Thousands of Sydney students have defied the Prime Minister’s instruction to stay in the classroom by going on strike to protest against the federal government’s climate change policies.
Thirty major strike events took place around the country, organisers said, as students united with a common goal.
Students gathered from 11am in Martin Place in Sydney’s CBD, with loud cheers and chanting whenever a new group arrived. Organisers estimated the crowd at 5000.
A smattering of police officers gathered on the fringes. One was overheard to express his disgust at the idea of skipping school to attend a rally.
The crowd packed in to the Martin Place amphitheatre, right outside the Tesla showroom.
“What do we want? Climate action. When do we want it? Now,” one chant went.
“Hey hey, ho ho, ScoMo has got to go,” was another chant, referring to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who, this week, condemned the proposed strike.
The NSW Education Department threatened that public school students could face disciplinary action.
Thousands of students walked out of schools across the country to demand more action on climate change from the federal government.
“Any student not in classes on a school day will be marked absent and may be subject to the school’s disciplinary code,” a spokesperson said.
“This is my dream”
Nosrat Fareha from Auburn Girls High School was one of the speakers addressing the huge crowd.
“We have a voice and we will use that voice to demand better from our leaders,” she said.
“This strike is just an extension of our learning and learning goes beyond school. We will be the change makers in our society. This is my Australian dream.”
Pat Langford, 18, has just finished year 12 at Oakhill College in Castle Hill. He believes the government should block the Adani coal mine and transition to 100 per cent renewable energy.
He delivered a harsh assessment of Australia’s federal politicians.
“There’s too much arguing over their own power, and they’re not representing the people any more,” he said.
Michelle Walker is a teacher at Kinma school in Terrey Hills, on Sydney’s northern beaches. With parental consent, she brought a group of 19 students in years 4-6 to the event.
“They felt strongly about it and asked if they could come down today to express how they felt to the government.”
She said her students were looking at ways to reduce plastic, and were actively involved in making a practical difference.
“We just recently went down along the beach at Mona Vale and collected as much plastic as we could,” she said.
Jean Hinchliffe, 14, is a student at Fort Street High in Petersham. She said she was striking “to tell our politicians to stop all new coal and gas projects, including Adani’s mine, and take immediate action to move Australia to 100 per cent renewable energy”.
“As a generation, we are sick of those in power failing to stop the climate crisis. We’ve spent our entire lives hearing the dire warnings. Our future is on the line, and sitting around waiting until we can vote and lead the country just isn’t enough.”
Ella, 10, said she aspired to be “someone with a voice that can change things”.
“I think it’s stupid that no one has done anything. We could already have solar energy and yet we’re still using coal.”
Peakhurst resident Gary Volk, who was passing by, expressed scepticism about the students’ motives.
“Boys and girls, they join to be together, it doesn’t matter what. I am against these type of activities,” Mr Volk said.
He was also doubtful about human ability to repair the damage already done.
“We have to accept it. I don’t believe we can do something about it.”
When the peaceful protest ended after about an hour and 40 minutes, no trace of rubbish was left behind.