COP26 Diary: A David and Goliath battle for First Nations peoples, and meeting Twiggy Forrest

Aboriginal leader and Christian minister Ray Minniecon is in Glasgow, Scotland, for the UN Climate Summit COP26, and he’s keeping a diary …

Diary entry #6: Tuesday 2 and Wednesday 3 November 2021

I must say, after Sunday and Monday’s episode, I wasn’t that keen on going back to the conference. I needed to clear my spirit and clean up my thoughts. Prayer really helps! I wasn’t focused either, because when I did leave, I hopped on the train and found out that I was going in the wrong direction anyway. And it was a late cold night!

COP26 Diary by Ray Minniecon

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we caught up with all four of our Indigenous Australian mob to make sure everyone was safe and if possible, come up with a plan of action. The only action we could do was to talk up our issues with whoever wanted to hear.

I sat in front of the Australian pavilion and had a number of journalists come and talk. We have done a number of TV interviews with SBS. CAAMA in Alice Springs, Polish TV. AFR and an interview with the Australian Conservation Foundation. I also did do one interview with another channel, but I don’t know who it was. It might have been BBC, but I was placed in front of a TV camera in front of the Australian pavilion and spoke my mind.

The Australian Pavillion at Cop26

The Australian pavilion is still a very sore point with me. It is supported by the mining industry. Twiggy Forrest and Santos and a number of big mining interests are here with their CEO’s trying to convince the world that Morrison’s plan for climate change is workable. I met Twiggy, and he showed me his whole team he brought to COP26. About ten, not one of them was Aboriginal.

On Wednesday, we decided that us four Indigenous people are here to tell the world about our struggles.

Is it like a David and Goliath scenario? It seems that way. If it was one Goliath we were fighting, we might have a chance. But with this many Goliaths? …We are going to need a lot more slingshots and a lot more stones and a lot more help. We will need to get the whole of Australia on board. Who will help us? We cannot rely on the government. They fail us. Too many of our young men who we need to help us are in prison. Too many children are taken by Docs, which leaves their mums and has traumatised for years. Our people live in a constant state of suffering and trauma, and fear. Is the education system teaching our children about climate change as a core unit in our curriculum? Is the church motivating its parishioners to get active in climate change activities? How can we change our situation?

To help me focus again, I reminded myself about why I was here in Glasgow.

Firstly, our NAIDOC Theme: “Heal Country.”

Secondly, I reminded myself of all the hard work we did to produce our document from the voice of our people since February this year. It took many days and nights. Our opening statement reads: “For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, climate change has a direct “detrimental and inequitable impact.” The climate crisis directly and disproportionately threatens the human rights of Indigenous people, including the rights to health, water, food, housing, self-determination, and to life itself.”

As Uncle Bruce Shillingsworth said, “It’s a response for all of us now, not just First Nations people, but non-Indigenous people, and I think the way do it is to move forward together. I think non-indigenous people need to get involved and build a better relationship with First Nation communities.”

Thirdly, for my personal inner strength, I reminded myself of something I wrote for TEAR Australia; “This year’s NAIDOC theme, “Healing Country,” takes us back into Genesis 1 and 2. If we are going to understand Creation Justice or climate change we need to understand what the original design was. What was the original architecture and what does that look like? If we don’t have that original picture in the back of our minds how do we know that we’ve healed something? How do we know what it looks like when it is healed?”

Finally, these last two days have highlighted again the enormous task and fighting spirit that is needed if we are to fight this colossal battle. I needed to guard my heart.

This prayer comes from Psalm 37:1-6.

My Prayer

Ancient of Days. I needed encouragement today to give strength to my aching and failing heart. Let your Words be my strength and security today. “Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers, for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act. He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday.” Ancient of Days, please give me assurance and confidence that the promises in Your word will become a reality and a practice in our land and among my people. I ask these mercies in the name of Your Son Jesus, our Ancestor in faith.

Ray Minniecon is a descendant of the Kabi Kabi nation and the Gurang Gurang nation of south-east Queensland. He is also a descendant of the South Sea Islander people, with deep and abiding connections to the people of Ambrym Island. He leads Scarred Tree, an Aboriginal, Torres Strait and Australian South Sea Islander ministry based in St John’s Glebe, Sydney.