“I Won’t Be Voting For Them”: Young Climate Strikers Are Turning Their Backs On Labor
Hundreds of students across Australia went on strike today, calling on the Labor Government to take proper climate action and stop approving new gas and coal mines. Organised by School Strikes 4 Climate, the strikes are some of the biggest climate demonstrations aimed at the Albanese government.
Students were encouraged to chuck a sickie to attend the climate strike in their city. To help, climate scientists Dr David Karoly from University of Melbourne and Dr Nick Abel from ANU College of Science signed a ‘doctor’s’ note in the hopes it would allow students to take the day off school without repercussions. The note says that due to “major climate health concern” students are unable to attend school as they suffer from “anxiety from the Australia Federal Government’s ongoing climate policy inaction”.
Earlier in the week Junkee spoke to climate scientist Dr David Karoly and 16-year-old School Strike 4 Climate organiser Joey Thompson about the importance of the strikes. “It’s really important that students strike because we need to demand change from the Labor Government to shift the power away from fossil fuels because the climate crisis is the number one threat to young people in this world right now,” Joey said. “We have the power to make change that will stop this crisis.”
“The Labor government, both federally and in the states, need to step up and be a true leader because right now, Australia is one of the top exporters in the world for coal and gas. That’s just not good enough. We cannot open any new coal or gas projects in Australia … if we want to maintain a safe and livable climate for young people.”
When asked why he signed the doctor’s note, Dr Karoly said it’s because “I recognise that it’s my generation that has caused this problem and the impact will be really big”. He told Junkee that students will actually learn more about “how democracy works” at a non-violent demonstration with kids their own age than in the classroom. Discussing what needs to be done, Dr Karoly said that the solutions are in front of us, but “change is difficult”. “Most people are happy with the way things have been if they feel comfortable [but] disadvantaged groups around Australia are suffering most from the impact of heat extremes, heat waves, bushfires, floods, those are symptoms of the impact of climate change.
Junkee went to the strike in Sydney, marching from Belmore Park to outside Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek’s office. According to organisers, there were around 500 students at this particular demonstration. There were resounding calls from students for the Labor government to stop approving new gas and coal mines — many fear for their futures.
“I don’t feel very hopeful right now. At this trajectory, we’re going to go into a really bad climate crisis but it is entirely possible for us to transition to 100 percent renewables … and for the government to pull us out of the climate crisis,” Min Park, 16, told Junkee.
Echoing Min’s sentiment, Jeremy Phu Howard, 16, said “I think I speak for a lot of people my age when I say that I’m not hopeful about my future. Our government are refusing to take the action that’s needed to step up and do their jobs”.
18-year-old high school graduate Caoilainn told Junkee “Most of my childhood and high school life has been defined by going to climate strikes. We need to act and the government needs to act”.
“It’s my future,” her friend Lucy, 18, said. “If I ever do decide to have a family in the future then this is going to affect them. I have little brothers and this is going to cause problems in their future.”
Greens MP Abigail Boyd was also at the strike, and told us that students were striking because “Students can tell that the major parties don’t have their future in mind. We have [state and federal] Labor governments who are intent on allowing fossil fuel industries to continue to do everything they’ve always done”.
“The kids are calling out the bullshit,” Abigail said. “If we don’t keep striking and marching, the major parties are never going to pay attention.”
Almost every student we spoke to at the strike expressed their dissatisfaction with the Labor government and vowed to not vote for them when the time comes. Student speaker at the strike, Dana Kafina, 17, told Junkee “Coming into voting age, I’m really disappointed in the government and I won’t be voting for them. Their response to climate change has not been enough, they’ve been continuously feeding us lies and haven’t delivered on the promises they made.”
“We have grown up seeing the affect of climate change and see our government continue to ignore it. By the time we are able to vote we are going to be living through some [climate change’s] worst effects. I think it’s going to have a very big impact on the way we vote,” Jeremy said.
“It’s our future that our government is putting its dirty hands on and crushing it to pieces. We are obviously going to vote against a government that isn’t going to listen to its people,” Min added.