Indigenous communities fighting for environmental justice

We are living on the edge of a precipice.

The time we have left to take meaningful action on climate change is rapidly running out. At the same time, numerous governments world over – the United States and Australia being obvious examples – have decreased environmental protections and actively increased efforts to degrade the environment for profit.

But there are always those who resist. Some of the most inspiring stories in recent years, of people banding together to fight back against environmental destruction, have been led by Indigenous communities around the world. 

This year at the Environmental Film Festival, we are showcasing the efforts of Indigenous groups working to protect their land.

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I Stand: Guardians of the Water

Monday, October 16, 8.30pm

I Stand: The Guardians of the Water is the powerful feature documentary from Choctaw Nation filmmaker Kyle Kauwika Harris.

The film stands as a searing testament to the indigenous voices of those on the ground at Standing Rock Reservation who stood in opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline and fight for the protection of their sacred land and water.

The grand, sweeping plains at Standing Rock offer a bittersweet backdrop for images of peaceful protesters barraged by water cannons and choked by tear gas that—until now—had reached the outside world only as jittery iPhone video. Harris’ film offers an unrestricted view of one of the largest peaceful protests and gatherings of Native Americans in U.S. history.

While many may know the details, I Stand: Guardians of the Water captures the inspiring stories of those that were present; who with their actions forever changed how we fight for clean water, our environment and the future of our planet.

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Connection to Country

Saturday, October 14, 7.00pm

Australia is home to the world’s oldest continuous culture. A culture whose sacred sites date back further than any of the world’s most famous monuments.

Stonehenge, the Pyramids and the Great Wall of China are all young compared to the 40,000 year-old rock art sites like those that can be found in Western Australia's Pilbara region on the Burrup Peninsula (or Murujuga). These create a dramatic and ancient landscape so sacred that some parts shouldn't be looked upon by anyone apart from their Traditional Owners.

Sadly, encroaching industrialisation and development threaten such sites all over the region, but the people of the Pilbara - forever connected to country, forever responsible for their land – are banding together and fighting back.

Powerful and poignant, Connection to Country explores the relationship that exists between Indigenous people and their land and charts their battle to get their unique cultural heritage recognised, conserved and celebrated.

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The Borneo Case

Sunday, October 15, 3.30PM

Seventeen years ago, Swiss activist Bruno Manser disappeared into the thick jungle of Sarawak, Malaysia. Together with his friend Mutang, the pair undertook the fight against deforestation, "the biggest environmental crime of the century".

Today, Mutang is in exile in Canada, where he continues to fight alongside activists to denounce the billions of dollars that are laundered with the help of some of the world’s most major banks. Over ninety percent of eastern Borneo’s forest has now been sold off and destroyed but where has all the money gone?

In this riveting modern-day thriller, we follow this polyglot group of investigators who bravely fight to expose Abdul Taib Mahmud, the chief minister of Sarawak, who, over the last 33 years, has himself stolen millions of dollars from illegal logging.

From Malaysia to Montreal, The Borneo Casespins a tale of intimidation, death threats and murder, before finally ending up at the heart of the financial centre of the world. This flawlessly directed film, recorded over the course of 25 years, pays a vibrant tribute to these tireless activists and their ongoing fight for justice and conservation.