Students strike as protesting kids walk out of school to rally for action on climate change
Thousands of Australian students have defied calls by the Prime Minister to stay in school and instead marched on the nation’s capital cities, and some regional centres, demanding an end to political inertia on climate change.
Protests were held in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Coffs Harbour, Bendigo and other cities, as students banded together to pressure the Morrison Government in the lead-up to a federal election.
“The politicians aren’t listening to us when we try to ask nicely for what we want and for what we need,” said Castlemaine student Harriet O’Shea Carre, 14.
“So now we have to go to extreme lengths and miss out on school.”
It follows similar protests in Canberra and Hobart earlier this week, which have spurred on the junior activists.
The groundswell was inspired by 15-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg, who pledged to protest outside parliament in Stockholm until the country caught up on its commitments under the Paris Agreement.
News of her one-woman vigil caught the attention of Harriet O’Shea Carre and Milou Albrecht, also 14.
The pair, from the Castlemaine Steiner School, and a group of other climate-concerned teens travelled to the nearby regional city of Bendigo, about 90 minutes from Melbourne, to hold their own protest outside the office of Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie.
That in turn sparked today’s protests across the nation.
“We have to sacrifice our education, which is something we really value, so we’re showing them that at the moment this is even more important than our education,” Harriet O’Shea Carre said.
“We have tried so many other ways, we’ve tried just asking, we’ve tried telling them, and so we really just need to show them now so we’re just going to keep pushing and keep trying because we love the natural world.”
But the movement has not impressed Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who made it clear on Monday how he felt about students taking time off to protest.
“We don’t support the idea of kids not going to school to participate in things that can be dealt with outside of school,” he said.
“We don’t support our schools being turned into parliaments. What we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools.”
‘If you were doing your job properly, we wouldn’t be here’
In Adelaide, about 300 students rallied at South Australia’s Parliament House, forcing police to block off a lane of traffic on North Terrace as another 200 onlookers spilled onto the road.
Organiser Deanna Athanosos, who is in year 10, said Mr Morrison’s rhetoric towards the strike made her laugh.
“If you were doing your job properly, we wouldn’t be here,” she said.
Year eight student Zel Whiting also took aim at the Prime Minister.
He said he was increasingly frustrated with the Government and its “lack of awareness or activity on climate change and its dangers”.
“Mr Morrison says schools are not parliament,” he said.
“Mr Morrison, take a seat. You are about to be schooled.
“If everybody can contribute minor things that help the environment, such as using less plastics and not leaving your lights on — very small things — if everybody in Australia did that, we could really make a difference,” he said.