Skip to main content

Re-examining displacement in the context of disasters and climate change: A Pacific perspective

21 January 2021
4.45pm – 6.15pm AEDT
This event has ended

Listen to the podcast here, or subscribe through itunes.


This panel problematises and critiques the notion of ‘displacement’ in the context of disasters and climate change. While the threat posed by climate change is real, its manifestations are not as straightforward as we might think. For instance, the idea that rising sea levels will displace millions of people and create ‘climate refugees’ is a popular trope, but it has little evidential grounding. Within the Pacific, multiple and diverse types of mobility, as well as immobility, have been used as coping strategies over centuries. This panel explores how a more nuanced understanding of displacement in the context of disasters and climate change, and its relationship to international protection, can open up possibilities for different kinds of durable solutions.

About the speakers  

Chair: Professor Jane McAdam, Director of the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, UNSW Sydney

Dr Celia McMichael is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Geography at The University of Melbourne. Her research focuses on health geography, international health, migrant and refugee health, and climate change-related migration and displacement. She has worked in Nepal, Fiji, Angola, Peru and Sri Lanka. Celia is currently working on research projects focusing on refugee resettlement in Australia, and climate change related migration and relocation in Small Island States. Celia has experience in academic research, applied research consultancies and work in the international development sector (with WHO, IFRC, NGOs and UN agencies). 

Dr Tammy Tabe is a Lecturer at PACE-SD at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji. She was raised in Solomon Islands and is of I-Kiribati and Tuvalu descent. Tammy holds a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Affairs and Geography and a Postgraduate Diploma in Marine Affairs from the University of the South Pacific. She obtained a Master’s degree in Pacific Islands Studies from the University of Hawai’i, through the scholarship programme of the Pacific Alternatives project of the BPS group. In 2016, she completed her PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Bergen, Norway. Her research has examined the forced relocation of the I-Kiribati people to the Solomon Islands from the 1950s, and has identified lessons for contemporary policymaking in relation to Pacific Island States affected by climate change and whose people may become subject to relocation.

Chanelle Taoi is an international refugee and human rights lawyer who has worked on asylum, refugee and displacement matters in 14 Pacific Islands countries since 2013. As an Associate Legal Officer at UNHCR’s Multi-Country Office in Canberra, she has developed internal policy on UNHCR’s strategic response to displacement in the context of disasters and climate change in the Pacific. Chanelle has direct experience in relation to humanitarian emergencies, including a deployment as a protection officer to respond to the South Sudanese emergency. An Australian lawyer and of half Fijian descent, Chanelle holds a Bachelor of Laws from Murdoch University and a Masters specialising in public international law from the University of Cambridge.