Australian students gather in mass climate strike to protest gas

By Melissa Coade

Friday May 21, 2021

climate strike
(Image: Adobe/bravajulia)

A School Strike 4 Climate movement in the tens of thousands protested across the nation of Friday with key demands for the federal government to act on sustainable clean energy solutions. 

Friday’s mass strike marked what the group says is the ‘the biggest protest for climate action’ since COVD-19 began impacting daily life in Australia. 

The group wanted the federal government to stop funding what it said are ‘dangerous’ gas and coal projects and serious investment in clean renewable energy. They also called for secure jobs and the adoption of First Nations’ solutions to protect Country. 

Student protester Natasha Abhayawickrama said that she wanted to see the federal government ensuring the general wellbeing and prosperity of all Australians.

“[The government is] far more concerned with lining the already-bursting pockets of multinational gas companies,” the 16-year-old activist said. 

“Morrison and his government could and should be protecting our climate, land, and water. 

“Their money-making agenda – at the expense of vulnerable Australians’ wellbeing and prosperity – is fuelling the climate crisis… the same crisis that is devastating our environment, destroying our health, and creating very few jobs for our population.”

Abhayawickrama explained that she was joining with her student peers who felt like ‘let-down Australians’ — in particular, responding to the taxpayer money they believe that Scott Morrison’s government is ‘throwing’ at gas initiatives.

In May the Morrison government announced its $58.6 million plan to advance a ‘gas-fired’ recovery in Australia. The energy plan has been roundly criticised by experts and industry. 

People gather at the School Strike 4 Climate protest in Melbourne.

The organisers of the demonstration, School Strike 4 Climate, protested with the support of First Nations communities, unions, parents and fellow citizens. A group of parents, grandparents and carers of the student climate strike protestors also joined their children at 47 protest locations around Australia. 

Suzie Brown, mother of a student protestor and the National Director of Australian Parents for Climate Action, said it was important to stand in solidarity with the future generations who would be bearing ‘the brunt of more droughts, storms and fires if we don’t act on the dire science warnings about climate change’.

Brown, who is a former VPS employee and sustainability consultant, said the School Strike 4 Climate leaders may still be teenagers, but they were showing Australian adults what leadership on climate change looks like.

“The timing of this Climate Strike is critical, with renewable energy ignored in the recent federal budget, and the prime minister confirming this week he will spend $600 million on a totally unnecessary gas-fired power plant in the Hunter Valley. 

“We parents have had a gutful of Scott Morrison’s climate inaction,” she added. 

Australian Parents for Climate Action was formed in 2019 after the first school strike for climate and has grown to more than 14,000 members nationwide. 

We want anyone standing for election to know they must address this number one threat to our kids if they hope to represent us in parliament. Especially when solutions like affordable and clean renewable energy are readily available, and will benefit the economy,” Brown said.

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