Students strike sends climate action message ahead of election

Over 5,000 people have attended a School Strike 4 Climate rally in Sydney. Photo: Tileah Dobson.

By TILEAH DOBSON

It’s becoming abundantly clear that while the Morrison Government and like-minded older folks are happy to ignore climate change and its devastating effects, the younger generation will be left with the tab.

The federal government’s latest budget has shown its plan to reduce annual climate spending over the next four years. It’s expected to fall from $2 billion next financial year to $1.9 billion, $1.5 and $1.3 billion within the next three years.

This stance led students across the state yesterday to once again go on strike and attend protests. In Sydney, School Strike 4 Climate held a rally attended by over 5,000 people. While mostly made up of high school students, there were adult volunteers in attendance as either strikers or marshals.

The Sentinel spoke to two of the spokespeople for the rally, Year 12 students Natasha Abhayawickrama and Bailey Linton-Simpkins. While they aren’t eligible to vote in the upcoming federal election, this hasn’t stopped them from trying to send a message to the government.

“We wanted an event that would impact the election,” Linton-Simpkins said.

On top of studying for their HSC, 17-year-olds Natasha Abhayawickrama (left) and Bailey Linton-Simpkins didn’t let that stop them from striking for climate change. Photo: Tileah Dobson.

“This election, we’re begging voters to think about our future when they vote, and to vote for candidates who value our lives more than the interests of fossil fuel companies,” he said

Abhayawickrama added: “The Morrison Government is destroying our future by giving $20,000 a minute in fossil fuel handouts – they are actively fuelling the climate crisis.

“Scientists are saying that the next three years are critical to avoiding catastrophic climate impacts, so we need our next government to start urgently transitioning to renewables and slashing emissions.”

The rally started at Sydney Town Hall, where guest speakers spoke to the large crowd. Pop singer/songwriter Montaigne energised the crowd, with her song ‘READY’ kickstarting the protest.

From Town Hall, the protesters marched through city streets until they reached Liberal Party headquarters.

The strikers did not hold back their anger at the federal government’s inaction, chanting slogans such as “ScoMo loves coal, ScoMo loves gas – put the Liberals in the trash” and “Raise wages, not the sea. Build renewable energy.”

Keeping safety in mind for attendees, School Strike 4 Climate organisers worked closely with police.

Thanks to the volunteers, the climate strike went smoothly as organisers coordinated with police to keep everyone safe. Photo: Tileah Dobson.

With the election looming, the rally’s aim was to send a direct message to both the Morrison Government and the potential Albanese government that climate change must be a top priority.

“They (the Morrison Government) know that fossil fuels directly cause the climate crisis that we’re seeing right now. And young people are upset and frustrated and we’re here to tell the government that our communities, we’re voting for climate and we won’t stand for this inaction,” Abhayawickrama said.

“We want to send a message to all politicians that we really need to be represented because of the climate crisis – we have a timeline to solve this. We have about three years to take some drastic action and we really need to see that.”

Greens candidate for the seat of Banks, Natalie Hanna, said the timing of the rally was important.

“Two weeks before a federal election, to send a strong message to those in power and to send a message to those voters who haven’t yet decided which way they’re going to vote,” Hanna told The Sentinel.

“We definitely want to show our support. There are people here today taking time out of their school, from their learning, who aren’t eligible to vote.”

Hanna expressed her disappointment in older generations in positions of power who haven’t acted on climate change, leaving younger generations to deal with it.

Greens candidate for the seat of Banks, Natalie Hanna (middle with yellow jacket) showed her and her party’s support for climate action. Photo: Tileah Dobson.

“It actually makes me feel really sad that us in the older generations have let the younger generations down. And I always thought someone would fix it – someone above me – and Scott Morrison is our youngest prime minister. He’s the first Gen X prime minister and it might take a Millennial to push this through,” Hanna said.

Tileah Dobson is the news editor and sub-editor of the Sydney Sentinel.

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