Student climate activists take message to streets of Merimbula

A group of Year 12 students on the Far South Coast get together in Merimbula to draw messages of climate change on the pavements of the town, for the School Strike for Climate (SS4C) on October 15. Photo supplied.
A group of Year 12 students on the Far South Coast get together in Merimbula to draw messages of climate change on the pavements of the town, for the School Strike for Climate (SS4C) on October 15. Photo supplied.

A small group of young climate activists spread their message via chalk drawings through Merimbula's arcades on Friday.

Freya Occleshaw, 16, along with five fellow high school students took part in the national School Strike for Climate (SS4C) on October 15.

Freya said the goal was to send a message to the local community and government representatives that "youth are coming to an age and a period in life, where we can't accept anything less than a complete guarantee of a green future".

"I'm angry at the government for ignoring the issues that are so clear to everyone else, especially people living in rural areas. I have the power to organise something that could help make a difference. So I did," Freya said.

A group of Year 12 students on the Far South Coast get together in Merimbula for the School Strike for Climate (SS4C) on October 15. Photo supplied.

A group of Year 12 students on the Far South Coast get together in Merimbula for the School Strike for Climate (SS4C) on October 15. Photo supplied.

Freya has witnessed first hand the effects of extreme climate events, having almost lost their house near Wyndham during the Black Summer fires and being in an evacuation centre with twin Niamh, while the rest of their family who were part of the Burragate brigade, were out fighting fires.

"We had no idea where our parents were, and that was a scary time. And I knew the severity of it could have been majorly decreased if the government had taken any sort of preventative action, or listened to First Nation landowners about how to properly do burn offs," they said.

Since then, Freya and Niamh joined the Burragate brigade in early 2021, and have learnt about hazard reductions during their training and how the heat scorches all the fuels.

"It just encourages non-native species to grow again, really vulnerable, non native species to grow from where all of the native spaces were burnt. And that will just lead to more disruptive fire seasons in the next few years," Freya said.

Video for the SS4C strike on October 15, 2021 - created by SS4C Australia

Youth to vote for change in future elections

Freya and Niamh are starting their first semester of Year 12 and are looking forward to the time they can vote and have a part to play in the future of their country.

"With possible upcoming federal elections, it's just really important for people to know that we aren't going to let the government ignore the issue anymore. And I suppose just point out that, even after all of the fires and the floods and droughts, they still seem to ignore it and fund fossil fuel things and coal."

A group of Year 12 students on the Far South Coast get together in Merimbula for the School Strike for Climate (SS4C) on October 15. Photo supplied.

A group of Year 12 students on the Far South Coast get together in Merimbula for the School Strike for Climate (SS4C) on October 15. Photo supplied.

Climate Action Monaro president Jo Oddie gave her full support to the SS4C event and students partaking in the strike.

"The SS4C is warning the government that thousands of students can now vote since their first strike in 2018, and that the number is only going to grow," Ms Oddie said.

Ms Oddie stated her disagreement with the way government has managed the climate crisis so far.

"I agree with the students who criticise the Morrison government for handing out billions of dollars of public money in subsidies and funding to climate-wrecking coal and gas projects, instead of acting to deal with the climate crisis," she said.

Ms Oddie said memories of the Black Summer fires are still fresh in the minds of Australians and recent extreme weather events around the world are a timely reminder of the issue.

"More recently, the northern hemisphere has been ravaged by other extreme weather events including floods in Germany and Belgium, wildfires in Spain and California and heat waves in Canada and Russia," Ms Oddie said.

"The International Energy Agency has told us no more coal," she added.

Meanwhile back in Merimbula, Freya said more than ever, the voices of the Fist Nations in regards to management of country ought to be heard and acted upon.

"Hopefully, we'll have more First Nations voices in leadership, and we can actually get back to taking care of the land in a way that won't hurt it, and in a way that is respectful to all of the Indigenous people's practices and lands," Freya said.

"Hopefully we can get back to actually living with Australia as opposed to on it."

A group of Year 12 students on the Far South Coast get together in Merimbula to draw messages of climate change on the pavements of the town, for the School Strike for Climate (SS4C) on October 15. Photo supplied.

A group of Year 12 students on the Far South Coast get together in Merimbula to draw messages of climate change on the pavements of the town, for the School Strike for Climate (SS4C) on October 15. Photo supplied.

Freya's callout and hope for the future 

Freya said looking into the future they are hopeful they'll have leaders that take into consideration the issues voiced by youth.

"We need leaders who can actually think ahead and take into consideration the voices of the young people, because we make up such a large population and it's up to us to inherit the world," Freya said.

Freya said they hope the message will reach their local MPs and government representatives and that their voices will be heard and acted upon.

"Young people and the newly graduated, have so many ideas and we want to be heard," Freya said.

This story Student climate activists take message to streets of Merimbula first appeared on Bega District News.