First Nations youth will be meeting in Melbourne this weekend, and showing leadership in the fight for climate justice, reports Amelia Telford, a Bundjalung woman, who is the Indigenous Coordinator for the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.
Amelia Telford writes:
Just a few days later, Prime Minister Tony Abbott failed to attend the Climate Summit hosted by UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon – the largest ever gathering of world leaders to discuss climate change.
This was one of the clearest signs yet that our Prime Minister is failing to take climate change seriously, and in doing so is failing Indigenous Australians.
It couldn’t be clearer that Australia needs a strong, diverse, grassroots movement. And that means it’s time we had a strong Indigenous call for climate justice.
If we look overseas, we see the climate movement in North America has First Nations voices front and centre. They’re leading the fight and are being heard by the people in power.
But here in Australia, too often our voice is ignored and under-represented in the climate change fight.
Climate change is not an abstract idea about saving the environment. It’s about our communities – from The Torres Strait Islands to Port Augusta – where we are feeling the effects of climate change right now.
Severe droughts, rising sea levels, earlier bushfire seasons, diminishing food production, and water accessibility are just some of the impacts that hit Indigenous Australia first.
Climate justice is about making sure that we reduce these impacts, don’t destroy our land with fossil fuel projects, and ensure our communities are resilient in the long term.
For decades Indigenous peoples across Australia have fought for land rights against mining companies that have been putting stress on our land, water and future.
Communities like the Goolarabooloo fighting against gas in Broome; aunties and uncles at Muckaty station uniting against nuclear waste dumps; the Gomeroi people standing strong against the Maules Creek coal mine.
Taking on the fossil fuel industry
We know that our First Peoples are standing up against the fossil fuel industry and need to be front and centre when it comes to solving climate change.
My generation has the most at stake, so it’s up to us to stand up and demand better. We need a movement that is strong enough to protect our communities from coal and gas expansion, and to create a future powered by safe, renewable energy.
That’s why we’ve launched Seed – Australia’s first Indigenous youth climate network.
And it’s why over 50 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people will be coming together this weekend in Melbourne to stand up for climate justice. Together my generation is uniting to protect our land, our water, and our future.
Right now, our climate is facing a massive threat – a proposal to build the world’s largest coal port along the Great Barrier Reef. Over 70 Aboriginal clans live along the Queensland coast from the Torres Strait Islands to just north of Bundaberg. Their Sea Country includes the Great Barrier Reef.
This weekend we will stand with our Saltwater brothers and sisters and take this fight to the big four banks – asking them not to invest in new coal ports, to protect our Reef, our climate and their land.
Climate change is affecting the oldest continuing culture in the world. As young people, it is our generation who will face the consequences of decisions being made today.
Young Indigenous people have a vital role in creating a world that sees us moving beyond coal and gas, and creating clean energy jobs for our communities.
When our government fails to lead, we need to stand up and show them what true leadership looks like – and leave them with no choice but to follow. We need a movement that’s led by our people and calls for climate justice for our communities.
Together, standing shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the climate movement, we can make sure that climate change is not an issue that divide us, but an issue that unites us.
• Amelia Telford, a young Bundjalung woman, is the Indigenous Coordinator for the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and is building a national network of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people to lead the youth climate movement in Australia, known as Seed. Amelia has just been awarded National NAIDOC Youth of Year