'I Should Not Have To Be Here Today': Year 12 Students Skip Graduation To Attend Climate Strike
"Our future is under attack. What do we do? Stand up, fight back!"
Year 12 students at Blackwattle Bay Secondary College are about to graduate, but first they have a more pressing date: striking for climate change.
At least a dozen of the cohort turned up to the Domain in Sydney, where tens of thousands of students, teachers, workers and retirees turned up to protest.
"Out future is under attack," one student told 10 daily, when asked why they were striking.
"And we have to stand up and fight," her friend finished for her.
"Individual action is not going to stop climate change, it has to be collective action against the system as a whole," a third student said.
"Metal straws are not going to cut it any more."
The students -- who said they had the "silent support" of their teachers -- said they were going to graduation after the strike.
Organisers estimated some 80,000 people turned up to strike in Sydney alone. The Domain was packed, with organisers spilling out onto the streets around the park.
The Sydney strike is one of dozens across Australia and thousands across the world, inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. The last school strike, in March this year, saw an estimated 1.4 million students walk out of school to strike for climate action.
"Australia is setting the standard," Thunberg said on Twitter.
Earlier that day, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said his message to the students striking around Australia "is that school time is a time to go to school", while Energy Minister Angus Taylor said "students should be at school during school hours."
However Daisy Jeffrey, 17, one of the students organising Sydney's march, said she'd rather be in school -- but that until the government starts doing something about climate change, she'll keep striking.
"I've only taken three days off to strike, and I will continue to strike until this government takes adequate climate action," Jeffrey said.
"That's all we're asking for, adequate climate action. Currently, our government refuses to give us that, refuses to secure my right to a safe future, and for generations to come.
"I should not have to be here today, I should be in school, learning. Instead of taking action, the government has forced me out onto the streets, as well as thousands and thousands of other people, young people here today."
The movement has three goals: 100 percent clean energy, keeping fossil fuel in the ground, and helping climate refugees.
The Australian chapter of the global movement specifically calls for no new coal, oil or gas projects, including the Adani mine. They're calling on the government to help workers in these industries transition into other work, and not be left behind.
Jeffrey said she has hope the government can "do the right thing", but until it takes action, she -- and thousands of others -- will continue to strike.
"At the first strike, I said this was just the beginning," Jean Hinchliffe, the 15-year-old student who founded the Sydney chapter of School Strike 4 Climate last year, told the crowd of thousands.
"Today shows we have followed through. And with that promise, we will never back down."
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