Students skip school to strike for climate action

Friday, May 21 marked national strikes for climate action. The day amplified calls to reject coal and gas and highlighted the need to support First Nations people in caring for Country. (Image source: Kathryn Bermingham and Clare Peddie via The Advertiser)

By Anisha Pillarisetty | @nishkinsilk and Alycia Millar | @alyciamillar

Thousands of school students across Australia left their classrooms on Friday, May 21, to gather in protest against the Federal Government’s consistent lack of climate action.

The rallies were organised by School Strike 4 Climate, a student-led initiative which gained traction after Swedish activist Greta Thunberg’s 2018 strike from school for climate action. 

The Adelaide rally held at Tarntanyangga (Victoria Square), attracted hundreds of students and community members demanding action from the Morrison Federal Government and Marshall State Government.

Minka, a student activist and one of the speakers, said that students have had enough of the government ignoring science and denying the crisis. 

“We’ve had enough of the promises with no outcomes . . . we don’t want to be in school learning about a future we are uncertain as to whether we will have,” Minka said.

One of the students facilitating the speeches said the recent budget showed the Government’s apathy towards renewable energy and addressing the climate crisis. 

“We all know this is not acceptable. We need to let the Government know they need to fund our future and not our demise,” they said.  

Recently, as the Federal Government announced a taxpayer-funded $600 million Hunter Valley gas plant, the International Energy Agency reported the urgent need to divest from gas and coal. This is a big shift, as the agency has been previously criticised for favouring fossil fuels.  

The students at the Adelaide Climate Strike voiced three demands:

  • No new coal or gas projects including the Adani mine
  • 100 per cent renewable energy generation and exports by 2030
  • A Government-funded fair transition and job creation for all fossil fuel workers and communities.
Aunty Georgina Williams speaking at the Strike 4 Climate. (Image source: Anisha Pillarisetty)

Aunty Georgina Williams said that Aboriginal Elders had been urging settlers to take better care of Country since colonisation. 

“Many died trying to tell you,” Aunty Williams said, “. . . but no one listened, no one listened to our old people.” 

Aunty Williams said a lot of people don’t know about Kaurna history and culture, and we can’t respect and learn how to recover what we don’t know. 

“No one sits on Country, where we have space to sit and talk to one another about these things, because we’re standing always in your world,” she said. 

“I’m up here with a microphone talking to you down there. 

“We should have time to sit down out there, form a circle and speak out with each other and have time set as our people did before, that’s what we did.” 

Aunty Williams said the Kaurna people, like other First Nations people, had a system for caring for Country. 

“And we are the first people that you killed along the way,” she said. 

“We were the first people to be transported, and then transported again, and then transported again.

“So all these things have happened to me in my life I’m 81 years of age and I come from a family that’s been trying to get the message across forever.”

Aunty Williams said she wanted her granddaughter, who joined her on stage, to know what the rally was and why it was happening, but she also wanted her to learn about the history of what happened to First Nations people. 

“And all of you young people have to do that too, because we are still being brutalised by government policies,” she said. 

“. . .so please help me, by giving your voice to our recovery, in recovering our spirituality, and your relationship to where we are now . . . on the country of Kaurna miyurna.”

Pearl (left) speaking to OTR Reporter Alycia Millar at the Adelaide Strike 4 Climate. (Image source: Anisha Pillarisetty)

Pearl, pictured above, said she and her partner were lucky to be in the city during the rally to protest the government’s inaction when it comes to protecting sacred Country. 

“I strongly believe that First Nations justice and climate justice are the same thing, and without First Nations leadership and voices elevated, we won’t get a safe future and we won’t get Country protected,” Pearl said. 

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