Taking the Australian Government to Court

Communities around the world are standing up and seeking climate justice through the courts

by Uncle Pabai and Uncle Paul

5 July 2023

We are Uncle Pabai and Uncle Paul, proud First Nations leaders from Guda Maluyligal in the Torres Strait and we’re taking the Australian government to court for failing to prevent climate change. 

Uncle Pabai and Uncle Paul on the Rainbow Warrior

Pacific Campaign Launch in Cairns: Rainbow Warrior hosts First Nations leaders from Torres Strait and Australian climate litigants. Together, they sail to the Pacific in solidarity with global action for climate justice. Credit: Alex Westover

Our people have lived in the Torres Strait for thousands of years. Our land is central to our culture and the knowledge of how to live in harmony with it has been handed down from generation to generation. But if the government doesn’t change course, this place we call home is going to be underwater. We will lose everything: our language, our culture, our identity, everything – making us Australia’s first climate change refugees. 

Like us, communities around the world are standing up and seeking climate justice through the courts. Our battle is not just about the Torres Strait Islands; it resonates with communities around the world. 

Right now, we are on the Rainbow Warrior, making our way from Cairns to Vanuatu in solidarity with the Pasifika community who are leading a global legal campaign bringing climate change to the world’s highest court – the International Court of Justice.

If their legal case is successful, it could help to protect the human rights of people across the world who are most affected by climate change, and strengthen the consequences for big polluters who are recklessly harming our planet.

Will you stand with us in solidarity with our Pasifika neighbours and urge Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong make a strong case for climate action at the world’s highest court?


We believe that unity is our greatest strength. By joining forces with our brothers and sisters from Vanuatu and others on the frontlines of the climate crisis, we can amplify our voices and increase the pressure on the Australian Government. Together, we are an unbreakable force, demanding action and accountability. 

In Kalaw Kawaw Ya, the language spoken on our islands of Boigu and Saibai, mura kalmel sipa means ‘together we stand’. For us, that is the message of this voyage. Together our communities will speak truth to power in the face of climate devastation. Together we will fight for communities and our futures in Australian and International courts.

A victory in our case in the Australian Federal Court could trigger transformative climate action across Australia, benefiting all Australians and setting an example for the entire world.

Our fight for climate justice stems from our deep connection to our culture, land, and people. In the spirit of Eddie Mabo’s land rights struggle, we carry on the legacy of our ancestors. We are cultural people – our islands were our mother’s and  father’s lands. We will never be removed from them. We were born there and we will die there. 

We are proud to lead the charge for climate justice, not only for ourselves but for all First Nations Peoples and communities worldwide. 

We urge you to join us. Together, we can protect our homes, cultures, and future generations. Let’s ensure that climate action becomes a matter of law, not just politics.

Mura Kalmel Sipa, Together we stand – Torres Strait and Pacific Islands

Wadhuam (Maternal Uncle) Pabai Pabai and Wadhuam (Maternal Uncle) Paul Kabai 

To get involved the Australian Climate Case or share how you’re being affected by climate change, go to our website takeaction.australianclimatecase.org.au

Uncle Pabai and Uncle Paul

By Uncle Pabai and Uncle Paul

Wadhuam (Maternal Uncle) Pabai Pabai

Uncle Pabai is a Guda Maluyligal man and a Traditional Owner of the island of Boigu. He has five daughters and two sons. Uncle Pabai has lived on Boigu his whole life, and is a Director on the Prescribed Body Corporate that represents the 6 clans on the island.

Uncle Pabai says, Boigu is extremely low-lying – the highest point is 3m above sea level – making it very vulnerable to flooding. The flooding is getting worse because of climate change. As a Boigu man he has specific responsibility to protect sacred cultural sites but the rising sea is making it impossible and could mean they disappear forever. Loss of these places would be devastating for Guda Maluyligal communities now and for generations to come.  That’s why he’s bringing this case – his cultural responsibility to protect my community, our culture and spirituality from climate change.

Wadhuam (Maternal Uncle) Paul Kabai 

Uncle Paul is a Guda Maluyligal man and a Traditional Owner of the island of Saibai. He is a Director of the Prescribed Body Corporate which represents the 7 clans on the island. He has 2 daughters and six sons. Uncle Paul’s family has lived on Saibai island for more than 65,000 years. 

Uncle Paul says if we become climate refugees we will lose everything: our homes, community, culture, stories, and identity. We can keep our stories and tell our stories but we won’t be connected to Country because Country will disappear. That’s why he’s taking the government to court, because I want to protect my community and all Australians before it’s too late.