My name is Billy and I am a volunteer with the AYCC in Victoria. I first heard about the AYCC through a friend during a discussion we were having about potential volunteer opportunities. She recommended them highly, and with climate change being something I already had an interest in, I was soon signing my first petitions and then expressed an interest to volunteer.
Amelia Telford, National Coordinator of Seed: Australia's first Indigenous Youth Climate Network, responds to Warren Mundine's claims that "green groups" have an agenda to keep Indigenous Australians in poverty. You can read the article here.
Despite what the PM’s chief adviser on Indigenous Affairs might say, there’s a growing movement of Aboriginal people standing up for our rights to say no to extractive industries digging up our country. I know, because I’m a part of it.
Warren Mundine’s words are straight from the coal lobby playbook, claiming that “Green groups” have an agenda that “will keep indigenous Australians in poverty and is the greatest threat to the preservation of traditional language and culture”.
Without a doubt, climate change is the greatest threat to Indigenous people and the preservation of our culture. As Australia continues to dig up, export and burn fossil fuels we’re locking ourselves in for further climate chaos that too often hits the world’s most vulnerable first and worst.
The Bureau of Meteorology has just issued a Special Climate Statement reporting that Spring 2014 was Australia’s warmest on record. With roaring bushfires encroaching earlier and fueled by drought, rising sea levels lapping the doorsteps of the Torres Strait Islands, and communities lacking resources to deal with deadly heat waves, it’s clear that Australians are facing the consequences whilst the fossil fuel industry continues to profit from it.
But for Indigenous people, the injustices go beyond the climate impacts. The fossil fuel industry has been putting stress on Aboriginal land, culture and communities for decades.
As an Aboriginal woman and self-identified ‘greeny’, I agree with Mundine when he says that our “main assets are rights over land and sea”, but what we do with those rights is where our disagreement stems from. Using these rights to benefit from mining and fossil fuel developments, which is what Mundine’s comments crudely refer to, means locking our people into further climate chaos.
Mundine is one person and his views don’t represent those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.
All across the country, Indigenous people are resisting the expansion of the mining industry onto their country in their own terms. Communities like the Goolarabooloo fighting against gas in Broome; aunties and uncles at Muckaty uniting against nuclear waste dumps; the Gomeroi people standing strong against the Maules Creek coal mine, and young people standing up against proposals for the world’s largest coal port on the Great Barrier Reef.
Enough is enough. Like our Prime Minister, Mundine has failed to connect the dots between Indigenous affairs, climate change and the growing role that Indigenous people are playing in these “Green groups”.
Every day I work with young people who are holding on to what’s left of the oldest continuing culture in the world through their connection to country. Mundine talks about the greatest threat to culture being “the inability to build a real economy”. However, if “building a real economy” means welcoming extractive industries to dig up our country, then I question how this helps us maintain our culture when it’s inextricably linked to the land?
The Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network is a shining example of a grassroots movement of people willing to do what it takes and show our government what true leadership on climate change looks like. Seed is a youth-led movement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people who have a vision for a just and sustainable future with strong cultures and communities, powered by clean energy. Our vision and the fossil fuel industry cannot co-exist.
Even with the most at stake, there’s a huge opportunity for Indigenous people to lead the way in efforts to solve climate change. We often look to our brothers and sisters in the US and Canada where First Nations and Native people are leading the transition from dirty coal and gas to clean, safe and renewable energy.
Renewable energy is already powering millions of homes across the world, it delivers economic development, healthier communities, and is addresses climate change.
Unless we take swift, ambitious steps to reduce our emissions, keep new coal in the ground and transition to renewable energy, Australia’s first people and our generation as young people will be condemned to catastrophic consequences from climate change.
It’s time for Australia to listen to the voice of Aboriginal people standing up for justice, not to those of vested interests.
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.