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Youth leaders take climate change message to Sydney

Tuesday 12 May 2015 | Published in Regional


SYDNEY – Two months after category five cyclone Pam battered their small nations, four young Pacific island leaders have journeyed to southeast Sydney to encourage Australians to act on climate change.

The group had made the long journey from their tiny nations of Kiribati and Tuvalu on a mission to raise awareness about their plight.

Both islands were hit by category five cyclone Pam in March. The storm surge destroyed homes, crops and protective seawalls.

Kiribati leader Meteka Reoi blamed climate change for its strength.

“After the cyclone all of our crops and sustainable food, especially the coconut trees, were destroyed,” Reoi said.

“Now we have to replant again, but it’s a bit hard now. The ground is salty from sand.”

“Also our freshwater which we take from underground is all salty now. Now we have to go and get water from another place away from the village.”

Kingsford Smith MP Matt Thistlethwaite met Reoi, his compatriot and the Tuvalu visitors at Maroubra Beach on Tuesday.

Thistlethwaite said the message of climate action would resonate with Southeast Sydney Pacific islander residents with an emotional attachment to their homelands.

“It highlights the fact that they don’t contribute much to climate change but they feel the effects of it more than most.

He cited a large body of research that suggests sea levels were rising. According to the Climate Institute, satellite images revealed the rate of increase between 1993 and 2008 had jumped to 3.1mm per year.

Tiringate Iataake left her village, Banraeaba, for the first time in her life to make the journey.

The 20-year-old said she hoped Australia would take action on climate change to kerb the effects on her home.

“We came to Australia because we want to give our message to Australia that we are all suffering from the water rising from climate change.”

“We don’t want to move to other country . We know our country is small, but our culture is strong and that’s why we want to ask Australians how they are going to help us on this.”

The ambassadors will spend two weeks in a climate advocacy education programme run by climate action group Pacific Calling Partnership.