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USyd students protest government inaction on climate

“What we are seeing now is a glimpse of the rest of our lives if we do not act."

Photo: Reham Zughair

University of Sydney students joined thousands of Sydneysiders at Town Hall today as part of a major School Strike 4 Climate protest.

The protest demanded no new coal and gas projects, a just transition to climate jobs, 100% publicly owned renewable energy and Indigenous-led land management.

This strike follows the “historic” SRC Student General Meeting organised by the USyd Enviro Collective in April. The University waived academic penalties for students attending the global climate strike.

The University of Sydney contingent opened with speeches outside Fisher Library from SRC Environment Officers, Lauren Lancaster and Drew Beacom, and members of the USyd Enviro Collective.

“It is not a considered response to COVID recovery when the government commits $600m in subsidies to the building of the Kurri Kurri gas station. That is evil,” said Lancaster. 

NTEU USyd Branch President Patrick Brownlee also spoke in solidarity with the student-led strike.

“This last decade has been a decade of irresponsibility of the highest political leadership. Government inaction is what we will be paying for and we need to take action as you’re rightly doing today.”

Student and Dunghutti woman, Erin O’Leary, spoke against environmental decisions being made “for the profit of white multi-millionaires and billionaires that have no interest in protecting what is sacred to us … [or] protecting the homes of 7.6 billion people.”

The contingent marched down City Road towards UTS, guided by a string of police, with chants of “One struggle, one fight – climate justice, workers’ rights,” echoing down the road.

At UTS Tower Building 1, police issued a move on order and seconds later, began roughly pushing and pulling students off the road. 

“We didn’t have time to comply with the move on order. We were under the impression the police were working with us,” said James, a student who was thrown to the ground during the incident.

Various university contingents joined with high school students and members of the public at the steps of Town Hall.

The gathering included a number of speeches from First Nations and Pacific Islands speakers, with Gamilaraay Next Generation activist Ian Brown speaking about the government’s recent decisions to progress with funding gas power.

“Off the back end of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic recession that resulted, it was a gateway for the government to push [the gas] projects through, to further desecrate and destroy Gamilaraay land.”

The speakers further addressed government inaction following the Black Summer bushfires 2019-20, the recent NSW floods and broader global national disasters. 

“What we are seeing now is a glimpse of the rest of our lives if we do not act,” said Patrick, a student speaker from Port Macquarie. “This is not the environment versus the economy, this is everything versus the fossil fuel industry and the politicians under their thumb” said Patrick, a student speaker from Port Macquarie.

Following speeches, the protest marched to Prince Alfred Park with a call-to-action to contact local MPs regarding government inaction.