Amelia Telford has been awarded National NAIDOC Youth of the Year in 2014, Bob Brown’s Young Environmentalist for the Year 2015 and Australian Geographic Young Conservationist of the Year 2015.
Despite all this, she resists being called a conservationist or environmentalist.
“We’re young people fulfilling our cultural responsibility to protect our country and to protect each other,” she said in an interview with NITV.
She’s a powerful writer in addition to working as an activist, and in an article for NITV, she said:
“As a young Aboriginal woman, everything I know about my culture is about looking after our land and looking after each other. They’re one and the same.”
Amelia began volunteering with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) in 2009 and was struck by how white the entire organisation was. She felt that it was failing to address the fact that some of the people facing the worst effects of climate change are Indigenous, and that there was no other platform for them to make a self-determined effort to address it.
Born in Bundjalung country, Amelia grew up in love with the natural beauty of Tweed Heads, and left it behind in 2013 to move to Melbourne and work for AYCC. In 2014 she founded her own brainchild, Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network, an autonomous and independent group of Indigenous youth acting on climate change, which now has four full-time staff and 100 regular volunteers.
Still based in Melbourne, at just 21-years-old Amelia has a hectic schedule of organising and presenting at events and training Seed’s volunteers to run sustainability projects in their own communities.
She emphasises the importance of social media for social change and Seed is active on Facebook and Twitter.
“We’re trying to connect our people to stand with each other to protect country… One of the best ways to do that is by connecting people online so that they can be sharing those stories and supporting each other.”
Last year Amelia attended the UN Paris Climate talks, but she still believes that grassroots work is the best way to get things done.
“By looking to renewable, alternative sources of energy that our communities can be a part of … then we can actually be changing the way that we receive our electricity and power, and how we hold the power in our own communities as well,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Seed Mob is keeping busy and often does open call-outs such as the one coming up in Canberra on September 20 for young Indigenous people to learn skills and volunteer. They also run social events for food and yarning such as the upcoming Forestry Fire Pit Night.
For Amelia, preserving cultural heritage and promoting environmental sustainability are inextricably bound, and she hopes that Indigenous knowledge of caring for country will unlock action on climate change.