Climate change wreaks havoc on Torres Strait Islander homes

Torres Strait Islands' mayor Fred Gela

Torres Strait Islands’ mayor Fred Gela has called on the Federal Government to provide urgent funding to help protect the Torres Strait Islands from climate change and avert a disaster.

Mr Gela said the islands, a gateway to Australia, were already being hard hit by climate change.

The effects include houses having been destroyed by waves, contaminated water supplies, a community losing 11 metres of land to erosion and homes having to be jacked up, he said.

Although the island of Sabai last year finally got a new $24.5 million sea wall to protect it from king waves, Mr Gela said other Torres Strait Island communities remained at risk.

“If there are still sceptics out there sitting on the fence on believing whether or not climate change or global warming is real or not … they better believe it is real,” Mr Gela said.

Mr Gela, head of the Torres Strait Island Regional Council, said the Queensland government had committed $20 million to helping the islands deal with the challenges it is facing.

He called on the federal government to match it.

“Sometimes it’s hard for families in metropolitan areas to recognise the changes in the environment,” Mr Gela said. “But in our island communities the telltale signs are easy to pick up.”

Mr Gela said the Torres Strait was strategically positioned between Australia, Papua New Guinea and the rest of the world.

He said if the Torres Strait Islands were no longer there, Australia would have “its door open”.

Wendy Caccetta

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