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Court hears of erosion of gravesites in Australian Climate Case

Emma Ruben -

The Federal Court has heard evidence of graves on Zenadth Kes (Torres Strait) islands being washed away by erosion.

Hearings began on Badu and Boigu Islands where community members gave evidence as to how climate change has affected their lives, before the hearing moving to Cairns on Thursday.

These hearings are the culmination of a claim Uncle Paul Kabai and Uncle Pabai Pabai filed against the Australian government in 2021.

They argue 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.

On Tuesday the court heard evidence in Saibai and were taken to the burial monument of the last warrior who died in battle with Papua New Guinea.

Uncle Paul showed the judge where the land had eroded and the bones of the buried ancestor had washed into the sea due to erosion. The community do not know where the remains of this ancestor are now.

Graves of other residents are also at risk of being impacted as the beach on Boigu has eroded.

Aunty Jen Enosa said community members want to be buried on Boigu when they die.

"This is our home. Our fathers, they wanted to be buried here," she said.

"This is where we want to be. This is where we want our grandchildren to come and visit us.

"I'm in my 60s. I'm planning what I want to do when the day comes for my children to decide for me... The problem of the rising tides that we're talking about, my children will need to decide whether I am able to be buried here."

Uncle Pabai said he hopes giving evidence to the court will result in change for the communities of Zenadth Kes.

"We are knocking on the government's door and only the government can open the door for us," he said.

"We hope the government will listen to our voices from the Torres Strait, our community, the Elders and the generations to come.

Hearings will continue until June 19.

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