Five brave young Australians’ UN human rights complaint
Meet the young Australians fighting for climate justice
Everyone has the right to a healthy environment and a safe climate. Our kids deserve a bright future with equal opportunity, a say in what will determine their future, and where the people and places they love thrive.
But right now, we are living in a climate crisis and young people, people with disabilities, and First Nations people are disproportionately affected.
That’s why, ahead of COP26, five brave young people in Australia from youth, First Nations and disability communities who are facing acute climate change risks, have lodged a trio of human rights complaints with the United Nations (UN) over the Australian government’s failure to act to meaningfully to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
The complaints are made jointly to the UN Special Rapporteurs for Human Rights and Environment, the rights of Indigenous people, and the rights of persons with disabilities. They make the case that the Morrison government’s globally-criticised 2030 emissions reduction target, fails to uphold the human rights of every young Australian, particularly those at acute risk from climate harms including young First Nations people and disabled people.
In the complaint, the group share their hopes for a safe future where they have equal opportunities, can enjoy good health, and can fully practise their Culture. They also outline their jarring personal experiences of extreme weather events, acute mental health risks, and their fears for their future and the future of the people and Country they love.
“I am a Wiradjuri teen and my connection to Country is incredibly important to me. I am standing up to protect my Country, culture and community and ensure every First Nations person has access to a safe future.”
– Ethan Lyons, 15, Sydney (he/him)
“Climate science predicts climate change will be irreversible by 2030. By then, I will only be 26. My life will have barely begun. We’re told time and time again that we will save the planet, and those who should be responsible for climate action – our world leaders – pass the responsibility down to us, the generation who can do nothing about it.”
– Leila Mangos, 18, Central Coast NSW (she/her)
“I am a Kulkalaig woman from Kulkagal Nation, Zenadth Kes – the Torres Strait. My family’s island, Masig, is already seeing the impact of climate change. My great-grandparents moved because of rising sea levels. The thought of my family being displaced in their own country is heartbreaking.”
– Shylicia McKiernan, 24, Melbourne (she/her)
“I have mental health issues and disabilities, which puts me at a higher risk of climate harms. My anxiety is triggered by climate change and can manifest in physical pain. I am very annoyed the government doesn’t have any solid actions to stop climate change.”
– Chris Black, 14, Sydney (he/him)
“I have sensory issues and chronic pain which are exacerbated during extreme temperatures which heavily impacts my accessibility to education, travel and to leave the house which takes a toll on my mental health. I am angry that our government is unwilling to address the disproportionate harms on disabled people, especially when there are global crises.“
– Adrien Edward, 15, Melbourne (they/them)
These inspiring young people are fighting for climate justice. They want to see the Australian government held to account for infringing on their human rights. And, they want a seat at the table – to have a fair and meaningful say in the decisions that affect their future, and the future of young people, First Nations people and people with disabilities across the country.
Together, we must solve the climate crisis before we lock in the greatest intergenerational injustice of our time. Then we can all enjoy a future where people and nature thrive, now and for generations to come.
“We are speaking up for every child across the country. We have the right to a bright future where we are safe, healthy and can practise our Culture on Country. The Australian government is meant to represent us all but right now it is ignoring the clear realities of what climate change means for us.
It’s time the Australian government faces the reality that their inaction on climate change is a violation of human rights that puts young people like us at serious risk of mental and physical harm.
We want climate justice for us and for young people, First Nations people and people with disabilities across the Country. That means a much stronger emissions target by 2030 and a seat at the table so we can have a say in the decisions that affect our future.”
Meet their lawyer
“Our clients deserve a government that is dedicated to securing a safe future, where people and nature can thrive in a stable climate, for generations to come.
Instead, the Morrison government’s failure to set emissions reduction targets in line with the Paris Agreement and make no greater commitment for 2030 targets, will continue to put them at risk. It’s a human rights issue, very close to home, that can’t be ignored and must be addressed immediately.”