Our Future || A rising tide of environmental uncertainty

In 2018, as Australia's population hit 25 million, Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge stressed the need for new migrants to head to country towns.

The big cities, he claimed, were feeling the pressures of migration while regional areas are crying out for more people.

But is this strategy going to be able to withstand the potentially huge increase in migration caused by the effects of climate change?

This week is Refugee Week, a week dedicated to educating people on the challenges faced by refugees and celebrating their positive contributions to society.

Currently, most newly arrived refugees receive a warm welcome from rural hosts. A three-year study found 68 per cent of refugees surveyed in regional Queensland found it "very easy" or "easy" to make friends in Australia.

But from my experience working in the human rights sector, I have seen the effects that mass migration has on areas not well equipped to take a large influx of people. Scarce food resources and poor living standards become the norm. Not to mention the hardships of finding work in an overpopulated area.

The impacts of climate change are numerous. Natural resources, such as drinking water, are becoming more scarce in drought ravaged regions.

Farmers are struggling during extreme weather patterns. Increasingly, people living in these affected areas are being forcibly displaced.

In 2017, 18.8 million people were internally displaced by natural disasters such as floods.

Most urgently, sea levels are rising. In the Pacific Islands, what might appear a modest sea-level rise - researchers say ocean levels have risen about 19 centimetres in the last century - is actually having a massive impact.

I worry the influx of refugees from this environmental disaster will put pressure on regional towns under-equipped to manage.

Roughly 100 million people live within a metre of current high-tide level and threaten to be displaced by rising sea levels.

Small regional towns will not be able to take on these numbers.

We must put pressure on our government to curb our emissions, or else have proper structures in place to continue our regional town's hospitable welcome to refugees.

It is not fair on either party - the migrants who are being forcibly displaced and the regional towns straining to re-home them - to face this enormous challenge on their own.

Georgia Rowles, Director of Development, Human Rights Arts & Film Festival.