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Torres Strait duo take climate fight to COP27

Emma Ruben -

Two First Nations leaders from Zenadth Kes (Torres Strait) will take their climate battle against the Australian government to the world stage at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

Uncle Paul Kabai and Uncle Pabai Pabai are Traditional Owners whose ancestors have lived on Zenadth Kes for more than 65,000 years.

Due to the rising sea levels, their community is in danger of losing sacred sites, cemeteries, and their homes.

In October 2021 they filed a case against the Australian government and argued the Commonwealth has a legal duty of care, arising from negligence law, to ensure Torres Strait Islander peoples are not harmed by the climate crisis.

It comes as the UN Human Rights Committee in September found the Australian Federal Government had not done enough to protect the inhabitants of Zenadth Kes.

On Monday a group of Zenadth Kes Islanders descended on Federal parliament for the first time to protest and call on federal politicians to take action to save their homes.

Since Uncle Paul and Pabai launched their case successive Federal governments have responded to their claim.

Heading to COP27 Uncle Paul expressed how urgent this issue really is.

"We are living on a very narrow strip of land," he said.

"Ocean on one side, and ocean on the other side. So during monsoon season both waters are rising."

Uncle Paul said he wants the world leaders at COP27 to listen to their voices before it is too late.

"As Indigenous people, as an Indigenous person of Australia representing my Guda Maluyligal nation and Torres Strait Australia," he said.

"I want the world leaders to listen to our voice. We depend on government otherwise it will be too late.

"We need support from government, show us your support, otherwise we will become climate refugees."

Uncle Paul and Uncle Pabai will be speaking at a session during COP27 on November 17.

Hearings for their case will begin June 6, 2023.


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