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Presentation: Michelle Hamrosi Aug 13th 2019

Eurobodalla Shire Council – NOM19/ 004 CLIMATE EMERGENCY

Public Forum presentation by Michelle Hamrosi in support of NOM19/004

My name is Michelle Hamrosi and I am a local GP, mother of three and an active volunteer in this community. I would like to acknowledge the traditional Walbunga people of Yuin Country on which we meet, and pay my respects to their Elders, both past, present and emerging.

I’m not sure if anyone here is representing the local Indigenous communities, but I encourage the Elders to speak up about this in the weeks to come. Our Indigenous peoples must be given a voice on the subject on which I’m speaking today, as they are the holders countless generations of traditional knowledge in conservation and sustainable use of biodiverse ecosystems here in Australia.

I’d like to extend a big thank you to all who have written in to Council around Councillor Pat McGinlay’s motions to declare a climate emergency. The debate that will no doubt continue and this is a positive thing. It’s critical these issues are discussed openly in our communities.

This is a discussion that has been gaining momentum in recent times. It’s something that should have taken place some decades ago and acted upon. But now it is the eleventh hour and it’s up to us to make a difference. We cannot leave it to the next generation. In the words of Sir Attenborough: ‘We cannot be radical enough’.

I challenge you who are sceptical about this today to watch Sir Attenborough’s documentary on the ABC, Climate Change: The Facts, and read all of the scientific evidence outlined. It is depressing, it is anxiety provoking, it is alarming beyond belief, but it is also activating. If you have not done so, you cannot honestly be part of this debate. You must do your duty and inform yourself on the reality of the science and on credible assessments of the near-term impacts on our quality of life. You cannot adequately represent the interests of our communities without doing so.

With regards to Motion 1, the ‘emergency declaration’. Language is important here, but some are critical of the word ‘emergency’ because of the fear it could invoke. But we must face the truth. We are in a dire situation. And as the arm of government closest to the people, you have an obligation to say it how it is. Other councils are speaking the truth and declaring an emergency, including Launceston, Melbourne and North Sydney – we MUST too. It is crucial we acknowledge the situation, so we can take all available steps to develop and implement a response. There is no more time to waste.

I want to acknowledge all the ways Council been proactive on this so far – you have a strong record of reducing emissions through your Emissions Reduction Plan, but this is only considering part of the climate equation. We must support Motion 2 and look at all the policies and strategies that are already underway or planned, to assess whether they align with the global consensus on best practice. We must assess these, as Councillor McGinley has included in the motion, in a systematic and thorough way and accelerate, engage and collaborate wherever possible.

Doctors for Environment, NSW committee, encourage local government to declare a climate emergency. I quote from their letter of support: ‘This proactive action could save lives of your most vulnerable residents. One example is by preparing for inevitable heat waves and interruptions to vital services such as electricity and transport. Declaring a climate emergency also has the advantage of focusing Council efforts on creating and maintaining healthy environments. These include improving tree cover, clean air and walkability, which have clear health benefits.’ These strategies are not a waste of taxpayer money, as some would have you believe, but will enable us to build healthier, more resilient communities.

Motion 3 suggests the community must be consulted and a part of the solutions. Community engagement may not have worked so well in the recent past, but failures are opportunities for learning and growth. It is imperative that consultation processes around these changes are accessible to all stakeholders and interest groups, particularly our Indigenous peoples. I invite Council to consider the Transition Town framework for engaging communities across the shire. This transition model is designed to unite groups and individuals already working on initiatives and provide others with opportunities to become involved.

I represent the many who are not able to attend today – the health professionals who are otherwise working in a broken health system, who do not have the energy at the end of the day to fight against a global system which is enabling the climate breakdown.

I represent my family and children, who, without us radically acting, will not have a safe and healthy future. These motions show respect for the children who will actually have to deal with a bigger mess we leave behind, if we choose not to act.

Lastly, I want everybody to know this – you can be part the change, whether our Council decides to support these motions or not. You can help make changes in your lives, households, schools and businesses. Together we can make a difference. We can bring about healthier, more connected, more motivated and conscious communities. Under the leadership of you, Council, these changes could be swifter and more effective. You have residents ready, willing and yearning to help. Please help us transition our towns to low-carbon communities.

Let’s not let fear hold us back. We can do it together!

Thank you

Above: Dr Michelle Hamrosi (Left) with Cath Reilly (Right) of SAGE presenting to Eurobodalla Council Aug 13th 2019