Students walk out of class to demand “climate action now”12 August 2019
Hundreds of students from across Melbourne walked out of class on Friday August 9 to demand action on climate change. Students from the University of Melbourne, Monash, RMIT and other universities gathered outside the State Library despite heavy rain and windy conditions.
The rally was one of several being led by the National Union of Students (NUS) in major cities across Australia to highlight what it describes as the “defining political issue” of the current generation.
NUS President Desiree Cai spoke to Farrago during the protest:
“So many people have turned out today,” she said. “People really care about this issue—young people in particular—because we’re so terrified about what’s going to happen if we don’t take action.”
University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) President Molly Wilmott also attended the rally as part of the University of Melbourne contingent.
“The official UMSU stance is that we are in a climate emergency right now… and we believe climate change deniers are completely wrong,” she said during the rally. “It’s not going to be our politicians’ lives who are affected most by climate change, it will be students.”
But it’s not just the Government students are demanding action from. Cai said, “We want universities to come onboard and be loud advocates for climate action as well.”
One of the event’s key speakers Melbourne Greens MP Adam Bandt, praised students for organising and participating in the event.
“July was the hottest month on record globally. Australia is in the middle of the worst drought in our history. What we’re facing is a climate emergency,” Bandt told Farrago.
“Students have no choice but to walk out of class and take to the streets when governments in Australia and around the world are failing them and jeopardising their future.”
Bandt wasn’t the only one showing support for the students. Members from the group “Grandmothers for Climate Action” were also at the rally. The group’s founder (who asked to be referred to as “LU”) stood in solidarity with the students, alongside her sister and daughter. The trio each held their own yellow placard, which LU proudly explained were made from upcycled Clive Palmer posters from the previous federal election.
“Climate change is not an old person or a young person issue, it’s an issue that impacts everyone,” LU said. “We just wanted to join the younger generation and support [their] future.”
After the rally, students marched around Melbourne’s CBD before gathering outside the offices of engineering consulting firm GHD on Lonsdale Street.
After being denied entrance into the building, students began banging on the foyer’s glass windows, chanting “Stop Adani” in opposition to the company’s involvement with the Carmichael mine in Northern Queensland.
The protestors’ presence outside the GHD offices was noticeably unwelcome. Over 20 police officers stood inside the building’s foyer, a number of whom were filming the students on evidence cameras.
As the demonstration continued, six officers moved in and formed a blockade in front of the protestors.
Before the students continued with their march, one of the rally’s main organisers Beth Jackson stood on top of a parking meter outside the building and announced over a megaphone, “We’ll be back.”
And back they will be. Contingents from universities across Melbourne are scheduled to attend the #SchoolStrike4Climate later in the year in the Treasury Gardens on September 20. The strike is part of an international protest being held in major capital cities around the world.