Bringing climate voices to the table

Tony Fretton is running table talks for diverse communities to speak up on climate change. 375437_02 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

by Cam Lucadou-Wells

Diverse communities are too often sidelined from decisions on climate change, says Environment Victoria campaigner Tony Fretton.

The fight for climate justice has been led by “richer, older white people who are retired” – and there’s little data on the viewpoints of residents from diverse backgrounds, Fretton argues.

Over coming months, the Dandenong-raised activist is running a series of ‘table talk’ workshops to gauge the mood across a range of nationalities.

It is the first project of its type on climate change, he says – following a similar model on electricity prices in Sydney.

Fretton doesn’t see himself as a saviour, but more of a conduit.

“We’re going in with the mindframe that we’re here to listen, not to tell people how to save the climate.”

During the initial meeting, multicultural leaders told him they didn’t feel included or involved with climate action.

Many say that the “messaging in the media” fails to engage multicultural communities.

”There’s a lot of doom and gloom and the world is ending soon… it switches off multicultural people, who are coming from war-torn countries with crises in their face.”

Another issue was the lack of green volunteer groups with culturally safe spaces.

The table talks will group together leaders and residents from a similar cultural background.

Their backgrounds include from China, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Afghanistan, African communities and Arabic-speaking communities.

Fretton will invite them to share their stories on the impact of climate change here and other parts of the world where they have family connection.

They will be invited to raise their top five issues, and talk about solutions.

In mid-2024, all Dandenong Table Talk participants will be invited to a larger event to share findings, stories and opportunities for shared action.

The outcomes will be shared with Greater Dandenong Council to feed its climate action policies. “City of Greater Dandenong can potentially be leaders in getting this feedback,” Fretton says.

Details: Dandenong Table Talks: Multicultural stories & leadership for climate action – Environment Victoria