“We must look after our island, the way it has looked after us. The bosom of this land is our mother, and the water surrounding it is our father. We have to protect them, our islands our home”
– Yessie Mosby, Zenadh Kes Masig man and claimant
Torres Strait Islanders are on the frontline of the climate crisis, and urgent action is needed to ensure they can remain on their Islands. King tides, erosion, inundation and coral bleaching are threatening the homes and cultures of Torres Strait Islander people, while the Australian Government refuses to address the climate crisis.
Our Islands Our Home is a campaign led by Torres Strait Islanders to protect their island homes.
The claimants have five demands of the Australian Government:
- Fund adaptation programs that will allow Zenadh Kes (Torres Strait Islands) communities to adapt to climate impacts
- Commit to going 100% renewables in Australia in the next 10 years
- Support Zenadh Kes communities to build community-owned renewable energy
- Transition away from fossil fuels as rapidly as possible through a just transition for workers
- Push the world to increase global ambition and keep warming to less than 1.5 degrees
Torres Strait 8 wins historic UN case
The campaign began in 2019 when eight claimants from Zenadh Kes known as the #TorresStrait8 brought a human rights complaint against the Australian Government to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations over the Government’s inaction on climate change.
On 23 September 2022, the Torres Strait 8 made international legal history after the United Nations Human RIghts Committee (UNHCR) found that the Australian Government is violating its human rights obligations to Torres Strait Islanders by failing to act on climate change.
The UNHCR found that the Government’s poor climate record was a violation of their right to family life and right to culture under the global human rights treaty, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The complaint was the first legal action brought by people of low-lying islands vulnerable to climate damage against a nation state.
The landmark decision obliges the Australian Government to pay adequate compensation to the claimants and do whatever it takes to ensure the safe existence of the Torres Strait Islands. It also sets a precedent for Indigenous Peoples all around the world.
The decision marks the first time an international court has found:
- a country has violated human rights law through inadequate climate policy
- a nation state has been found responsible for their emissions under international human rights law
- peoples’ right to culture has been found to be at risk from climate impacts.
Now, Torres Strait Islanders are building community support urging the Albanese Government to adopt the five demands of the campaign and protect Zenadh Kes from climate damage. What began as a complaint to the UNHCR has grown to become a powerful Torres Strait Islander led climate justice movement.
Changing the politics
Our Islands Our Home focuses on building bipartisan support for the campaign. Torres Strait Islanders are engaging MPs from all parties to ensure that their voices are heard and their lived experience influences policy and decision makers.
Building a powerful Torres Strait Islander led climate movement
Our Islands Our Home continues the long and proud history of resistance across Zenadh Kes – from the 1936 Maritime Strike to the historic Mabo native title decision.
Torres Strait Islanders are building depth and diversity in the climate movement by supporting young Torres Strait Islanders to become climate advocates through the Ailan Pawa youth ambassador program and Torres Strait Islander led groups who mobilise their communities to take action on climate change.
Shifting the story on climate
Our Islands Our Home campaign is shifting the narrative on climate change in Australia through significant national and international media coverage of climate impacts in Zenadh Kes and the Torres Strait 8 UN case. Through the campaign’s media engagement Torres Strait Islander spokespeople are now front and centre in media reporting of climate impacts in Australia and frequently contacted by international press.
Since launching Our Islands Our Home:
- Torres Strait 8 won a historic human rights legal fight against Australia
- More than 48,000 people have signed the petition!
- Throughout 2021 and 2022, Torres Strait 8 claimants held meetings with Federal members of Parliament, urging them to support the demands of the campaign. With many MPs pledging their support, and in June 2022 a delegation from the new Federal Government visited Thursday Island and Poruma, meeting with representatives from the Torres Strait 8. This delegation was the first from the Federal Government to focus on climate change impacts for the Torres Strait, and included Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen, Assistant Minister for Climate Change Jennifer McAllister, Senator Jana Stewart, and Senator Nita Green.
- The campaign has been covered extensively across First Nations, local, national and international media including ABC’s 7.30 Report, Harper’s Bazaar, Sydney Morning Herald, New York Times, The Economist, The Guardian, NITV, SBS, Cairns Post, Torres News, and many more.
- The campaign has pulled off powerful collaborations showcasing Torres Strait Islander art and culture, including an exhibition at the Sydney Biennale, and joining with First Nations Fashion and Design for the closing show of Australia Fashion Week.
- We’ve held powerful grassroots actions across the continent, including delivering more than 1,800 personally written postcards to member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch, delivering copies of a statement from Torres Strait Islander leaders to MPs in response to the latest IPCC report, and participating in town halls, forums and events.
- Powerful acts of solidarity have taken place across the country. Traditional Owners held a demonstration in Townsville, supported by the Tokelauan community. Pacific Climate Warriors held a “Sunday Kai” in Meanjin (Brisbane) for Torres Strait Islanders and students at Abergowrie College held a virtual rock concert.
- Zenadh Kes artists such as Dylan Mooney, Tori Jay and George Gabey have produced stunning artwork for the campaign whilst musicians like Chris Tamwoy and spoken word artist Endless Yarning have used their platforms to raise awareness.
If you would like to discuss supporting Our Islands Our Home through partnerships or philanthropic support please contact us at email@example.com or our Development Director Verity Appleby directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Islands Our Home is supported by 350.org Australia, ClientEarth, the environmental law charity supporting the UN complaint, and the land and sea council Gur A Baradharaw Kod.