Photography Gen Kay

meet the teens behind australia's school strike for climate action

We spoke to the students who are skipping school to protect their future.

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Mar 14 2019, 2:10pm

Photography Gen Kay

This article originally appeared on i-D AU.

This week thousands of Australian students are joining others around the world for a global strike for climate action, vacating class rooms and taking up placards to protest a lack of action. Last November the student movement caught everyone's attention, including Australia's Prime Minister, and now they're at it again to keep the pressure on those in power.

Inspired by the efforts of 16-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg, originally Australia’s student movement first caught hold in the regional town of Castlemaine before quickly spreading around the country. Here, we speak with a few students from Castlemaine, along with some Melbourne teens who have joined the cause, to find out why they’re rising up and putting their education on the line in the face of a climate emergency.

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Milou, 14, Castlemaine

Why are you striking?
Because the people in charge aren't doing nearly enough about the climate emergency and we need action on the climate crisis now. I have also noticed that adults don't like us skipping school and it is very effective in terms of getting people's attention. A good example is our Prime Minister who stood up in parliament and ticked us off for striking. I think that was very encouraging for kids to continue striking!

How did you first get involved in the student strikes?
I read an article on Greta Thunberg and I was so impressed with her. I was blown away by her integrity and bravery and was inspired to do it here in Australia. I talked to my friends and we all agreed that a strike was needed to have a safe future. So we invited all our friends and started striking weekly outside our politicians’ offices. Then a whole lot of people heard about us and it really took off.

How does being a part of the strike make you feel?
It makes me feel empowered. It makes me feel like i am a part of something bigger and it gives me hope. When we are out on the streets walking with our banner it's exhilarating. People honk their support, stop us on the street and express their thanks for us taking this action on something they feel strongly about too. That feels like I am sharing this fight with hundreds and thousands of people all over the world.

What change would you like to see come from your strike actions?
I want our politicians to feel. To feel the fear that we feel, and to realise that it is their job to look after us and to keep us safe, and this means having a safe climate, because no-one is safe with runaway climate change. Good leaders would do this. And of course we want our three demands met. Our three demands are: 100% renewable by 2030, stop the Adani mine, no new coal or gas.

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Harriet, 14, Castlemaine

How did you first get involved in the student strikes?
My friend read about Greta Thunberg in The Guardian. She thought it was a wonderful idea, and told me about it. We both thought it could be a really wonderful and empowering way to get climate action, because, as children who cannot vote, we have very little say as individuals, but together we have a very strong collective voice, and we need to use. Youth all around Australia, and the rest of the world, are fed up with our leaders putting their personal interests in front of the interests of our country, and this seemed like the perfect way to make our leaders think about the dreadful implications there mistakes would have on our lives.

How does being a part of the strike make you feel?
Being a part of the school strike movement makes me feel hopeful. Before the movement, I was feeling really scared about climate change, but I didn't know what I could do to help stop it. Every day in summer, when I would leave the house to go to school, I would wonder if my home would still be there when I got back. I was scared a bushfire would burn it down, and I still am. But I didn't know where to channel all this emotion. I felt guilty that I wasn't doing more, but I didn't know what to do. All this emotion wasn't getting me anywhere. The school strike movement brought me out of that self destructive mindset, and gave me somewhere constructive to channel all of my built up emotions. It has brought thousands of kids around the country together with a common interest. It has made me realise that people, not only care about the climate emergency, but also that they are ready to act. They are ready to make changers in there life styles, there communities, and nationwide. And that makes me hopeful.

If you could say one thing to politicians in regards to climate change, what would you say?
I would tell our politicians that they were elected with the expectation that they would do what is in the best interest of our country. And every day they don't act on the climate crisis, they are letting us down. I would explain to them that they are the reason I am missing school, they are stopping my education and putting my life at risk, and that is not fair.

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Callum, 12, Castlemaine

Why are you striking?
Because right now my future is more important than my education.

How did you first get involved in the student strikes?
My friend came to me with the idea of going on strike to pressure the government on taking action on climate change.

How does being a part of the strike make you feel?
I feel like I'm making a difference.

If you could say one thing to politicians in regards to climate change, what would you say?
Start taking climate change as the crisis that it is and just remember that our future is in the hands of you.

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Fatima, 18, Melbourne

Why are you striking?
I am striking for my future as well for the future of my generation. Not only do I strike to have my voice be heard but I strike to represent the voices that can't be heard. I am lucky enough to be able to do what I do, I am lucky enough to be given a platform and the opportunity to openly fight for my future — not everyone is blessed with the same privilege. I am, and that’s exactly why I am using it to make a change for the better.

How did you first get involved in the student strikes?
It all started when my friend invited me to the first strike that took place last November. That was the day I learned a very important lesson: the worst thing you can do for yourself and for the planet is think that someone else is going to save it. From that day onwards, I decided to do what I could to get involved. Shorty after the first strike there was a Facebook group set up with other students keen on getting involved, and ever since we've been working together to build the movement and keep the momentum going.

How does being a part of the strike make you feel?
It makes me feel alive. It makes me feel human. Being part of the strike has made me realise that this planet belongs to me just as much as it belongs to any other person, for that reason I am going to fight for it.

If you could say one thing to politicians in regards to climate change, what would you say?
It's time we take action and do what's right rather than what's easy. It’s time to stop focusing just on present day, we need to think past the current generation and start thinking of the future generations to come. As a politician, your job requires you to keep an open mind, to be empathetic, to listen to the concerns of the people, to address those concerns, yet the majority are failing to do that. Don't become a politician if you aren't ready to take on the concerns of thousands of people as your own.

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Tully, 15, Castlemaine

Why are you striking?
Because our country’s leaders aren’t doing enough on climate action. Our plants, animals and future generations will not be able to survive the extreme weather changes that will occur if no one listens or does anything in their power to help this issue!

How did you first get involved in the student strikes?
I came to the first student strike in Australia, my friends started this strike so I had heard about it for a while and was really inspired to join them . On the first day we made our banners, we wrote messages in chalk and spoke with our local Labour MP, Lisa Chesters.

How does being a part of the strike make you feel?
It feels incredible to be part of this huge movement with thousands of like minded kids beside me. I always feel like I am glowing with happiness when I see everyone together in unison fighting for our planet’s future.

If you could say one thing to politicians, what would you say?
Panic! And make change now! This should be your number one emergency!

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Maiysha, 17, Melbourne

Why are you striking?
I'm striking because it's time that, we, young people take part in our democracy and have our voices heard. Climate change is a crisis and an ominous threat to our very futures, so it is vital the whole world takes action and rapidly decarbonises! With the emergence of the IPCC report and extreme weather systems across the globe, the drastic impacts of climate change has become apparent, more than ever. In 12 years, when I'm 30, I don't think I'll be able to look into the eyes of my children and tell them we had the ability, the power and the choice to stop this catastrophe, but we didn't. What could I possibly tell them?

How did you first get involved in the student strikes?
I attended a Climate Justice Bootcamp hosted by the AYCC, to learn about climate change and what young could do to fight it. I was quite inquisitive and outspoken, which captured the attention of many organisers. Then, a week before the strike, I received a call asking if I would MC the Melbourne strike and promote the movement throughout Australian media, such as breakfast television and a myriad of news outlets.. Ever since that call, I haven't looked back, and have continued to remain extensively involved with the School Strikes movement.

How does being a part of the strike make you feel?
Proud! I've always been proactive — seeking solutions to a problem, ready to implement them and change the world. So seeing thousands of students inundate the streets, passionately demanding urgent climate action, and stand up against the greedy fossil fuel industries, who want to see the world burn, makes my heart explode with pride. The strikes clearly demonstrate the unity and willpower of our generation, and I'm so excited to see what kind of a world the leadership of my generation will create.

What change would you like to see come from your strike actions?
One: stop the Carmichael coal mine in Queensland, two: stop any new coal, gas and oil projects, three: shift towards 100% renewable energy by 2030, four: ensure any natural exploitation projects receive the full, informed consent of Indigenous communities.

Credits


Photography Gen Kay

This article originally appeared on i-D AU.