There’s Nothing Funny About The Destruction Of Small Island Nations


You’d have to be heartless to laugh at the idea of people losing their lives, cultures and homes to sea level rise, but Peter Dutton’s joking remarks on Friday shine a light on the heartless attitude the Abbott Government is taking to global warming.

While the waters continue to rise and flood the lives of our Pacific Island neighbours, there are people sitting in fossil-fuel industry boardrooms, politicians laughing on stages and counting their dollars as they continue to benefit from the industries that are fuelling the crisis.

Friday’s remarks are evidence that our government is well aware of the devastating impacts that their dirty relationship with the coal industry is having on communities across the world, yet they are not prepared to take this global humanitarian crisis seriously.

Peter Dutton is clearly not fit to be a Minister for Immigration and Abbott is once again digging himself deeper into a hole with less and less people willing to help him get out of it.

The global response to climate change so far is a reflection of the way we value people. If the world valued the lives of black and brown people just as much as they did white people, then maybe we would have already cleaned up this mess. Yet, it’s people of colour and Indigenous communities all around the world in particular who are bearing the brunt of a crisis we’re least responsible for creating.

The scale of this crisis is highlighted by the image of a small canoe facing an enormous coal ship head on. This is exactly what we saw last year when the 350 Pacific Climate Warriors led an incredible action blocking the port of Newcastle with traditional canoes supported by hundreds of Australians in kayaks.

At first glance, the small canoe may not look like it has much hope, but when steered by hundreds of strong, resilient and determined people, who are fighting for their lives, that coal ship is left with no choice but to back down.

Despite the assumed victim mentality that is often put on the Pacific Islands, the Climate Warriors message to the world is that “We are not drowning, we are fighting.”

Dutton can take a racist crack at “Cape York time” all he likes, but if he even took just one hour to hear the stories of resilience, determination and power of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia, he’d realise that like the Pacific Islands, we do not live the stereotypes that get put on us.


We are well ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to caring for our country and each other, and can play a huge role in leading the solutions to creating a better world. Waiting for climate action on Tony Abbott’s “white Australia time” is not working for us, or the Pacific.

When our government laughs in the face of injustice, we are left with no choice but to take leadership ourselves, leaving them with no choice but to follow.

The power of the people’s movement for climate justice is growing and there are large social, economic and political shifts occurring that are already transforming the way we live.

Over the past month we have seen significant shifts with Commonwealth Bank and NAB ruling out finance for Adani’s destructive coal projects in QLD. International banks have pulled out left, right and centre as well.

We have seen First Nations people building their own economies powered by the sun in the heart of Canada’s oil sands. Even the Pope is calling for an emergency response to climate change.

There are stories from people all around the world rising up to the challenge that climate change presents to create a more just, equitable and sustainable society.

As world leaders are getting ready for the UN Climate Summit in Paris, and with a federal election looming in Australia, there has never been a more important time to be building the voice and agency of the people who are on the frontlines of the causes and impacts of climate change.

For us, this means backing the request of our Pacific Island nations for Tony Abbott to immediately commit to no new coal mines, and to play our part as a nation in keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees.

This also means elevating the voices of Australia’s First Nations people. Later this month, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people from the Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network will be leading a road trip from Townsville to Brisbane meeting with communities on the frontlines of coal and gas projects and climate change. We’ll be listening, sharing knowledge and tools to take action.

It’s the stories and leadership from our people that we need to be supporting, to demonstrate to Australia and the world just how much our government is failing us.

So get with the times Dutton and Abbott, climate change is not a laughing matter.

Amelia Telford, a young Bundjalung woman, is the Coordinator of the Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network and the 2014 National NAIDOC Youth of the Year.