant of Saibai Island and Cultural Advocate) and Stefan Armbruster from SBS News.
The forum will take place at Wesley House, 140 Ann Street in Brisbane CBD from 6pm. Similar forums are being planned for Far North Queensland in early 2014.
For more information, please visit http://thegoodnessinc.org/projects/83-climate-advocacy or contact kate(AT)thegoodnessinc.org
The Queensland government has approved funding for sea walls to protect Torres Strait island communities from inundation by king tides.
(listen to the full podcast: Queensland funds Torres Strait sea walls)
The federal government says Queensland is robbing Torres Strait islanders of vital funds for sewage and fresh water projects to build sea walls.
(for more, listen here: Torres Strait ‘robbed’ with sea wall funding)
What do you think? Should MIP funding be used to build sea walls?
The Australian Government announced that up to $12 million will be made available to the Torres Strait Island Regional Council and the Torres Strait Regional Authority to support much-needed coastal infrastructure upgrades. $5 million in funding will come from the Regional Development Australia Fund, with the possibility of an additional $7 million if the Queensland Government will match the funding.
Related media coverage:
SBS (listen): Funds for Torres Strait Sea Walls
ABC News: Crean urges seawalls fund partnership
Viewer advice: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following video contains images and voices of people who have passed away.