Australian school students strike over climate change

Submitted by AWL on 5 December, 2018 - 11:12
school student strike

Lilly Murphy, a year 9 student in Melbourne who was involved in the 30 November Australian school students’ strike for climate action, talked with Workers’ Liberty Australia.

At my school a few of my friends knew about it due to social media. There were a few signs around school. So a friend asked me because they knew I was quite politically active, wearing a “Victorian Socialists” top [“Victorian Socialists” is a local left electoral coalition]. I found out more about it. And then we were all thinking of going to it. We [six students] had a maths exam on the Friday when the walkout was on. So with a few of my friends we asked our teacher if we could change it; she asked the principal, and he said no. We wrote an email to the principal and had a meeting with him. He seemed quite OK about it, and then in the last five minutes said “I don’t think this is going to work”.

The Department of Education told principals “don’t let the students go”, so our principal was probably under a lot of pressure from them. At the end of recess, 10.45, about five or six of us went off (others left the school later). We hung around for a friend who had been at an audition at another school. We all walked from Victoria Gardens to Parliament House, and there were already a whole lot of people there. There were strikes on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 28-30 November, but more emphasis on the 30th. Over 250 strikes all over – some with only 10 people, and that is fine, some with over 10,000, like in Melbourne.

I couldn’t hear the speeches much. They were talking about how the government hasn’t been doing much about it, and how great it was that so many people were there. There was a really cute placard which said “I am here for her future” with a picture of a baby. Another one said “I am 9 and I know more about climate change than our Prime Minister does. Maybe he should go back to school”. I found that one quite funny. One of my friends had made a few placards. One said #climate strike, one said “system change not climate change”, one said “no thanks”, with a picture of water levels rising; another said “we are not going to be hurt by the choices you have made for the environment”.

One key demand was that we want all renewable energy by 2030. Stopping the Adani coal mine [a huge new coal¬mine project in northern Queensland] was another. We are not going to sit by and let this planet be ruined by people older than us who won’t be around when the effects are taking a huge impact. We are going to fight so that when we are their age, and our children are around, we don’t have to live in a really bad world.

When the government said “more learning, less activism”, I know a few people who said “OK, I am going to the protest now. I am not dealing with the Prime Minister telling us to have less activism in schools.” A lot of people got very angered by him saying that, and so came. People thought: “Maybe there should be more learning and less activism, but that can only happen if you guys are actually doing stuff, and listen to us when we are not protesting. We can voice our opinions, but if we do so very small¬ly, then you guys won’t hear. So this is one way you will hear us.”

The whole thing was started by a Swedish student, Greta. She had said “I hope that this strike continues in other countries that are very well off, like Australia”, so that was how it got started in Australia. Facebook and Instagram were the main ways of sharing it; also just people talking to other people. I want things like to continue until the government actually does something.

Getting more schools to realise that we need to do a few little things — that would do a bit. But, if every school did something big, there would be a drastic impact. So we can make sure our schools do stuff like that as well. There are some people at my school thinking of setting up an environmental club. I have not been very involved, but am thinking of getting more involved in that.

Socialist Alliance were at the rally, handing out stuff and they had a booth at the end. I saw lots of people holding up Green Left Weekly signs. I was wearing my Victorian Socialists t-shirt on the day, and a few people came up and said they were also in Victorian Socialists. Maybe at school we can get a socialist or left group where people can come and talk about issues in their communities. But I don’t think separating it off as just Victorian Socialists is a good idea, especially in schools. It wasn’t a socialist matter — or, at least, it is a socialist matter, but just for socialists. It was a matter for anyone who thought the government was not doing enough on climate action. There were probably a lot of people there with socialistic views, but it wasn’t specifically for people who were members of a socialist party.

Striking is one of the things that works for young people. Social media is becoming a bigger thing, and helpful for getting our message across, but one of the things that the government will actually listen to is when we go out of school, walk out on strike, and go to the Parliament House and protest. One thing to tell the adults of the world? Just listen to young people more, and not regard their opinions as immature. A lot of adults, as soon as they see a young person, think: “Oh their opinions are not as worthy, as they don’t know much”. Well, we might not know as much, but we know enough to have a good opinion. Our opinions need to be heard. We have grown up seeing all this stuff, and we get political information from all over the world. We know climate change is real, and we can see it.

Some older people might not want to get involved, or just think that it “does not bother me.”. But this is our future. In 50 years, a lot of the older generation will not be alive, but we will. And we don’t want a world that is so shit, when we are older, or when our children are alive.

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