The polemical topic of refugee rights has never been so prominent in common Australian discourses as it is today. It is a hot topic for discussion in Parliament, the media, and around the dinner table of many Australians. While there are many refugees fleeing from persecution, war and terror, there will soon be refugees who have simply lost their homes, fresh water and livelihood to the Climate Change we in Australia can ignore so easily. Our latest issue of Runway focussed on the theme “ISLANDS”, which reminded me of the work of Jon Lewis, Australian photographer, founder of Greenpeace Australia and a thoroughly inspiring tutor at the University of Technology, Sydney. Jon Lewis spent 6 months in 2009 travelling through the Republic of Kiribati, which consists of 33 atolls in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean and south of Hawaii. The entire nation has been under threat from drastic changes in weather patterns, fresh water salination and rising sea levels. Lewis produced a series of photographs entitled “Portraits from the Edge” Kiribati – Putting a Face to Climate Change.
The impact of Climate Change on the people of Kiribati is far more significant today than just a few years ago, and in recent news a man named Ioane Teitiota has just lost his appeal for refugee status in New Zealand as the world’s first Climate Change refugee. Experts predict that the nation of Kiribati has only 30-40 years left before climate change renders it uninhabitable, and it seems Australia will most likely be facing a new influx of “asylum seekers” in coming years.