Impact Journalism Day: Global Indigenous youth taking the planet in their hands

Sick of waiting: Indigenous youth leaders and climate change advocates Amelia Telford and Joseph White-Eyes are fighting ...

t was 2009 and a severe storm had battered Kingscliff, her home on the east coast of Australia. Several metres of beach and dune disappeared, while cranes were needed to shift whole buildings back to save them from the water's edge.

The Kingscliff coastline was "barely recognisable".

"The swells picked up, we had high tides. It was washing away the banks and the sand dunes ... the erosion was incredible."

Ms Telford, a young Indigenous Australian from Bunjalan country, said it was the first time she realised she had a lifelong responsibility as an Aboriginal woman.

"We are the ones that have looked after the land sustainably for generations, over 60,000 years and we know best how to manage our land," she said.

"So I feel a real sense of responsibility, as so many of our young people do, to stand up and protect what we fought for, for so long."

Ms Telford is a member of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and was the 2015 Australian Geographic Society Young Conservationist of the Year.

The 22-year-old is the founder and director of Seed, a "young, black and powerful" network of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people fighting for "a just and sustainable future ... powered by renewable energy."

"We look at climate change with a focus on energy," Ms Telford said, "looking at coal and gas, how we need to transition our energy systems and our economies from a reliance on fossil fuels to systems that can be powered by the sun and the rain."

Seed has connected Indigenous youth from around Australia, working to campaign against coal seam gas, mining, and calling on the Australian government to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

"For myself in Australia, I often look to different stories from overseas, particularly around the US and Canada where indigenous communities are sick of waiting around, sick of promises made by governments and are standing up and building solutions themselves."

It was Ms Telford's interest in First Nations people around the world that led her to Joseph White-Eyes of South Dakota, more than 13,500 kilometres from her home of Kingscliff.

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