Thousands of children hold placards and chant slogans after they walked out of school in protest against government inaction on climate change in Sydney

Australian Students Protest Government Inaction On Climate Change

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School students, parents, teachers, and adults across Australia have continued to run a school strike protest campaign against political inaction on climate change.

The inspiration for the protests has come from Swedish student Greta Thunberg’s protest outside of parliament in Stockholm. The 15-year-old began her protest in August leading to the countries General Election on September 9 and has been missing class every Friday as part of her protest at her country failing to meet the Paris Climate Accord targets.

The initial protest involving students from Castlemaine Steiner School was held outside their local representative’s office in the Victorian city of Bendigo in late October. Students Harriet O’Shea Carre & Milou Albrecht wrote, “It seems ridiculous that children have got to the point where they realize that the adults who are supposed to be in charge aren’t doing enough to protect our futures from dangerous climate change.”

Further nationwide protests were planned for November 30 as part of the Big School Walk Out for Climate Action campaign. On November 26 the Prime Minister condemned the planned protests saying, “We don’t support our schools being turned into parliaments. What we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools.”

November 30 saw thousands protest in cities including Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Hobart, Perth, and Coffs Harbour. The strikes garnered mass media coverage, both nationally and internationally, receiving celebration as well as criticism.

The group School Strike 4 Climate Action has been highly involved in the organization of the protests, with protests and sign workshops listed as events on their Facebook. The group is associated with organizations such as 350.orgAYCC (Australian Youth Climate Coalition) and #StopAdani (whose signs feature prominently). The School Strike 4 Climate Action website provides resources such as a School Strike organizing guide, template letter for school & MP, tips for meeting with politicians and demands for politicians. The schoolstrike4climate domain was registered 16th October 2018.

In an interview with Australia’s ABC news, Year 8 student Zel Whiting expressed his frustration at the Liberal-National coalition government and its “lack of awareness or activity on climate change and its dangers”.

Harriet O’Shea Carre, one of the students who lead the protest in Castlemaine, has criticized the nature of a few of the signs according to the Sydney Morning Herald. She said, “It’s not about individuals, it’s about our whole group, our whole government, our whole world and how we need to change it.”

Annalise Tran, a 16-year-old Australian student, has criticized the strikes, writing “a student strike is not an effective way of  “protesting” against the government”. She further writes “We should not rely on the government to change the culture. We, the new generation, should be creating the world we want for the future.”

The issue saw a further discussion on Australian show Q&A, where Marco Bellemo, a 17-year-old student, asked: “When will the government start to care about my future and children around the world by acting on climate change and create a strong climate policy?”

Protests are expected to continue about climate change leading into the upcoming federal election. Marches are planned for Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane on December 8.

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