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'One day...we will be under water': Traditional Owners issue plea as climate case resumes

Jarred Cross -

Traditional Owners of the Torres Strait have expressed their fears at hands of rising sea levels ahead of resuming their landmark case against the federal government for climate change inaction in Narrm.

On-country hearings took place on Badu, Boigu and Saibai islands in June before moving to Cairns in July.

Climate experts are due to give evidence over the coming weeks.

On Wednesday Guda Maluyligal plaintiffs, Uncle Paul Kabai and Uncle Pabai Pabai, issued stark reminders of why they have taken action.

"Let them hear from us...what our needs are. Our islands are our whole lives," Uncle Paul said.

"As we all know, the water level, sea level is rising, and we are in great danger that one day we will be underwater. That's why we keep battling."

Uncle Pabai said it's important they keep "knocking on the Government's door".

"Our community is sinking at this moment," Uncle Pabai said.

"Recognise that we are the people of Australia as well.

"The government doesn't take any care for the Torres Strait Islanders.

"It's very important to me to take this step forward. And to keep keep my journey going until we win the battle."

Uncle Pabai said the threat to his homeland, and culture - including "cultural protocol", is important not only for his community but "Pasifika brothers and sisters", Australians in-general and the world, for now and future generations.

Uncle Pabai (left) and Uncle Paul at the Federal Court of Australia on Wednesday, November 8. (Image: Jarred Cross/NIT)

Anote Tong, former president of Kiribati - a small Island nation in Micronesia, joined the plaintiffs in front of the Federal Court of Australia.

He likened the current crisis to atrocities of the past.

"This case is not simply a case to be adjudicated at the court. It is a deeply deeply moral issue. And we hope and pray that it can be judged as a moral question…climate change is the greatest moral challenge for humanity," he said.

"While powerful corporations are benefiting hugely…we are losing our homes.

"There was a time when slavery was absolutely legal. But as we became enlightened, as we became more aware, it became illegal. climate change, I believe, is at that point."

Mr Tong said he hopes the Australian Government "sees the morality of the issue".

The hearings are scheduled to run until November 29 before resuming in Cairns in April.


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