• Larissa Baldwin at the Beyond Coal & Gas Conference 2016. (Beyond Coal & Gas Conference 2016 Flicker)Source: Beyond Coal & Gas Conference 2016 Flicker
Australia’s first Indigenous youth climate network, Seed, are hoping to build an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth movement for climate justice. Larissa Baldwin, Seed National Co-Director, says now is the time for Indigenous youth to use technology to take a stand against climate change.
NITV Staff Writers

The Point
4 Apr 2017 - 7:05 PM  UPDATED 4 Apr 2017 - 7:13 PM

Seed, a branch of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, believes climate change is not just a threat, but also an opportunity to build a more equitable and ecologically balanced world.

Their vision is to create “a just and sustainable future, strong cultures and communities, powered by renewable energy”.

Larissa Baldwin, a young woman from the Widjabul clan of the Bundjalung nation, is in charge of Seed's national campaigns and strategies.

She told NITV’s The Point how she works together with grassroots Indigenous communities and organisations to empower youth and enact change.

NITV: How has technology and social changed the way we engage in activism?

LB: I think especially for our mob, if you look at something like Facebook, we have a 20% higher uptake than the normal average community in Australia on Facebook. It’s like all of our communities are on there, doesn’t matter where they are in remote communities, it’s pretty surprising.

In terms of activism, I think that it’s just a way to be connected. We are so dispersed around this nation that making the connection and being able to get a hold of people has just become so much easier with social media.

The mainstream media doesn’t always cover Indigenous issues, so if it’s not being covered in Indigenous issues then it’s great to see people talking about it themselves about what is happening in their communities and I think it’s kind of the way that news is going now.

NITV: How can online activism make change in ‘real life’?

LB: I think online activism and having an online presence really allows us to be connected and allows us to know what is going on.

Like the forced closures… People heard about it, and people worried about it, and actual communities were saying, ‘hey, they are going to close our communities’. It wasn’t in the mainstream media, but black fellas were talking about it online and that’s how that whole movement started to tell the government, ‘you know what, this isn’t good enough, you can’t close down our communities and we’re not going to allow you to do this’. It all started from online.

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NITV: You refer to ‘protection of country’ rather than ‘climate change’… why?

LB: For us, we decided to flip the language around climate change. Climate change is a really scientific term, and for us, we know as people that, when we talk about country we are talking about the environment, we are talking about our culture, we are talking about our communities, and we are talking about sacred places and our cultural places.

So when we decided to change our climate change messaging to protect country, it was about using language that was inclusive to our people. The minute we did that, it was like rapid change of how people were engaged in the conversation around climate change. It put us in the driver’s seat and it’s [helped] us have thousands of people sign up for the petition calling on the government to put Aboriginal leadership on the forefront of climate issues, and that’s pretty much what we wanted to do.

We know that we are the best people anywhere in this country to be making decisions about country and how climate change is going to affect communities, it’s already affecting country and we need to be part of the conversation.

NITV: Tell us about the support the ‘Protect Country’ petition has received.

LB: It has about 6 or 7 thousand signatures on it, but also we’ve linked it in to basically talking about native title changes and how that impacts us. We pulled in something like 20,000 signatures on it, so people are aware of the issues, people are aware of who we are and aware of the type of change and type of information we are trying to get out to communities.

NITV: What events are Seed involved in for this year’s youth week?

LB: This week we are going to be doing the same things we’ve been doing around the country for the last couple of weeks, and that’s just talking to our mob about climate change.

[We’re] holding events around country and holding a lot of training events for young people.

Seed are all over the country; we are called a network because we are a network. It’s really important for us to have national representation, so everywhere in this country we have young volunteers who are just talking to other young Seed volunteers in their community about how its best to approach their community about climate change and how we are going to create change together; how we are going to bring our people together to build a movement that allows us to take some leadership on this issue.

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NITV: What does Seed have planned for the rest of 2017?

LB: We are also really excited to be continuing our campaign with a lot of communities across the Northern Territory who are standing up and protecting their country against shale gas fracking.

Water is important right across the world, and in somewhere like the Northern Territory, the shale gas fracking industry is trying to come into communities that rely solely on ground water. We know there are a lot of issues with permissions and about what people know about shale gas fracking, or at least what companies have told them, so we’ve been standing up with the communities that are calling for a ban. We know right now the government has locked in a moratorium, but Traditional Owners are pushing for a ban. They don’t want to see their country opened up to shale gas fracking.

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Join hosts Karla Grant, Rae Johnston, Allan Clarke, Ryan Liddle and Natalie Ahmat for hard hitting news and current affairs when The Point returns weeknights at 9pm.