The Australian Government has issued their final reply to a human rights complaint brought by Indigenous Torres Strait / Zenadh Kes people.
Australia’s last official response to the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva states that Australia is already doing enough on climate change.
Furthermore, the government states that the future impacts of climate change are too uncertain to require it to act.
The Complaint was a world-first, made in 2019 by eight Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owners known as the ‘Torres Strait Eight.’
The Torres Strait Eight alleged that the Australian government failed to uphold its human rights obligations and that its inaction has led to violations of their rights to culture, life and family.
Zenadh Kes Masig man and claimant in the case Yessie Mosby said “We invited the government to visit our islands but they declined our invitation.”
“It is a lie for the government to say that we are not affected by climate change right now.”
“We have seen our island homes wash away. We fear the high tides and we notice the seabirds not returning,
“We watch the winds blow stronger and for longer. We have seen our loved ones’ remains wash away with the rising seas.”
Mosby lives in the Kulkalgal tribe area, he said that the government has a “duty of care” and that duty extends to “all Australians not just for the people who live down on the mainland”.
“Tell the truth – you are not trying your best to help us. Stop lying,” he said of the government.
The Torres Strait Eight speak of the impacts of climate change on their low lying island homes.
The group are already experiencing the impacts of rising sea levels, including coastal erosion, flooding of homes, sacred cultural sites and burial grounds.
The claimants have been expecting a decision this year but there has been a delay in the legal process.
Along with the claimants lawyers they have called on the UN group to expedite the complaint and come to a decision urgently.
Environmental legal charity ClientEarth lawyer Sophie Marjanac is acting for the claimants in this case.
Marjanac questions the federal government’s response to the UN.
“Australia continues its support for fossil fuels, of which it is a massive exporter, and is among the world’s biggest emitters per capita,” they said.
“If Australia is not required to act under human rights law, then who is?”
ln their final response, the Morrison government has pushed for the the case to be dismissed on the basis that any one country cannot be held legally responsible for climate change.
By Teisha Cloos