A sea of banners, posters and home-made signs filled the Domain in Sydney today (Friday) as protesters sent Scott Morrison’s government a clear message to do more about climate change.
Large crowds of young people, supported by their parents, office workers and environmental activists, rallied in solidarity with the Global Climate Strike, demanding action on climate change.
Chants from students, many of them defying orders from their school to remain in class, rang out as youth climate activist and Year 11 student Daisy Jeffrey told the crowd, estimated at 80,000, that the world was in the grip of a “massive climate crisis”.
“The world is literally on fire,” she said, referring to the fires blazing in the Amazon rainforest, as well as the severe bushfires in NSW and Queensland. “We will not stand by, and we will not let our government stand by, as our future burns.”
Jeffrey also criticised Morrison’s decision to visit the US this week but avoid the UN Climate Summit in New York, provoking loud boos from the crowd.
Fivos Kyriakakis, a 15-year-old student from South Sydney High School, skipped his afternoon classes with his schoolmates to attend the strike, which he described as “right for everyone my age”.
“As the generation that are going to be directly affected by climate change, it’s important to show my support for this moment,” he said.
More than 2,000 Australian companies gave their employees a day off, so they could attend the rally.
Schools and education departments, meanwhile, reacted in mixed ways to the School Strike 4 Climate, with South Sydney High students told their attendance at the rally would count as an “unexplained absence”.
Kyriakakis’s parents were “OK with it”, he said. “My parents encouraged me to come along.”
Amanda, 42, a doctor from Marrickville, in Sydney’s inner west, brought her two daughters, Lisa, nine, and Josephine, six, along to the strike, describing climate change as the “biggest threat to our health ever”.
“We have to stop using fossil fuels. We should have stopped 20 years ago.
“We knew about this stuff when I was a kid.”
Bennett Muranda Architects in Crows Nest, on Sydney’s north shore, closed their doors in support of the strike, and said they objected to Morrison’s comment last week that businesses should focus on the economy rather than on social issues.
Owner Jacki Bennett joined her staff at the Domain, who wore boxes on their heads spelling out “Hot in here”.
“We cannot say there is no link between social issues and the economy,” she said.
“They exist together, and if you ignore one, it is at the peril of the other. We all want to have great businesses – we need a place in order to do business.
“We can’t just leave it up to the kids to stand up for what is important and right. Neighbouring countries are relying on us, and if the kids were good enough to do it last time [the last school strike in March], we should be good enough to take a day off today.” – @charliejbullis,
Additional reporting by @annikakbaker and @ameliaroach_