Ms Schwenke attended the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) and addressed the conference as part of The Pacific Climate Warriors, and represented her island of Samoa, as well as the islands of the Pacific.
The 21 year old Samoan-born Wollongong resident is a University of Wollongong student who wants to bring Pacific Islands culture to her community and raise awareness of the impact that climate change is having on Pacific Island nations.
Mr Scully said that he had been struck by Ms Schwenke’s commitment and dedication to her cause, and this was another example of the work of Wollongong activists resonating around the world.
“Wollongong has a rich history of activism that has had national and international influence and helped create change – from the Dalfram Dispute in the 1930’s, to local women fighting for the right to work at the steelworks in the 1980’s, and more recently the vaccination of international seafarers while ships are docked in Port Kembla.
“Moemoana has again put Wollongong on a world-stage with her activism and advocacy on behalf of the Pacific Island nations, and her dedication to promoting Samoan and Pacific Island culture among our community”, Mr Scully said.
In addition to her climate activism, Ms Schwenke is one of the few female Siva Afi performers in the world, which is a traditional Samoan dance. Moemoana works to teach Pacific youth about cultural artforms and is writing and co-directing a Pacific dance and theatre production staging in April.
“The Illawarra has such a rich multicultural community, and it’s so important this continues through with our younger generations as well.
“By being a young woman performing Siva Afi, and teaching other young people from the Pacific Islands about their culture, Moemoana is also continuing to enrich the multicultural fabric of our community within her own generation”, Mr Scully said.