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Media Release: Better Futures Forum - Everyday Aussies pushing for an ambitious national climate agenda from the bottom up

Tuesday 6 September 2022

Tuesday at the Better Futures Forum at UNSW Canberra

Everyday Aussies pushing for an ambitious national climate agenda from the bottom up

Available for interview:

  • Indian-Australian teen activist Anjali Sharma, who sued a former Environment Minister for failing to protect her generation from climate change

  • Aboriginal pastor Ray Minniecon, who is still fighting after his faith in climate action took a devastating blow last year after attending the UN conference in Glasgow

  • GP Dr Kim Loo, who sees her patients suffering from the heat and air pollution

  • Latrobe Valley coal worker of 40 years Tony Wolfe, who wants to lead his colleagues and community away from fossil fuels

  • Indigenous scientist Prof Jason Sharples, who is internationally recognised for using maths to predict the behaviours of extreme bushfires

  • Hospital emergency physician Dr Lai Heng Foong, who is urging communities to work together to build resilience ahead of climate disasters.

Climate champions from communities around Australia are available for interviews at the Better Futures Forum where they will meet with politicians and industry leaders to push for a collective commitment for a more ambitious national climate agenda.

The teenager, pastor, coal worker, medical doctors and bushfire scientist will speak at UNSW Canberra alongside former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Federal Climate Change and Environment Minister Chris Bowen, architect of the Paris Agreement Laurence Tubiana and Energy Transitions Commission Chair Lord Adair Turner.

Quotes from the community climate champions below.

Anjali Sharma, an Indian-Australian teenager who led a class action suit against the then-Environment Minister for failing to protect future generations from climate change

“I saw my family in India deal with the effects of climate change and severe floods. It really made me angry that Australia, as a country, was not doing the things it should be doing to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change.

"We made the Federal Court of Australia accept climate science unequivocally and realise that climate change is becoming an ever-relevant and ever-growing problem that's going to impact young people for many years to come.”

Pastor Ray Minniecon, an Anglican minister whose hope for climate action took a devastating blow attending last year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow

“When I spoke to our Pacific neighbours, I told them I didn’t come to apologise on behalf of my people or the recalcitrant Australian Government. Most apologies to Indigenous Peoples are meaningless and insulting. I did say that my people identify, empathise with and acknowledge their huge pain, suffering and loss. Australia’s CO2 emissions and climate change denial are doing so much damage in these Pacific Island regions also, with rising sea levels.

“I did say that we Indigenous people need to demand a seat at the table of the G10, G7, G20, because it is these very countries who have invaded our countries, destroyed our lands, culture, people and heritage. They ripped all the wealth and resources from our lands for the benefit of their citizens and now are the very countries who sit at these powerful global tables and pontificate and rule about how they are going to heal our country and people and deliver us from the evils of climate change. I hate being treated like a dumb blackfellow!”

“I also condemned the church for their role in carrying out the demands of their governments in the dispossession agenda. In Matthew 23, Jesus condemns them all as hypocrites!”

GP Dr Kim Loo, the Chair of Doctors for the Environment (NSW) who sees her western Sydney patients suffering from the impacts of climate change

“Australia needs to act on climate change because our population is already feeling the impacts of climate change. In western Sydney where I work, the temperatures have hit close to 50 degrees celsius. The impact on my patient population has been devastating. If we don’t actually do anything about adaptation and mitigation of climate change – Western Sydney will not be liveable!  As a doctor working with individual patients, I could see that it was impossible for me to actually help my patients. So, I tell patients what you eat, what you drink, how much to exercise determines how healthy you are. When I could see that the heat and the air pollution was beyond my control.”

Tony Wolfe, a coal worker for more than 40 years, who is publicly calling for a move away from fossil fuels

“I was born and raised in the Latrobe Valley and have worked in the power generation industry there for over 40 years. I sometimes joke that I work in a CO2 factory, because we actually produce more tonnes of CO2 than we do megawatts of electricity. I’m passionate about this issue because I see our industry crumbling around us, and I’m frustrated at the lack of policy and leadership being committed. I openly stick my hand up and acknowledge that we need to move away from the use of fossil fuels.”

Prof Jason Sharples, who is internationally recognised for his work using maths to better predict the behaviour of extreme bushfires

“At school at 15, I remember we did Newton’s laws in science one day and I didn’t really have much interest in science up until that point, but then it just sort of struck me. And I said, ‘hang on’, and stopped the teacher. ‘You’re telling me that just from writing that equation down we can figure out what’s going to happen around us.’ And she said ‘yes’. That totally blew my mind.”

Hospital emergency physician Dr Lai Heng Foong, chair of the ACEM Public and Disaster Committee, who advocates for communities working together to build resilience

“The Australian bushfires of 2020, where 24 million hectares of forests burnt, directly killed 33 people. Indirectly, the deaths would be higher because of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Many of the 6,000 homes destroyed were uninsured and have yet to be rebuilt. Widespread air pollution kept kids, hundreds of kilometres away, from going to school. Pregnant women anxiously hid indoors to protects the health of their yet to be born children. Most Australians were impacted by the smoke of those fires, and the ongoing mental and physical health impacts remain. If the disasters of climate change don’t reach you with a bang, they will reach you with a whimper; an insidious threat to your wellbeing and your community.”

Full program at 

Media contacts: 

Niall Byrne, [email protected], 0417-131-977
Jane Watkins, [email protected], 0425-803-204.

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