Students and staff join global climate strike with green light from the University24 September 2019
On Friday 20 September, a contingent of University of Melbourne students and staff attended the Global Climate Strike, with the unprecedented endorsement of the University.
In contrast with the climate rallies held earlier in the year, the University made provisions for students and staff, advising that “students are free to decide for themselves whether they wish to attend”, and “approval will not be unreasonably withheld” from staff members who requested a leave of absence. The University also asked subject coordinators “to be accommodating in making alternative arrangements” for students who missed classes.
Members of the contingent gathered outside Wilson Hall to listen to speeches by their peers, before marching down Swanston Street to the State Library, where they joined a larger university contingent organised by the National Union of Students (NUS).
At the State Library, students were addressed by a number of speakers including NUS President Desiree Cai. Standing before the crowd, Cai drove home the message that “you can’t study on a dead planet”.
The students then joined union members marching up Bourke Street to take part in the city-wide demonstration, which saw over 100,000 protesters flood the Treasury Gardens and surrounding areas.
The event was part of a global day of protest against inaction on climate change held in around 150 countries. In Australia, over 350,000 people attended strikes in more than 100 cities and towns, demanding that the government transition away from coal, oil and gas, and towards 100% renewable energy by 2030—while funding a “just transition & job creation for all fossil-fuel industry workers & communities”.
University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) President Molly Willmott told Farrago, “It is the role of students to shape the future we live in, and no cause is more pertinent than climate change. Parts of NSW are going to run out of water by November and our government is sitting on their hands about impending climate catastrophe.”
The government is yet to comment on the record-breaking strike, but that is unlikely to deter students from attending the next action: a “prolonged disruption to the city” that will form part of the national ‘Spring Rebellion’ starting on October 7.