• Amelia Telford (Kiernan Ironfield)Source: Kiernan Ironfield
Bundjalung woman Amelia Telford has been named the 2015 Australian Geographic Society’s Young Conservationist of the Year.
By
Natalie Ahmat

29 Oct 2015 - 12:27 PM  UPDATED 29 Oct 2015 - 2:49 PM

The 21-year-old from Tweed Heads on the NSW far north coast was recognised for founding Seed, a network of young First Nations people that provides access to training and support for those wanting to make a difference in the areas of climate change, sustainability and conservation.

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"It just means so much, not only to me and my family but also to all of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people that I work with and to our people," Ms Telford told NITV News.

"Getting recognised for environment or conservation awards shows that people are starting to realise that Indigenous people in this country have looked after the land sustainably for generations, and it’s just so important that out voice is heard on such an important issue."

Amelia Telford wins the Australian Geographic 2015 Young Conservationist of the Year

The Australian Geographic Society award is not the first time Amelia's been recognised for her conservation work.  In 2014, she was named a joint winner of the National NAIDOC Youth of the Year.

She says many Indigenous communities are facing the loss of sacred country and culture, and are directly feeling the effects of environmental degradation.

"We are the ones that are facing the impacts of climate change right now.  We know that the Torres [Strait is] facing rising sea levels, we know there are communities facing drought, that when we see extreme weather events hit, our communities are the ones that are left behind for weeks without emergency services."

"We really need to be that voice saying the issue is about the ongoing injustices that our communities are facing."

Amelia joined the Australian Youth Climate Coalition as its Indigenous Coordinator in 2013, after previously volunteering with the organisation throughout her high school years. The year after joining the AYCC, she founded Seed, Australia’s first Indigenous youth climate network.

"As a young Aboriginal woman and also with a connection to the [South Sea] Islands, I just can’t see myself doing anything else, really."

“It’s just so important that our young people are supported to have a platform to be able to do what it takes to create the change that so many of us are striving for."

“It’s just so important that our young people are supported to have a platform to be able to do what it takes to create the change that so many of us are striving for"

The award comes in the same week that she, along with 61 other prominent Australians, signed an open letter, calling on the Australian Government to push for a ban on coal mining at the upcoming Paris climate talks.

"The letter was calling on Malcolm Turnbull to support a moratorium for no new coal mines and no new expansions of existing coal projects," she said.

"What we need to be seeing happening in Australia and around the world is transitioning to clean, renewable, safe energy.”

While Amelia acknowledged that Prime Minister Turnbull had previously supported climate legislation, she says we are yet see words turn into action.

"What we’re seeing so far, it’s not really leadership. We need Australia, as one of the sunniest and windiest countries in the world to actually be demonstrating what real climate action looks like."

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