Scotts Head surfers line the shore in show of solidarity to the Torres Strait

Uncle Ritchie Donovan speaking to the 50 strong crowd at Scotts Head point.


LOCALS joined surfers from around the country in a show of solidarity to Zenadh Kes (the Torres Strait Islands), attending a Paddle Out on Sunday morning at Scotts Head point.

Nationwide organisers Surfers For Climate say Torres Strait Islanders are on the frontline of the climate crisis, and sought to bring attention to their plight during COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow.

“Right now king tides, erosion, inundation, droughts and coral bleaching are threatening their homes, cultures, burial grounds and sacred sites, while the Australian Government refuses to address this crisis.

“Torres Strait Islanders are asking for your solidarity during COP26 to elevate their call to action and draw attention to the Torres Strait – the frontlines of the climate crisis in Australia,” a statement from the organisation stated.

Over 50 locals responded to the call, lining the shore at Scotts Head with the messages of ‘Solidarity with the Torres Strait’, ‘Oceans are Rising, so are we’, ‘Protect Zenadh Kes’ and ‘Urgent climate action’.

Attendees were offered a Welcome to Country by Gumbaynggirr Elder Ritchie Donovan, and heard a talk from Mark Werner, a local Torres Strait Islander, before paddling out on the point.

Mark said the campaign was vital to the ongoing survival of the Torres Strait and its people.

“As a Torres Strait Islander I draw strength from my ancestors and their remarkable accomplishments.

“Torres Strait Islanders have always led from the front.

“They have ensured the protection and custodianship of some of the most beautiful land and sea country on earth for thousands of years.

“This carefully and sustainably managed land and seascape is now being decimated by coastal flooding and climate damage,” said Mark.

Local Emma Gentle, who helped organise the Scotts Head event said, “I responded to this call to line the the shore in solidarity with Torres Straits Islanders because I am flummoxed by our government’s disregard for the serious problems being faced by the world, not least Pacific Islanders who are already losing their islands with the rising sea level that is set to keep rising as ice caps melt.

“Cop26 showed our Prime Minister as a lone figure not committing to anything much.

“He has minimised the vast amount of work being undertaken by so many Australians taking serious climate action.

“We need more creative leaders that don’t get stuck in how things were done, as with hindsight, those ways were not ideal for the planet, thereby, for us.

“We all adapted as people, communities, countries, even globally, to Covid.

“I hope we can adapt to a new way of looking after our resources, that we do after all, rely on for our survival.

“Leaders must remember this: they have our children’s futures in their hands- they must be accountable to them and to us all.”

Activists say climate change is impacting on the Torres Strait region in many ways.

According to the Climate Council, sea level rise is occurring at twice the global average in the Torres Strait, threatening many island villages which are less than two metres above sea level.

More extreme seasons and more severe cyclones cause flooding, coastal erosion and inundation affecting freshwater supplies.

All the inhabited islands in the region are already experiencing water shortages, and this is predicted to get worse.

Storm surges have impacted on infrastructure and disturbed graves in burial grounds, and sacred cultural sites.

In addition, warmer temperatures and flooding create optimal mosquito breeding conditions, increasing the threat of malaria and dengue fever.

Community member Crina Belevi was impressed with the local turnout.

“For a town of only 900, we had a pretty good turn-out I think.

“Over 50 people!

“Having Uncle Richie there, with Maranya and Elke doing a Welcome to Country was great.

“And Mark’s speech was spot on.

“As a Gudamalulgal man descended from Saibai – one of the most at risk islands – it was so important to hear his voice,” said Crina.




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