Mother of seven is forced to leave her island home on Kiribati because of rising sea levels

By Rebecca West

Sermary Tiare never imagined that she would have to leave the beautiful remote atoll of Abemama in Kiribati where she grew up. When offered an opportunity to migrate to New Zealand, however, she didn’t have much choice — rising sea levels and the increased frequency of extreme weather had made her home in the small South Pacific nation of Kiribati unlivable.

In the documentary Anote’s Ark, we see her struggling to survive as her home is flooded with several feet of water during a particularly bad storm. Sermary is a mother of seven who used to make a living selling food to primary schools in Kiribati. In February 2015, as part of a lottery system, she was one of 75 Kiribati citizens awarded a visa to live and work in New Zealand.

The program was devised as a means of relocating families forced out of their homes due to climate change. Anote’s Ark traces her journey, from her familiar yet geographically unstable home in Kiribati, to a daunting new, and significantly more urban life in Auckland. 

Once relocated to Auckland, Sermary faces a new set of challenges. She not only feels out of place in an urban environment but is isolated as she waits for her children and husband to join her.

Once her whole family has made the move, her husband Ratati is often forced to work in remote areas of New Zealand, leaving Sermary to manage their family’s needs on her own. She is saddened by the knowledge that one day her country and culture will disappear due to rising sea levels — her homeland no more than a distant memory for her children.

Watch Anote's Ark.

Produced with additional funding from: