Towards a more equitable and sustainable future: Rosalie Rendu Forum 2022

Friday 21 October 2022

The impacts of climate change are being felt in real-time and with real consequences.

Harrowing scenes of never-before-seen flooding arrived earlier this year at the same time communities were still recovering and rebuilding from the catastrophic Black Summer bushfires.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identified Australia as a country ill-prepared to cope with climate impacts, now and going forward, without intervention. The IPCC recommended Australia aim to reduce emissions by 75% below 2005 levels by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2030.

As extreme weather events occur more frequently and with greater intensity, the 2022 Rosalie Rendu Forum highlighted Climate Justice: working together for a more equitable and sustainable future.

Taking place during Anti-Poverty Week, the annual event, named in recognition of Sister Rosalie Rendu, saw an acclaimed group of women discuss the impacts of climate change on communities

The event was held online with viewings held at Society offices around the state.

Following a Welcome to Country from Yvonne Weldon, Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, in recognition of the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation, and a spiritual reflection from Jacinta McGrath on the history of Sister Rosalie Rendu, host Saimi Jeong (Sydney Alliance) spoke on the impacts of climate change exacerbating existing inequality before introducing a panel of four expert speakers.

Professor Anne Poelina, Chair of Indigenous Studies and Senior Research Fellow at Nulungu Institute, University of Notre Dame; Dr Kim Loo, NSW and ACT Chair of Doctors for the Environment Australia; Kellie Caught, Program Director (Climate and Energy) – Australian Council of Social Services; and Suzanne Nichols, St Vincent de Paul Society NSW St Carthage’s Conference President, Lismore Central Council made up the esteemed panel.

Issues raised during the course of the 90-minute discussion included the relationship between society and the environment, environmental impacts on health, the impacts of climate change on disadvantaged communities, the response of St Vincent de Paul Society members in disaster-affected areas, the tension present between the economy, people and the environment, and government policies that need to be enacted to address the issue.

Insights from the night:

“Indigenous people have learnt to live in relationship with nature. The land is alive - it has agency - we engage it with deep respect. – Professor Anne Poelina

“People experiencing poverty and disadvantage are being left worse off and [climate impacts] can drive people into poverty. [We need to be] putting people with the least at the front and centre of these policies.” – Kellie Caught

“People who are already depriving themselves of energy are trying even further - taking fewer showers, going to bed earlier – I’m seeing my patients having to choose between turning on the air conditioning or paying for their drugs. People are living in precarity.” – Dr Kim Loo

“People who [were] struggling to keep their families going lived in the cheaper areas in the [Lismore] CBD. Those people were immediately displaced, they lost their connection and network.” – Suzanne Nichols

St Vincent de Paul Society NSW would like to thank Professor Poelina, Dr Loo, Ms Caught, Ms Nichols, Ms Jeong, Ms Weldon, Ms McGrath and the Social Justice Team for their involvement in another tremendous Rosalie Rendu Forum.

To view the 2022 Rosalie Rendu Forum, contact social.justice@vinnies.org.au to access a recording of the event.

The St Vincent de Paul Society stands alongside communities impacted by climate-related disasters including floods, bushfires and drought. Learn more about our disaster relief and recovery efforts.