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“There is a ticking clock for action” - Lowitja Institute calls for an international commitment to climate action through decolonisation

Callan Morse -

Lowitja Institute chief executive Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed has urged the United Nations and member nation states to take full responsibility for decolonisation and anti-racism when addressing climate change and its impacts on Indigenous peoples' rights, health and wellbeing.

On Tuesday Ms Mohamed, a proud Narrunga Kaurna woman from South Australia addressed the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Twenty-Second Session, held in New York City, calling for strong action to guarantee the survival of Indigenous communities and traditional lands.

During her address, Professor Mohamed called for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) to be fully implemented.

She also requesting the UN convene a meeting to discuss decolonised approaches and actions includes monitoring progress on climate change and its effects on Indigenous peoples' rights, particularly their health.

"Climate change has a significant impact on our peoples' health and wellbeing, and on our physical health, our social and emotional wellbeing, and our spiritual wellbeing, by disconnecting our peoples from Country and culture," Professor Mohamed said.

Professor Mohamed said it is critical to highlight at the international level the urgent need to hold governments to account for their roles in climate change.

"There is a clear connection between climate change and colonisation. There is a ticking clock for action and we want nation states to act with urgency."

"We are at an ecological tipping point and a relational tipping point. To urgently act on climate change, we need to heal the deep relational wounds between governments and Indigenous peoples related to our colonial past."

"That's why we are calling on the United Nations and member nation states to take responsibility by committing to decolonisation."

Climate and health is a policy priority for Lowitja Institute, following the publication of Lowitja Institute discussion paper, Climate Change and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health in 2021.

Ms Mohamed said partnering with government to guide policy is crucial in achieving equity for the world's Indigenous peoples.

"This means transforming the principles and practices that guide government decision-making and understanding the cultural determinants of health as foundational for health equity," she said.

"In practice this means working in partnership with our peoples, and supporting our workforces who are at the forefront of climate change mitigation and adaptation, and drawing on deep knowledge about how to care for Country."

"It means being accountable and willing to be held to account, particularly when it comes to racism."

As part of the forum, Ms Mohamed alongside Lowitja Institute Deputy CEO Paul Stewart met with many Indigenous representatives from around the world to discuss the priority theme of the session, Indigenous Peoples, human health, planetary and territorial health and climate change: a rights-based approach.

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