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Queensland students hit the streets to protest climate change inaction

Media Academy

Student strikers have held their largest protest since the COVID-19 lockdowns, taking aim at the Federal Government’s ‘gas-led recovery’ plan.

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Year 11 student Erin Shutter was a co-organiser of Friday’s School Strike 4 Climate (SS4C) in Brisbane. She believes climate activism has brought global warming into the public eye.

“I think people have started paying attention,” Shutter said.

“I think they’ve started looking at just how severe the impacts of climate change really are.”

Fund Our Future Not Gas was the theme of the protest, referring to the fast-tracked development of gas infrastructure and five gas basins including the North Bowen and Galilee Basin in Queensland. US-based renewable energy group 350.org recently estimated that the Morrison government had spent between $510 million and $903 million on the ‘gas-led recovery’.

Kelly Albion, Campaign Director for 350.org Australia, said: “It’s clear the Prime Minister is more interested in handing out money to his mates in the oil and gas industry than investing in real solutions to climate change and everyday Australians.”

“Every dollar the Morrison Government gives to the gas industry is money that can’t be spent on projects that deliver clean energy and good jobs.”

Meaghan Scanlon, the Queensland Minister for Environment and Youth, attended a series of SpeakOut conferences in April to discuss the state’s future with teenagers.

“I think one of the big issues for a lot of young people is they feel as though governments as a whole don’t listen to the views of our next generation. I understand why people protest and it’s their right to protest when they want to see reform.”

Scanlon said “climate change always comes up as an issue that young people are really passionate about”.

“Overwhelmingly, lots of young people we talk to, whether they’re in central Queensland, far north Queensland, Brisbane, or the Gold Coast, people are passionate about what our future looks like,” the Minister said.

The rally came after a series of smaller Covid-safe actions. Shutter said “strikes are a massive part of SS4C, so Covid-19 really meant that we had to adapt”.

“The whole thing was very new and challenged us to push the boundaries of our previous, go-to strikes,” Shutter said.

“Last year on May 15 we held a 4-hour long interactive livestream which saw thousands of viewers joining over various platforms. We also had several smaller actions on September 25th last year … but I think we were all excited to finally strike again on May 21.”

Isobel Coghill, another SS4C organiser, reflected the sentiments of many of those present on Friday.

“When I’m old, I want to be able to say yeah we actually fought for this. I actually made the effort, as opposed to just posting an infographic on Instagram,” Coghill said.

“We got up, we got out into the streets, we did what we could and if that changes anything so be it, but at least we’re making waves.”

InQueensland’s Media Academy is a partnership involving Education Queensland and UQ, teaching high school students about critical thinking and the journalism skills needed to develop the next generation of public interest journalists. Their stories will be published regularly by InQueensland.

 

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