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School strike for climate hold national day of action

The few groups that did protest in the city were not gathered close enough to warrant more than a warning from the small number of police who responded.

Over 450 actions occurred across Australia today as part of the School Strike for Climate (SS4C) National Day of Action, including a University of Sydney contingent to Hyde Park.

The SS4C contingent met in Martin Place, and attracted lots of media attention. Aunty Rhonda Dixon-Grovenor, a Darug/Yain elder spoke first, and gave a Welcome to Country. The school strikers listened to speakers for about an hour, before most dispersed through Hyde Park, passing the USyd contingent as they did so. 

Enviro Collective member Bella D’Silva chaired the USyd contingent, and began by offering an Acknowledgement of Country and outlining the demands of the action.

“We demand that there be no new fossil fuel, uranium or nuclear projects and importantly we demand First Nations justice. We demand funding for Indigenous-led land management with jobs on Country to repair ecosystems, reduce emissions and reduce fire risk.”

SRC Environment Officer Prudence Wilkins-Wheat reminded participants in person and over the livestream that the environmental struggle cannot be left behind in the wake of COVID-19. 

“Amidst such measures, we often forget the crisis in January and February. We entered this year with red skies from the bushfires.

“According to the Department of Home Affairs, more than 12.6 million hectares of bush burned. Half a billion native wildlife perished. Over 3000 houses turned to ash and 35 people lost their lives.”

SRC President Liam Donohoe spoke about how this ties in with education organising.

“It’s interesting that when you look at the impacts that the Liberal Party’s funding changes are going to have, it seems as though it’s going to specifically target many of the disciplines that produces the knowledge that allows us to actually challenge corporate, ruling class interests that are trying to accelerate us towards imminent doom.”

“What people may not necessarily know is that as a result of the funding changes, environmental sciences is going to have 29 per cent less funding. That’s $10 000 less funding per student.”

Former school striker, and Enviro Collective member Varsha Vajman gave a speech explaining her experience as a former school striker and her recent work organising on campus. She described her personal connection to the environmental movement and called for a stronger focus on climate justice rather than simply climate action.

After speeches finished, the contingent split into two and made their way through Hyde Park to Elizabeth Street, before one group was moved on by police and reconvened at the Captain Cook statue.

Some members of the contingent had a verbal confrontation with police on Elizabeth Street after leaving Hyde Park, arguing that they were not in fact in breach of the Public Health Order as the other half of the contingent had already moved on. The confrontation lasted about 20 mins, ending when police agreed to allow the protesters to stay. 

Despite some tension, no fines were issued today, potentially because this was an action put together by school children in addition to similar actions occurring without police repression across the country. The few groups that did protest in the city were not gathered close enough to warrant more than a warning from the small number of police who responded.