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Torres Strait Islanders descend on Federal Parliament in desperate bid to save their home from climate catastrophe

Jarred Cross -

A group of Zenadth Kes (Torres Strait) Islanders have descended of Federal Parliament for the first time, constructing a replica seawall outside in an effort to have politicians ramp up action to save their Island homes from rising sea levels.

The grassroots activist group stood on the Parliament lawns on Ngunnawal country on Monday morning with supporting organisation 350 Australia, the Our Islands, Our Home campaign and impassioned members of the public for speeches from those at the centre of the threat before a rousing call to arms.

"Oceans are rising, so are we," was sung proudly.

It follows their appeal to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which in September found the Federal Government had violated its obligation to the people of Zenadth Kes (Torres Strait) in their inaction towards tackling the impacts of climate change.

The group have pushed a list of demands on the Government including funding for climate change adaptation programs for the islands, self-owned renewable energy, a commitment to 100 percent renewables by 2030 and restricting global warming to 1.5 degrees alongside a transition away from fossil fuels in the near future.

Monday's protest is believed to be the first Torres Strait Islander-led action at Parliament House.

Replica seawall constructed outside Parliament House. image: Jarred Cross

It coincides with Torres Strait 8 member Yessie Mosby's presence at the UN's Climate Change Conference or COP27 in Egypt with his son.

Sit-downs with Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen, Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, Greens leader Adam Bandt, Greens members Jenny McAllister and independent David Pocock were planned to follow the protest.

Leading up to the protest a seawall replica, long-built by locals on their island homes and recently by the Government, was constructed in a symbol of the Islanders' fight against rising sea levels.

Protest leader Kabay Tamu said he had been building seawalls with his family since a young age.

"We've come from a long line of fighters, a long line of warriors that stood up for our people, our homes," he said.

"This is just a continuation of the Spirit that lives within us from our ancestors."

Although the morning and itinerary for the day

Kabay Tamu (centre left) with Zenadh Kes community members and Senator for Queensland Nita Green (centre right). image: Jarred Cross

stands as a landmark achievement, the need for swift and meaningful action to combat climate change remains.

The threat is imminent.

"It is a now issue," Torres Strait 8 member Uncle Ted Billy said.

"It's not all why don't we wait 20 years?

"It's now because we experience it, we live with it, we see these things."

Uncle Ted has already felt the impact of seeing family members graves washed away, painstakingly recovering his ancestors bones with no assurance of who he collects and where to return them.

It highlights a devastating truth often spoken by the Torres Strait 8 over the course of their four year mission hoped to culminate in prompt change.

"We contribute the least but we are impacted the most," Mr Tamu said.


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