Tens of thousands of students attended protest rallies around Australia as part of a global student strike to demand urgent political action on climate change.
The protest rallies which kicked off in regional and capital cities at 12pm on Friday, comes months after students first skipped school over climate action.
The students – many wearing their uniforms – held signs with slogans such as “The climate is changing, why aren’t we?” and “Make earth cool again”.
Victoria Police blocked off roads at the intersection of Collins and Spring Streets near Parliament House, and Vic Roads urged drivers to seek out alternative routes around the CBD.
Melbourne students Olivia and Hannah, 12, and Summer-Rae, 11, from Princes Hill Secondary College told The New Daily: “I’ve been seeing on the news how people in parliament aren’t doing anything to help climate change. If no one does anything about it, the earth’s going to rot”.
“I think the teacher’s weren’t told to be supportive, but our teachers said it’s a good thing and we’re proud of you for doing that,” Summer-Rae said, speaking at the Spring Street rally outside Parliament House.
“I definitely would like to see a lot less coal mines, a lot more solar panels too, and for the government to put in some effort, because they’re not doing anything,” she said.
Grade 3 student Finlay told The New Daily: “I want to stop climate change so when I’m older, it won’t be a negative difference.
“I want to change the types of energy and the stuff that politicians are doing.
“I only made it today in the morning, and it just means if it gets really hot, the water level will rise and things will get flooded.”
The Melbourne lunchtime demonstration was one of 50 simultaneous rallies across the country.
This time young people including university students are taking part in a day of global action with more than 90 countries hosting rallies.
The students have three demands: stop the Adani coal mine in central Queensland, no new coal or gas, and 100 per cent renewables by 2030.
Senior cabinet minister Christopher Pyne told Nine’s Today show on Friday students should be at school.
“Usually strikes are when employees withdraw their labour from an employee so I’m not sure why the students are withdrawing themselves from school. It only damages their education,” he said.
Victorian high school student Milou Albrecht was central to organising the strikes and says she was taking to the streets out of fear of not having a safe future.
“We don’t want to strike,” the 14-year-old told AAP.
“We love learning, that’s important for them to know.”
More than 800 academics have signed an open letter in solidarity with the striking students, with some set to join in on Friday’s protests.
Ms Albrecht and her friend Harriet O’Shea Carre were inspired by Swedish teen Greta Thunberg, who has been striking for climate action since last August.
Harriet hopes the prime minister calls a climate emergency, and says she will feel terrible if he again condemns their actions.
“It’s totally unfair considering they have been representing (voters) with the expectations they will do what’s in the best interests of the country,” she said.
“They are letting us down every single day they don’t do that.”
Across the Tasman Sea, Auckland MP Deborah Russell said “I hear you” to the thousands of students taking the day off school.
Great to be at the climate rally in Aotea Square today. Fantastic organisation by the young people.
Just one thing for me to say to the students: I hear you. pic.twitter.com/BvEe14PfGN
— Deborah Russell MP (@BeeFaerie) March 15, 2019
Additional reporting by Matt Johnson