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CURRENT CASE: First Nations leaders sue Commonwealth over climate change

First Nations leaders from remote islands in Guda Maluyligal in the Torres Strait are taking the Australian Government to court for failing to prevent climate change.

Status: hearing set for 6 June 2023

Wadhuam (maternal uncle) Pabai and Wadhuam Paul are Traditional Owners whose ancestors have lived in the Torres Strait for more than 65,000 years. Now they are on the frontline of the climate crisis, and face losing their island homes under rising seas.

Wadhuam Pabai and Wadhuam Paul have turned to the courts in the hope of protecting their communities from disaster. They are arguing that the Federal Government has a legal responsibility to ensure Torres Strait Islander Peoples are not harmed by climate change. In legal terms, this is called a ‘duty of care’.

Wadhuam Pabai and Wadhuam Paul will argue that by failing to prevent climate change the Australian Government has unlawfully breached this duty of care, because of the severe and lasting harm that climate change would cause to their communities. They are seeking an order from the court requiring the Government to prevent this harm to their communities by cutting greenhouse gas emissions. 

Torres Strait Islanders have a long history of fighting for their rights – and some of those battles have transformed the face of modern Australia. Torres Strait Islander man Eddie Mabo, took on the Government through the courts and established that terra nullius was a lie, paving the way for land rights for all First Nations Peoples in Australia.

Find out more about the Australian Climate Case

Case timeline

  • 26 October 2021 - filed at the Federal Court in Victoria
  • 6 June 2023 - hearing date