Image

While Australia's politicians debate the so-called "inconvenient truth" of human-induced climate change, inhabitants of low-lying islands across the Pacific know climate change is very real if rising sea levels are any indication. One island within Australia's territorial waters is among those threatened by the rising sea. Poruma Island—formerly known as Coconut Island—is one of 274 islands in the Torres Strait archipelago, between Queensland and Papua and New Guinea. Part of the Diocese of Cairns, Poruma is home to 205 people who have traditionally lived by fishing. But Poruma is drowning. Rising sea levels, storm surges and salinity in its freshwater wells are making the island uninhabitable. When Dolly McGaughey last returned to her island home, the severity of erosion shocked her. "It has all been eaten up by the sea. The beautiful white beaches of my childhood have gone underwater. Some of the trees I knew then are gone," said McGaughey, a member of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Catholic Council.