Thousands of students across Australia walked out of classrooms to take part in the School Strike 4 Climate on Friday, calling for greater action on global heating.
Defying pouring rain in Sydney, strikers chanted for climate justice, condemning the gas, coal and fossil fuel industries, and the Morrison government’s recent decision to fund a $600m gas-fired power plant.
One of the organisers of the strike, Natasha Abhayawickrama, told Guardian Australia students across the country want to see the government take on a more robust climate policy.
“We want some meaningful climate action,” she said.
“The government’s decision to put $600 million towards a gas plant, in addition to allocating so much money in the budget towards gas and fossil fuels, will only drive us further into the climate crisis.
“Right now we need clean, renewable energy to be funded, for us to have a safe future.”
Abhayawickrama said it was a sense of uncertainty that brought together students from across the country.
Strikes were held in 47 different places in Australia, from Alice Springs to Launceston, Cairns, Margret River, Bendigo and Port Macquarie.
In Sydney, a sea of young people, holding their characteristically clever signs, marched through the CBD in the driving rain.
Covid marshals were scattered among the crowd, holding up QR codes for attendees to be able to sign in, and distributing masks and hand sanitiser.
Preethika Mathan, from Santa Sabina College in Strathfield, said the huge turnout reflected how strongly young people feel about climate change.
“We’ve all heard someone say ‘you’re going to die of old age, we’re going to die of climate change’, and I think that’s the main sentiment here.”
“We feel like we’re on the frontline of the climate crisis, in the sense that we’re the first generation who will feel its impacts. We have to live through this, whereas older generations just to survive it.”
Charlotte Dillion and Barisha Tashnin, year 11 students at Fort Street High School, said they decided to come to the strike because they felt their voices were not being heard.
“Climate change is an imminent threat, and we need to do something about it, and the government’s lack of action is frankly appalling and quite frankly offensive that they don’t care about us,” Tashnin said.
“The government is not taking the action it needs to, and it is our future we are fighting for, and we deserve to live in a world where we have the rights where everyone before us did.”
MC and organiser Ruby Bron, also from Santa Sabina College in Strathfield, said she felt uplifted seeing all the support for the strike:
“It’s truly amazing to see so many people at the rally, we were a bit unsure about our turnout at first, but to see this many people is truly inspiring,” she said.
“I’m so glad so many people came out and supported our demands for climate justice.”
Bron explained that young people felt the need to be at the forefront of climate activism because they feel it will affect them the most.
“It is our future that climate change is going to be affecting, young people are often on the front lines of the climate movement and we know that the continuing impacts of climate change will affect us for generations.
“It will affect us and our children, and could prevent us from doing the things that older generations got to enjoy in life.”