Hundreds of people stood firm, despite a heavy rainstorm over Sydney’s CBD, to demand faster action on climate change.
Students, parents, union members, activists and First Nations people flooded into Town Hall just before midday on Friday for the fifth annual School Strike for Climate.
Swedish activist Greta Thunberg founded the movement when she was 15 years old and decided to skip school on Fridays to sit outside parliament in Stockholm.
Teenagers and primary-school-aged children in most major Australian cities followed in her footsteps on Friday by choosing to take a day off school to “teach [everyone] a lesson”.
“I’m just kind of angry, because the government is full of old white people; I don’t think they’re going to be around for the lasting effects of what this is going to do to the world, but we will,” 16-year-old Bronte said.
“I think it also sometimes feels like we’re not doing enough, so it’s good to come out,” her friend Sofia said.
“It can be good to feel hope.”
The event showcased plenty of the handmade posters which have become a staple of the annual school strikes and featured clever plays on words and slogans.
Builder and Extinction Rebellion activist Ben Burdett wore a T-shirt emblazoned with his two children‘s faces and carried a sign which turned plenty of heads – a full-size cut-out of a police officer with NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet’s head glued on top with a speech bubble protruding which read: “My Nazi party costume was just for fun. But my fascist anti-protest laws are for real.”
“Governments all over the world are clamping down on protesting and making it much harder to do effective protests,” he said.
Roaring chants and rallying percussion are typical of the school strikes, with cries of “no new coal, no new oil, keep that carbon in the soil” booming through the rain.
Mardudhunera traditional owner Mark Clifton is no stranger to making the 5000km trip from his home in the Pilbara region of Western Australia to inform people that the largest collection of indigenous rock art is at risk of disappearing.
“The Pilbara is really important to us mob; as a First Nations people, our culture and our songlines, they carry us through everyday life,” he said.
“This project is already pushing out millions of tonnes of emissions; climate change is happening and we need to stop it while we can.”
The union movement came out in force, with nurses and midwives showing up in scrubs to show their solidarity.
Meanwhile, countless flags lining the forecourt represented everyone from teachers to maritime workers.
“I’m here because the climate emergency is a health emergency,” said Liz, a registered nurse with 25 years under her belt.
“I said to my son this morning, ‘You have been attending rallies with me since you were a little boy and I’m still going to these rallies, still demanding change that the community expects and deserves.’”
Solidarity climate activist Adam Adelpour said the climate crisis is a result of the global economy being set up for profit over the environment and human need.
“In Australia recently, the flood, the fires, the droughts are really just an extreme warning that if we don’t take decisive action, there’s going to be a lot of suffering in this world.
“It’s going to the poorest people who bear the brunt of it, like the people in Lismore who still don’t have houses.”
The 37-year-old said he believes it is possible to push ahead with climate action while still working to solve the cost of living crisis.
“If you took the kind of action that was needed to rapidly cut emissions to the extent we need to … You need huge government investment, create hundreds of thousands of jobs that can be targeted at communities that are currently fossil fuel dependent and fund it through progressive taxation,” he said.
Crowds marched as planned to Hyde Park from 1pm as drenching rains continued sending umbrellas up and melting some of the cardboard posters.
The annual Global Strike for Climate is expected to draw even bigger crowds on March 25.