Students converge on Glasshouse forecourt to lead climate change debate

Not backing down: Protesters at the Glasshouse forecourt. Photo: Carla Mascarenhas
Not backing down: Protesters at the Glasshouse forecourt. Photo: Carla Mascarenhas

Hundreds of students skipped class on Friday, September 20 to protest in Port Macquarie against inaction on climate change.

Students were joined by other community members at the protest which began at the Glasshouse forecourt and ended at the Town Green.

The Port Macquarie march coincided with protests around the country by students as part of the School Strike 4 Climate Action movement.

The movement was inspired by Swedish student, Greta Thunberg, who started boycotting classes before parliamentary elections in her nation on September 9, 2018.

Hastings Secondary School student Patrick Rudd was one of the organisers.

Man on a mission: Patrick Rudd stands tall. Photo: Carla Mascarenhas

Man on a mission: Patrick Rudd stands tall. Photo: Carla Mascarenhas

We are the ones with the most to lose.

Patrick Rudd

He rejected criticism the students could be perceived as "idealistic young people".

"The reason last time we had 150 000 people marching for climate change across Australia and this time we will have more is because we are the stakeholders in this conversation,' he explained.

"We are the ones with the most to lose.

" We will see these climate change impacts in our lifetime, in the present time."

Mr Rudd said the protesters had three demands.

Passionate: Eight-year-old Jemima French.

Passionate: Eight-year-old Jemima French.

These demands are that there will be no new coal or gas projects including the Adani mine, 100 per cent renewable energy generation and exports by 2030 and funding of a "just transition and job creation for all fossil fuel workers and the community".

Fellow student Jazmine McCarthy wasn't worried about the consequences of missing school to protest.

"I am not worried about getting into trouble with school, I am more worried about our future," she said.

"It is unethical at the moment to even have kids, I want my kids to see the beauty I see today."

Year 12 student Theo Last told a receptive crowd the impact of climate change was already apparent.

"You only need to look at the bushfire map to see it is a problem right now," he said.

"Fire and drought have been part of Australian life ...but make no mistake climate change, and our government's unwillingness to act on it are making these disasters worst."

Thirteen-year-old Brynn Edwards said students felt they had no choice but to protest.

"I came today because the government is simply not listening to anyone, they are not making the right choices, so if they are not going to do anything we have to," she said.

Co-founder of Australian Parents for Climate Action Port Macquarie, Suzie Brown said the march was necessary.

"Teenage school students started these strikes last year as they fear for their own safety in the face of rapidly escalating climate change," Ms Brown said.

"We parents all have young children who are too young to understand the climate crisis so we need to stand up for their safe future on their behalf."

The protest comes as Port Macquarie-Hastings Council voted to defer taking action on climate change policy at a council meeting on September 18.

The United Nations Emergency Climate Summit 2019 is on September 23 in New York.