‘We are striking for the rights of every person to live’: students march for climate justice

Mother-daughter protesters Sally and Jessica carried hand-painted signs at Treasury Gardens alongside friend Griet.
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Protesters numbering in the tens of thousands joined inspiring young people all over the world today as they continue the fight for strong action on climate change. Environment editor Angus Delaney reports.

Thousands of people young and old gathered at the Treasury Gardens in East Melbourne today as part of the Australia-wide SchoolStrike4Climate action, protesting against the Government’s inaction on climate issues. 

Protesters criticised the Government’s recent budget and its decision to increase Australia’s reliance on fossil fuels. 

One of the protest hosts, 17-year-old activist Anjali Sharma, called out the Government’s actions to the thousands of protesters.

“We are calling on our Government to stop lining the pockets of multi-national gas companies that are fuelling the climate crisis and to put my future before economic profit,” Ms Sharma said. 

“We are here, and we aren’t going anywhere … we are striking for the right of every person to live while our government tries to brand gas as a ‘transition fuel’.” 

'We are striking for the rights of every person to live': students march for climate justice
A protester at the Treasury Gardens proudly displaying his sign mocking Prime Minister Scott Morrison. All pictures by Angus Delaney.

Ms Sharma and other protest organisers encouraged the crowd to call Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s office, requesting that he meet with the student strikers. The phone number of Mr Frydenberg’s office was held on large signs, creating laughter among protesters. 

SchoolStrike4Climate volunteer John Knox said the budget contained nothing for the environment. “Sneaking in a $600 million gas plant post budget is just wrong,” he said.

“The government needs to pull its finger out.”

Hundreds of signs cross the protest were adorned with messages directed at the Prime Minister, some crude and some pleading. 

The crowd chants: “This is what democracy looks like.”

One protester carried a sign that had a cartoon of the PM farting, with the caption: “Stop his foul gas”. 

The protester said he was attending the march because of the Government’s refusal to engage with the rest of the world in action against climate change. 

“I’ve got children and it’s shocking to see complete disregard for the planet and the environment and any future,” he said.

A crowd of young people marched for climate justice today through the streets of Melbourne. Video: Angus Delaney.

“Morrison’s got children and he obviously doesn’t give a shit about them.”

Protester and mother-of-two Sally, who attended the strike with her six-year-old daughter Jessica, said the government was “completely out of touch with what they should be doing and an embarrassment on the international stage”.

“[I’m here] for Jessica and her brother,” Sally said. 

Mr Knox also said he was attending for his children. “I’ve got a couple of kids and I want them to have a good future and we’re not heading in that direction at present,” he said.

'We are striking for the rights of every person to live': students march for climate justice
Children protested for their own future and parents marched for their children’s.

“[The turnout] was really good. There were more people than I expected.”

Once the crowd had heard from community spokespeople including Indigenous and union leaders, they began a steady march through the city.

The masses of people set off down Albert St, directed by police and protest organisers safely along East Melbourne’s roads, all the while chanting and endless array of pro-climate mantras.

The crowd calls for democracy.

Rachael Mason attended the protest because, as an environmental studies student, she wants to see change for Australia’s natural environment and act for renewable energy sources.

“We need to reform out natural environments into its original natural state in order for human survival,” Ms Mason said.

“We need to recognise that climate change is happening … we need our targets set for 2030 – not 2090. We have nine years left.” 

'We are striking for the rights of every person to live': students march for climate justice
Rachael Mason says the Government’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 needs to be set for 2030.