Pasifika Empowered 2023 Recap

Pasifika Empowered took place in Olympic Park, Western Sydney on October 7 2023. Members of the community and Uniting Church Pasifika leaders called on our politicians to respond boldly to the climate and cost-of-living crisis. It was a celebration of Pasifika culture and a space for those impacted to share their stories and call for stronger action. The energy and power in the room was undeniable!  

Co-chaired by Uniting Church Pastor Joyce Tangi and Rev Vinnie Ravetali and featuring addresses from speakers including Rev Mata Havea Hiliau, Moderator of the Synod of NSW and the ACT, the event was full of passion, purpose and talanoa.

The Honourable Chris Bowen MP, Minister for Climate Change and Energy, attended the event along with other dignitaries and allies from the community. There wasn’t an empty seat in the room!

Check out a video of what happened here.

Pasifika Empowered got national attention and was featured on both SBS and ABC news! Check out the coverage and share it on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Check out the gallery of photos on Facebook!

Background

This follows the Uniting and Uniting Church Pasifika Forum ahead of the 2022 Federal Election in Penrith. Uniting Church Pasifika Leaders led a gathering of over 200 people highlighting the concern around and impacts of climate change on Pasifika communities, in particular in Western Sydney. Candidates from across the political spectrum were invited to attend and Minister Chris Bowen attended as a member of the Opposition.

In response to that colourful and passionate gathering, he agreed to meet again on climate in the next year if he was elected. Pasifika Empowered was Minister Bowen’s opportunity to honour this commitment as part of the Federal Government, in his role as Climate and Energy Minister.

The Asks for the Minister

  1. We call on you, as Minister for Climate Change and Energy, and the Federal Government, to respect our islands and our culture and act in line with that respect.
    Continued use of fossil fuels threatens the existence of our island homes and way of life. Drastically reducing emissions is the single most important action to safeguard our homelands.

    – We acknowledge the Federal Government’s commitment to 43% emissions reduction by 2030. This is a welcome improvement on the previous policy position of the Federal Government, but falls short of what is needed to keep to 1.5 degrees warming. Will you work towards stronger, science-based emissions cuts by 2035 and developing a transparent plan for phasing out fossil fuels?

    – Will you consult with Pacific partners and vulnerable communities here, regarding the speed, fairness and equity of Australia’s transition to renewables?

    – We recognise some of the following issues extend beyond your portfolio. We ask you to raise the following concerns with the relevant Ministerial and Parliamentary colleagues, and inform us of their responses: The need for increased funds for climate adaptation projects in Australia and the Pacific, Australia’s contribution to a climate loss and damage fund for Pacific nations, The need for dialogue with Pacific nations about a long-term climate migration and re-settlement plan.
  2. We call on you to support our communities here, to deal with cost of living and climate adaptation.  Our people in Western Sydney face some of the worst impacts of climate change (extreme heat, flooding, fire), but we lack resources to adapt to these new extremes.

    We congratulate the Federal Government on commitments to develop an Energy Savings Program, to re-invest in the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and roll out community batteries and solar banks in local communities, all of which were announced in the last Federal budget.

    – Will you ensure that a substantial portion of the Energy Savings Program benefits go to low-income and renting households, including in western and south-western Sydney?
    – Will you consult with us to ensure that community batteries and solar banks are delivered equitably, including to communities in Western and South Western Sydney?
    – Will you explore resourcing a mobile community energy information hub to help residents in Western and South-Western Sydney understand what support is available with cost of living and climate adaptation? 
  3. We ask for a fair share of the economic/job opportunities in the transition to renewable energy.
    We congratulate the Federal Government on the announcement of new job and training opportunities through the New Energy Apprenticeships Program and the New Energy Skills program. We are keen to hear how young people in our communities will benefit from these programs.

    Will you work with us to ensure that a fair proportion of these and other training and economic opportunities go to communities in Western and South-Western Sydney? 
  4. Finally, we realise there is a lot more to discuss and we look forward to more conversation with you.
    Will you maintain your commitment to meeting yearly and meet with us again in the New Year. 

What Comes Next?

Pasifika Empowered was just one part of our work to push for our government to take stronger action for a just and fair transition to a safer climate future. This includes reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions that are having devastating impacts on communities from the Pacific to the Torres Strait and right here in Western Sydney. There is much more to be done to achieve this and in our work with the Minister so, watch this space!

Thank you for being part of this powerful action. We need you in this campaign for climate justice!

To find out more and stay up to date on our next actions, events and training opportunities, sign up to the Uniting Climate Action Network.