25 February 2021
Indigenous communities are disproportionally affected by the impacts of the climate crisis and are among the world’s most vulnerable groups. Examples like the Dakota Access Pipeline built across the ancestral territories of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe or deforestation in the Amazon Basin, show that the difficulties faced by these communities not only effects their survival and often livelihoods, but also their connection to the cultures and lands they have been the custodians of for centuries.
We welcome you to hear about Australia’s hidden jewel, The Torres Strait Islands. Comprised of a string of low-lying islands nestled between Cape York and Papua New Guinea, the Torres Strait Islander people have lived in the region for more than 60,000 years, making it one of the world’s oldest continuous cultures. The region encompasses the most northern part of the Great Barrier Reef and is a unique and critical habitat.
Unfortunately, rising sea levels are eroding the Islands, damaging infrastructure and significant cultural sites. Additionally, coral bleaching and ocean acidification are having an adverse impact on a once teeming ecosystem. In 2019, a group of Islanders represented by lawyers with ClientEarth and supported by campaign group 350.org, decided to bring a legal case to fight for the future of the Torres Strait. They lodged a world-first case with the UN’s Human Rights Committee in Geneva, highlighting the threat of climate change to their human rights to culture, life, family and home and alleging Australia is failing in its legal duties to protect its climate-vulnerable communities.
Sophie Marjanac joined ClientEarth in November 2015 and leads our Climate Accountability work. Prior to joining ClientEarth, Sophie was a senior lawyer at Clayton Utz, Australia’s largest independent law firm, where she specialised in environmental and planning law. She has also previously worked in the remote Torres Strait region, where she undertook litigation, negotiation and advocacy on behalf of Indigenous Australian landowners. Sophie was awarded a Bachelor of Laws with first class honours and a Bachelor of International Studies with distinction from the University of New South Wales in 2009.
Odaria Finemore is originally from Sydney, Australia and moved overseas to New York then London then back to New York with her husband and three children 20 years ago. While abroad, Odaria switched careers from the legal sector and spent much of her time working in education for the non-profit sector. She became involved in the environmental sector some 12 years ago when she learned about Australia’s poor record in conservation and wanted to get involved in protecting Australia’s unique wildlife. Her work focuses mostly on legal policy and advocacy in Australia and internationally. Currently, she is a Director of Friends of Australian Wildlife Conservancy in the US and previously in the UK, and is also an Ambassador for Advance, a professional network for global Australians based in New York. Odaria has a Master of Environmental Law, a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws, and is a Solicitor admitted to practice in Australia. Her practice in Australia focuses on environmental law matters.
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Yessie Mosby is a Zenadh Kes Masig man, living in the Kulkalgal tribe area in the Central Torres Strait Islands, Australia. He is one of eight claimants in the human rights complaint to the United Nations, and Torres Strait organiser with 350 Australia. He is an award-winning artist and craftsman.