Climate stories

When I was a little girl, we had gardens everywhere. Where I’m standing right now, there was a garden here. But now, you can see the water is everywhere. There’s not enough area to have gardens.

Aunty Vera’s story

Boigu Island, QLD

  • Culture
  • Sea level rise

My name is Vera Auda, and I’m a custodian of Boigu island.

When I was a little girl, we had gardens everywhere. Where I’m standing right now, there was a garden here. But now, you can see the water is everywhere. There’s not enough area to have gardens.

We used to grow taro, sugar cane, cassava, yam, sweet potatoes, and my Uncle used to grow cucumbers and other vegetables in his garden. At the moment, we don’t have that – we have to buy our fruits and vegetables from the shops which are expensive. On top of that, they only get delivered once a week so sometimes you miss out. There’s not enough area around our houses for us to grow produce anymore. And our soil is too salty now so we couldn’t grow even if we wanted to. Years back, I used to grow huge and beautiful watermelons in my front garden. When one of my granddaughters got married, we picked these from our garden as a  gift to them.

My other experience of climate change is noticing Boigu island slowly shrinking. The sea wall was built in an area which they should’ve brought forward to make Boigu a bit bigger – where the old Boigu used to be. That shrinked our home, but this meant water could still come in from the back of our island because of the river running behind Boigu.

Most of the people have moved away from here. Some for medical reasons, some for education. Another reason is that there’s not enough area to build houses. This is because of the rising sea levels.

Weather has also been changing. Usually in December, we have a Westerly wind and growing tide. Nowadays, this will happen at any time of the year. There’ve been high tides in the middle of the year and at the beginning of the year. The weather has definitely been changing.

We used to travel on the dinghy (boat) to Saibai island, but now the waters are too rough to do so. Planes are also very expensive, and the weather in December is so rough that it’s hard to travel.

Some people can’t even buy fruits and vegetables from the shops because of the limited supply coming in every week. And, if there’s a festival, ceremony, or feast going on, you very often miss out on supplies. They’ve been trying to introduce frozen vegetables, but we like to eat fresh food.

I currently work at the health centre and have also experienced the impact of climate change there. We’ve been getting increasing cases of chronic diabetes amongst young people. We’ve also seen more and more people rely on junk foods, despite telling them that it’s not good for them.

The Australian government should do more to prevent climate change on Boigu. They should come out, see our island, and live here instead of talking about spending money somewhere else. Come to our island and see what we need here. Listen to what we have to say, not what you want to hear.

I signed the Pacific Island elders’ statement today to show the world that we want greater climate action. I hope the government will listen to our statement, which we have all agreed upon. We, the Torres Strait and the Pacific, will be supporting one another. After all, we are facing this crisis together and at the same time. We will speak with one voice.

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  • Fire

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