Pabai Pabai also fears being forced to leave Boigu, where the island is the core of his identity and cultural history.
“There are 65,000 years of wealth and experience here. Losing Boigu will mean losing it,” he said.
“If you take us away from this island, then we are nothing. It’s like the stolen generation, you take people away from their homeland, they become none.”
The two Wadhuam men are taking the Australian Federal Government to court in an attempt to prevent the destruction of their communities as a result of climate change.
A group of Torres Strait Islander people living off the north coast of Australia filed a lawsuit against the Australian government on Tuesday, claiming that it has failed to protect them from climate change, which is now threatening their homes.
The case brought on behalf of the remote islands of Boigu and Saibai in the Strait of Torres is the first climate class case brought by Australia’s First Nations people, its backers said.
It was accidentally filed the same day that Canberra adopted a target of net zero zero emissions by 2050.
The case is modeled after one that the environmental group Urgenda Foundation led against the Dutch government and said it had a legal responsibility to protect Dutch citizens from climate change.
That case resulted in the Dutch Supreme Court ordering the government to reduce CO2 emissions faster than planned.
The Torres Strait Islands, scattered north of Australia, face the threat of floods and salt destroying their land as global warming leads to more storms and rising sea levels.
“There is great confidence that Torres Strait Island communities and livelihoods are vulnerable to major impacts from climate change from even small sea level rises,” the claim filed in federal court.
The case is backed by a non-profit advocacy group, Grata Fund and Urgenda, and is being run by class action firm Phi Finney McDonald.
Grata said it expects the case will be heard in the third quarter of 2022 with a decision likely to take up to 18 months.
The islanders lodged a human rights complaint with the UN two years ago on similar grounds, which have not yet been resolved.