Human Rights and Climate Change - One-day Conference

Human Rights and Climate Change - One-day Conference

Fri 11 Oct 2019 8:45am8:30pm


Global Change Institute
The University of Queensland, St Lucia Campus

“We cannot ensure a life with dignity for all if we cannot guarantee a healthy environment” Inger Andersen, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Program.

Australian and Pacific Island Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples are on the front line of the global climate crisis. They are also leaders in charting responses to this crisis that can uphold human, and including Indigenous, rights.

This one-day event will bring together speakers from across Australia and the Pacific to identify the specific human rights, including Indigenous rights, challenged by the climate crisis. It will also create a forum for strategic alliance building across NGOs, researchers and community organisations to support on-going rights based climate campaigning, research and education.

We’d love you to be part of this event.

Friends of the Earth Climate Frontlines, the University of Queensland’s Human Rights Consortium, the Pacific Islands Council of Queensland and Pacific Climate Warriors 350 invite you to be part of our one-day human rights and climate change conference.

This event will include keynote addresses from Dr Anne Poelina – Nyikina Warrwa Traditional Custodian from the Mardoowarra, Tony McAvoy SC – Australia’s first Indigenous Senior Counsel, and Genevieve Jiva, coordinator Pacific Islands Climate Action Network.

The day will include panel sessions and round table discussions on:

  • the right to a healthy environment: what’s under threat?
  • displacement, migration and re-settlement
  • opportunities for climate litigation
  • youth and climate change
  • community leadership and involvement in planning for climate change
  • gender, rights and climate change

Date: Friday 11 October 2019

Conference timetable:

8.45 am – 5.00 pm:  Keynote addresses, panel sessions, and including lunch, morning and afternoon teas

5.00 pm – 6.45 pm: Dinner and cultural program

7.00 pm – 8.30 pm: Keynote address with Dr Anne Poelina *

(Conference registration includes attendance at all events and lunch, plus morning/afternoon teas.)

[* You're also welcome to register to attend only the evening keynote address by Dr Anne Poelina. Please note, however, that Dr Peelina's keynote will be delivered at the Terrace Room (Level 6) of the Sir Llew Edwards Building (14), 5-10 minutes' walking distance from the GCI Building, on the St Lucia campus.]

Venue: Global Change Institute, Building 20, University of Queensland, St Lucia

Cost: $50 waged, $20 low income/students and free for concession card holders.

There are limited places for this event, please register early to avoid disappointment.

For further information about this event please contact

For more information about the organisers please visit

Confirmed speakers include:


Dr Anne Poelina

Dr Anne Poelina, Managing Director of Madjulla Inc., Chair of the Martuwarra Fitzroy River Council, is a Nyikina Warrwa Traditional Owner and guardian of the Mardoowarra, Lower Fitzroy River in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Dr Poelina life career in Indigenous, human and environmental advocacy spans four decades' achievements including Master Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Master Education, Master Arts (Indigenous Social Policy), Doctor of Philosophy & Doctor of Health Science Scholar. Peter Cullen Fellow (2011), Laureate Women's World Summit Foundation (Geneva) (2017) Adjunct Senior Research Fellow the University of Notre Dame (Nulungu Institute of Research), Adjunct Research Fellow Charles Darwin University (CDU).

Tony McAvoy

Genevieve Jiva – coordinator Pacific Island Climate Action Network

Genevieve Jiva is from Suva, Fiji and is the coordinator for the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN), the Pacific regional node of CAN International. She has been a member of PICAN since 2015, participating in their activities and advocating for stronger action on climate change. She has graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Politics, and has completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Diplomacy and International Affairs from the University of the South Pacific. She is currently completing a Masters in Diplomacy and International Affairs, with a focus on Pacific Diplomacy and Loss and Damage negotiations within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). She is also a volunteer with the WWF Pacific Volunteers Program and has participated in Peace Boat’s Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassador Program.


Simon Albert – School of Civil Engineering, UQ

Dr Simon Albert is a senior research fellow in the School of Civil Engineering at University of Queensland (UQ), specialising in coastal water quality, marine ecology, climate change adaptation and community based resource management in the Pacific region. For the past 15 years he has worked at the intersection of these fields in both Australia and Melanesia providing a gradient of social-political-ecological factors.

Simon’s 2016 paper on sea-level rise impacts on shorelines in Solomon Islands was the first evidence of dramatic changes in shoreline erosion from sea-level rise in the Western Pacific. It drew on a multidisciplinary approach of local indigenous knowledge, GIS, wave models and sea level altimetry to elucidate these interactions. In 2017 Simon extended this work to include the ensuing impacts of these shoreline changes on the human populations that inhabit these vulnerable islands. This work demonstrated that despite the vulnerability of these islands to sea-level rise, the communities that inhabit them are inherently resilient and were able to apply a range of adaptation strategies with no external support.

Lisa Sipaia Baker (Tokelau diaspora)

Justine Bell James – TC Beirne School of Law, UQ

Dr Justine Bell-James is a Senior Lecturer at the TC Beirne School of Law, teaching undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the areas of environmental law and property law. Dr Bell-James obtained a PhD from the Queensland University of Technology in 2010, and was subsequently awarded an ARC funded Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2011. Dr Bell-James undertook her postdoctoral research at the Global Change Institute at The University of Queensland, focussing on legal, policy and insurance responses to coastal hazards and sea-level rise. Dr Bell-James's research focuses on legal mechanisms for protection of the coast, drawing upon environmental, planning, property and tort law. In addition to her work on sea-level rise, Dr Bell-James is also particularly interested in novel legal mechanisms for protection of coastal ecosystems like mangroves and seagrass, protection of the Great Barrier Reef, and biodiversity offsets in the coastal context.

Dr Bell-James currently holds an ARC Discovery Grant (2019-2021) to consider how ecosystem services provided by mangroves can be integrated into law.

Nicole George – School of Political Science and International Studies, UQ

Robati Harrison – Pacific Climate Warriors 350

Mary Harm – Pacific Climate Warriors 350

Murrawah Johnson

Robyn James, Director Conservation, Melanesia
The Nature Conservancy

Asia Pacific Gender Advisor

Robyn has been with the Nature Conservancy (TNC) since 2010 and leads conservation work as well as addressing women’s empowerment work across the organisation. She has led climate adaptation and resilience projects in the Pacific islands. She leads both the gender and mining strategies for the TNC Melanesia program and is passionate about improving the role of women in the most remote communities be better involved in decisions around their natural resources. She is currently working with PNG women on efforts to link sustainable management of mangroves to economic benefits at a larger scale through mechanisms such as the blue carbon economy.

Kabay (Torres Strait) (Pacific Climate Warriors 350)

Taukiei Kitara – Pacific Islands Council of Queensland

Taukiei is currently the President for the Tuvalu Community in Brisbane.  In Tuvalu he worked in the NGO sector at the Tuvalu Association of Non-governmental Organisation (TANGO). As a Project Development officer, he assisted communities and TANGO members in project development, implementation and report writing.  He was a co-founder of the Tuvalu Climate Action Network (TuCAN) and selected to its secretariat.  Alongside these roles he was also appointed as the National Focal Person (NFP) for the Small-Grants Programme of the Global Environment Facility (GEF-SGP) in Tuvalu.  As the NFP, he was mandated to assist communities identify environmental project priorities such as Climate Change Adaptation projects and setting up of community managed marine conservation areas. He also represented Tuvalu civil society at several international climate change Conference of Parties (UNFCCC COPs). His mission is to help his country (Tuvalu) in any way possible in their fight against climate change, now involving raising awareness and advocating for the people of Tuvalu here in Australia and beyond.

Glen Klatovsky – 350

Ruth Konia – The Nature Conservancy

Ruth Konia comes from Madang Province in Papua New Guinea. Since 2011 she has been working with The Nature Conservancy in Papua New Guinea (PNG), initially as Director of Communications for the TNC PNG Program and until recently she is overseeing a project called the ‘Mangoro Market Meri’ funded by the Australian Government. The Mangoro Market Meri project works through/with women groups in Milne Bay and Manus Provinces around natural resource management of mangroves for eco-tourism, identifying markets for selling mangrove produce, and protecting and conserving the mangrove habitat. Prior to The Nature Conservancy, Ruth worked with Partners With Melanesians Inc., a local conservation organisation on program management and a “rainforest literacy” outreach project. She also worked with World Wide Fund for Nature, South Pacific Program as Forest Information Campaign Officer, focused on strengthening environmentally sound practices in the forestry sector. She has undertaken various consultancies throughout her career, including report writing and evaluation, such as a 2017 evaluation of the public interest environmental and advocacy organisation in PNG, the Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights (CELCOR Inc.). She also provided consultant support to The Christensen Fund around their grant-making in Melanesia in 2010. Ruth is currently a volunteer to the Global Greengrants Fund Pacific Islands Advisory Board where she works with other Pacific Islands Advisors on grant-making in PNG. Ruth is married with six children. In her spare time Ruth likes to spend quiet time with her family.

Sailoto Liveti (Tuvalu diaspora)

Michelle Maloney – Australian Earth Laws Alliance

Stella Miria-Robinson Pacific Islands Council of Queensland

Stella Miria-Robinson, was born on Yule Island in the then Papua, was raised in the town of Madang in the then Territory of New Guinea in present day Papua New Guinea (PNG).  Stella has been working in the community services sector for the past 13 years.  She has a passion for cultural diversity, climate change, and empowerment of women and youth.  Stella shares this passion through her work as a Multicultural Partnership & Engagement Advisor with Uniting Care, and as a volunteer to the Pacific Islander communities in south east Queensland through the Pasifika Women’s Alliance Inc. and the Pacific Islands Council of Qld (PICQ).  Stella is an endorsed Ambassador for the PICQ in her efforts to advocate for all things Pasifika, and serves as co-chair of PICQ’s climate change network.  Stella’s commitment and engagement in the Climate Change agenda has seen her in various places and spaces such as:

  • Initiating the ‘Mama’s Bones’ play performed at the Redland City Council’s Pacific Tides Festival in 2017, highlighting the cultural impacts of climate change in the Pacific
  • The opening speaker at the Brisbane People’s March on Climate Change in November 2015 attended by over 12,000 people.
  • Member of the Friends of the Earth International advocacy team at the UNFCCC COP 23 in Bonn, Germany, including panel member for an Asia-Pacific event, participation in the 25,000 strong Peoples March, and in FoEI’s campaign activities to “keep coal and gas in the ground” and advocacy for “decent jobs on a living planet”.
  • Member of Working Group and event moderator for “Where do we go? displacement and relocation challenges of climate change for communities in the Pacific Islands Region” forum, Brisbane Parliament House, May 2018
  • Speaker at the Pacific Pawa: Rise for Climate Change rally in King George Square in September 2018 hosted by Pacific Climate Warriors/

Chris McGrath – Barrister

Dr Chris McGrath is a Brisbane barrister. During the past 15 years he has acted in several climate cases, mainly against coal mines in Queensland and New South Wales, listed on his website. He is currently representing customary landowners in Papua New Guinea in proceedings against illegal land clearing. His topic is based on a presentation he recently gave to a workshop on climate litigation at the University of Melbourne, a recording of which is available here.

Sean Ryan – Environmental Defenders Office

As EDO Qld's Principal Solicitor, Sean is responsible for the integrity of advice and casework.

Having worked for all levels of government and a range of industries on broad ranging environmental issues, Sean brings a broad perspective to assisting the community and public interest. Sean worked for both government and in private consultancy before moving onto a six-year stint in private law practice with Corrs Chambers Westgarth, He joined EDO Qld in 2011. 

Sean has degrees in both law and environmental science as well as a Masters in Environmental Law from the University of Queensland.

Gladys Saliride – Solomon Islands

Born in Papua New Guinea, Gladys has spent most of her childhood and schooling in Solomon Islands. She recently graduated with an Honours degree in Pharmacy from Monash University, Melbourne, and is currently the only Intern Pharmacist for the National Pharmacy Division at the Ministry of Health & Medical Services in Solomon Islands. Much of Gladys’ work is based at the National Referral Hospital, where she assists in the Dispensary, the Solomon Islands Medicines Information Centre, Clinical Pharmacist services. Once Gladys completed this internship and provincial (rural) hospital rotation, she hopes to earn registration to practise as a pharmacist at the National Hospital.

Gladys’ passion to voice out concerns on climate change began while in high school, where she noticed her favourite island back home rapidly diminishing in size over the years. Gladys started to take pictures to keep a record of these observations. Eventually, this island completely submerged under water, something that hurts Gladys deeply. Gladys welcomes the opportunity to share her story on behalf of my people, and to connect with others on the frontline of climate change impacts. Gladys hopes personal stories such as hers can support research, as well as help us to move into a world where many more people work hand in hand to implement strategies that will enable us to protect what’s left of our heritage.