Thousands of students have taken to the streets across Australia to call for action on climate change in defiance of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s advice for them to stay in school.
Crowds of thousands of students blocked busy city streets in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane, with smaller gatherings also taking place in regional centres.
Up to a thousand children packed Sydney’s Martin Place at 1pm, chanting “climate action now”, while similar numbers walked up Melbourne’s Bourke Street, blocking off parts of the adjacent Spring Street, and descended on the Victorian parliament.
Responding to a question about the planned protest from Greens MP Adam Bandt in Parliament earlier this week, Mr Morrison said he wanted “more learning and less activism in schools” and that he did not “support schools being turned into parliaments”.
Despite his urgings, students as young as seven turned up to protest about politicians failing to stop the “climate crisis”.
Melbourne student Amy, 15, from Elwood College, said she was “heartbroken” by the government’s attitude to climate change, when speaking to The New Daily outside Melbourne’s Parliament House.
“We want the government to make better decisions involving renewable energy and stop coal mining,” she said.
Another Melbourne student Christa, 17, from the Academy of Mary Immaculate in Fitzroy, said climate change was a pressing issue that future constitutes of Australia needed a voice on.
“Young people have every right to come out here and protest for a cause that we feel so passionately about and I think it’s disgusting that our government has given so many concessions to coal companies such as Adani,” she told The New Daily.
Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan said the child protesters were only going to learn how to join the dole queue.
Mr Canavan said he wants kids in school learning about how to build mines, do geology and how to drill for oil and gas “which is one of the most remarkable science exploits in the world”.
“These are the type of things that excite young children and we should be great at as a nation,” he told 2GB on Friday.
“Taking [time] off school and protesting? You don’t learn anything from that.
“The best thing you’ll learn about going to a protest is how to join the dole queue. Because that’s what your future life will look like, up in a line asking for a handout, not actually taking charge for your life and getting a real job.”
Sydney student Jean Hinchliffe, 14, disagreed. She said her generation’s future was on the line.
“We are sick of those in power failing to stop the climate crisis,” she said in a statement.
“We are striking to tell our politicians to stop all new coal and gas projects and take immediate action to move Australia to 100 per cent renewable energy.”
NSW Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi posted on Twitter: “So proud of these kids who came out today to protect our future.
“History will remember you as heroes,” she said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier this week said the nation needed “more learning in schools and less activism”.