By Denise Yeo
A two-week journalism stint in Fiji, dubbed “Bearing Witness”, has lent new perspectives on the effects of climate change on AUT journalism student Ami Dhabuwala and honours graduate TJ Aumua.
The project, sponsored by AUT’s Research and Innovation Office (RIO) through a grant to the Pacific Media Centre, gave the two aspiring journalists a chance to meet Pacific climate change experts, and experience first-hand themselves the impact of climate change on everyday lives in Daku, a small village in Fiji.
Aumua, who is also Pacific Media Watch project editor for the PMC, says witnessing climate change’s impact on Daku village was heart-breaking.
“I was aware that climate change was happening before but I didn’t realise it’s devastating impacts,” she says.
Dhabuwala believes that climate change is a human rights issue that demands urgent action today.
“It’s not just about rising sea levels or other environmental effects, it’s also a physical and mental health issue,” she says.
“For many Pacific countries, climate change is a way of life. When we were there, somebody said something that struck me – you can’t stop climate change, you can only adapt to it.”
Both students researched and reported for multimedia stories focusing on what Pacific youth are doing to stem effects of climate change, published on the Pacific Media Centre’s new current affairs website Asia Pacific Report.
University of the South Pacific’s Pacific Centre for Environment-Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD) communications officer Sarika Chand praised Aumua and Dhabuwala as a delight to work with.
“There are so many different issues that need media attention – the Pacific Media Centre team was more than willing to oblige,” says Chand.
“Especially with the Daku village trip. A big vinaka to TK and Ami for following traditional protocol and being respectful of the local culture.”
Pacific Media Centre director Professor David Robie thanked RIO for providing a funding grant to enable the PMC team to go to Fiji.
“This is the start of a regular Pacific ‘Bearing Witness’ project linking in with USP’s climate change and media research and local Pacific publisher Little Island Press. It is an enterprising awareness and communication programme about the impacts of climate change and how Pacific communities are adapting.”
The trip has also changed the trajectory of TJ and Ami’s careers. Both girls says that not enough is being done in New Zealand to highlight these issues, and hope to do their part.
Climate change journalist
Dhabuwala says she plans to be a climate change journalist.
“This is what is happening to our neighbours. New Zealand is not immune, it will affect us too.”
Aumua says: “The topic of climate change in the Pacific will always be close to my heart wherever my journalist endeavours take me.”
The RIO grant also helped fund a special climate change department on Asia Pacific Report and climate change research.