Walking out for climate change

By Patrick Tansey

Cobram Secondary College students took part in a strike on Friday, which saw thousands of students across the country demanding an end to political inertia on climate change.

Just before the lunch break, a large group of students left their classrooms in a ‘walk out for the environment’.

The nation-wide movement was inspired by Swedish student Greta Thunberg, 15, who pledged to protest outside parliament in Stockholm until the country caught up on its commitments under the Paris Agreement.

The desire for the college to take part came off the back of a conversation between Student Representative Council leaders Freyja Black and Ellie Jones.

‘‘Ellie sent me a news report about how students have been standing outside their local government offices in their uniforms basically saying ‘this is not alright’ and we thought it was pretty inspiring,’’ Miss Black said..

‘‘Then we found out there’s an actual site (School Strike for Climate Action) and a petition, so we thought we’d get it started at school.

‘‘It’s too far away for us to stand out the front of an actual government office, so we thought we’d do it here and try and make it a little more teacher-friendly,’’ she said.

Miss Jones said on reading the story online about other young people taking action on the important issue, she felt empowered to do something similar.

She did not want students who are passionate about climate change to feel suppressed on the matter.

‘‘I was on the ABC News app and I came across the story and I thought it would be a really good opportunity for us to express what we believe to be a big issue in Australia at the moment,’’ Miss Jones said.

‘‘I sent it to Freyja and asked her if we should do something at school for it and she said yes, so then we went to our principal Kimberley Tempest and asked if we could do it and she was really supportive of our plans.’’

The student leader felt the youth of today had a vital role in shaping the future of climate policy.

‘‘I think it’s a really important issue for our current youth generation at the moment because it’s going to be the predominant issue that’s going to affect us going into our adult lives,’’ Miss Jones said.

‘‘I guess Freyja and I both felt this walk out was a great opportunity to gauge how many other kids in our area think something similar.’’

Miss Jones said she had never been involved in a student-led initiative to the magnitude of this one.

‘‘Since I’ve been at the school from Year 7, this is the first event I’ve seen where the students have actually initiated the entire process,’’ she said.

‘‘A lot of other initiatives have been student driven as well, but ones in which the teachers have played a big role in. This one has been purely us.

‘‘It’s pretty phenomenal to see the amount of kids in our school that have jumped on-board and signed the petition.’’

Miss Black said there had been mixed responses to the walk out, but overall, most had been extremely positive.

‘‘Some people have been questioning it a little bit or simply didn’t see the posters about it, but I feel students here generally want sustainability,’’ she said.

‘‘I think we’re a generation that thinks ‘let’s make a difference to this problem’.’’

The Student Representative Council is planning to send a letter to Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum and Member for Ovens Valley Tim McCurdy to highlight the results from the petition in a plea for change and government action.