A research report released this month on environmental changes in Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific countries has found that local indigenous communities are experiencing severe impacts as a result of a changing climate.
Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand published the report ‘Towards New Horizons’, with contributions from Caritas agencies in Tonga, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Australia.
‘Towards New Horizons’ tracks the direct impact of five key issues on people in the region: coastal erosion/sea-level rise, access to food and water, extreme weather, offshore mining and drilling and climate finance.
Mr. Bernard Holland, the manager of Caritas Australia’s Social and Ecological Justice Animators, said ‘We need to pay attention to these environmental changes because they have disproportionate impacts on some of the most marginalised communities.’
The report, ‘Towards New Horizons’ is inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, and his call to urgently address the environmental challenges that will affect generations to come.
‘In this report, we learn about the impacts of environmental changes on communities like the Carteret Islanders, who have been forced to relocate to the mainland in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, in Papua New Guinea,’ says Mr. Holland.
‘Hearing these stories is vital to understand how severe these environmental changes already are for some communities. This isn’t a distant problem, it’s something that’s happening right now.’
‘Towards New Horizons’ also looks at how a changing climate disproportionately impacts Indigenous communities, including First Australians communities.
Tom Powell provided mental health support during the Australian bushfires to local Indigenous communities who had lost incomes and sacred sites as a result of the fires through his organisation Red Dust Healing, which is supported by Caritas Australia.
‘Some people were evacuated four and sometimes five times down the South Coast because of the bushfires,’ says Mr. Powell. ‘Before that there was a drought and after there was a pandemic. People are exhausted, they feel as if their lives are not in their control.’
The Red Dust Healing program focusses on empowering participants to be a part of their own solution by restoring family structures and reconnecting participants to traditional ways of healing.
Caritas Australia is a member of Caritas Internationalis, one of the world’s largest humanitarian networks in the world with 162 agencies operating in 200 countries and territories.