As part of the build up to the December UN summit on climate change, to be held in Bali, ten Australians from NSW and Queensland are currently journeying to the Pacific Island nation of Kiribati to learn up close about the implications of global warming for local residents.
The visit is part of the Edmund Rice Centre (ERC) program: Pacific Calling Partnership, which builds ongoing relationships with the Pacific region to promote awareness of Australia's “ecological debt” to the low-lying island nations, and acts to support their residents.
Trip participants from Australia were selected following a nomination and application process. Each brings gifts in leadership, vision and commitment to the needs of our low-lying Pacific nation neighbours.
The group includes two representatives of communities in the Torres Strait Islands . Bryn Devaney, currently works as a teacher at Abergowrie College, west of Ingham in North Queensland. Jenni Enosa is the manager of Torres Strait Media Radio 4MW on Thursday Island. Jenni’s talk back program each day provides a platform for Tores Strait Islanders to voice their concern on current issues. Jenni is from the island of Saibai, which was severely affected during the 2006 storms and flooding that caused coastal inundation of housing, sacred sites and the business area.
The group will meet with 14-20 local “I-Kiribati” young people to exchange skills, ideas and information, in order to build their capacity to educate and raise awareness of climate change and its impact on local areas.
The Australian delegation will also have an opportunity to experience life in Kiribati, to see how sustainable the local traditional lifestyles are, and to develop networks that will endure beyond the trip.
This project counts on the key involvement of two other ERC Pacific Calling Partnership member o rganisations: the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, and the Catholic Education Office of the Wollongong Diocese.
“The dialogue and capacity-building activities across cultures are aimed at preparing a delegation to travel to Bali for the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change in December .” (UNFCCC) said Geraldine Kearney, Project Coordinator.
Sister Geraldine Kearney sgs, is the Delegate for Social Responsibility for the Sisters of the Good Samaritan and is leading the tour. Geraldine spent four years working in Kiribati and is an experienced cross-cultural communication facilitator.
“Once we arrive in Kiribati we will join with four experienced I-Kiribati leaders; Claire Anterea, Tangaroa Arabati, Terei Fred, and Kairo Taubuki. Together we will jointly facilitate a three day seminar for young I-Kiribati that show leadership potential,” she continued.
“Our hope is that these young people will be ambassadors to the outer islands and the wider Kiribati communities on the effects of climate change in the Pacific. Thus the program is giving young Australians an opportunity to dialogue with Kiribati youth about the issue of climate change and its present and future implications.”
Funding is being sought from the Australian Government's AUSAID program to ensure that the ERC Pacific Calling Partnership delegation to Bali will include the four I-Kiribati leaders, as well as the two representatives of the Torres Strait Islands, three mainland Australians and three representatives from the Cateret Islands.