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Pasifika leaders call for a just and fair transition to a safer climate future

At a gathering at Sydney Olympic Park on October 7, Pasifika leaders and community members from the Uniting Church and beyond called on the government to respond boldly to the climate and cost-of-living crisis.

Co-chaired by pastor Joyce Tangi and the Rev. Vinnie Ravetali, the event was a celebration of Pasifika culture and a space for “talanoa”, which means discussion or dialogue in several Pasifika languages.

The event began with a Welcome to Country by the Sydney Metropolitan Land Council’s Brendan Kerin and an address by Nathan Tyson, Manager, First Peoples Strategy and Engagement with the Uniting Church Synod of NSW and the ACT. Speakers from the Pacific, the Torres Strait and Western Sydney then shared their stories of the impacts of climate change on their everyday lives. This includes the existential threat posed by rising seas and cyclones in the islands of the Pacific and the Torres Strait, as well as the burden of extreme heat and flooding in places like Western Sydney, which hosts many Pasifika community members who are on low incomes and have few economic resources to adapt to these challenges.

The Rev. Mata Havea Hiliau, Moderator of the Uniting Church Synod of NSW and the ACT and a Pasifika woman by birth, said, “Climate change affects everyone, but not everyone equally. Pasifika people, First Nations peoples and communities in Western Sydney will be hit earlier and harder.

“I want us to spare a thought for those who cannot afford a fan, let alone air conditioning. As always, it is those who can least afford it who are being unfairly impacted by the climate and energy crisis playing out today.

“And to our friends across the Pacific watching their homes, their lands, their culture seemingly destined for the bottom of the ocean – we see your struggles, we stand with you, we will campaign with you.”

As well as calling for drastic greenhouse gas emission reductions, increased funding for climate adaptation in the Pacific, and dialogue with Pacific nations about migration and resettlement, those gathered called on the government to assist community members in Western and Southwestern Sydney to access energy efficiency measures and renewable energy. This included the idea of a mobile community energy information hub to help residents to understand what support is available with cost of living and climate adaptation. They also urged that a fair share of the employment opportunities arising from the transition to renewable energy go to people on lower incomes.

All requests received a warm response from the Hon. Chris Bowen MP, Minister for Climate Change and Energy, who attended the event along with the Hon. Penny Sharpe MLC and the Hon. Mark Buttigieg MLC. Mr Bowen agreed to continue to work with the Pasifika leaders on a just and fair transition to a safer climate future, including to meet with them again in the new year.

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