Bellingen School Strike 4 Climate Action

Storm clouds loomed but the rain stayed away as about 500 people of all ages gathered in Maam Gaduying Park this morning in Bellingen for the School Strike 4 Climate Action.

A big contingent of roughly 200 students marched down from Bellingen High, despite principal Kim Dixon saying beforehand that she preferred them to confine their action to the school grounds, like last year.

"I explained my preference but also said it was a freedom of speech and a right to peaceful protest issue," Kim said. "My idea was that we had a sit-in at school and a small band went to town.

"That is not what the students wanted. Quite clearly, they wanted their voice heard.

"They made a large banner and marched behind it to the rally in town and were very vocal - I could hear them marching there and on their way back.

"Their chant was loud and lovely: When do want action? NOW! When's the time for climate action: Now!"

Sixteen-year-old Stella Rees from Year 12 pushed herself well outside her comfort zone in becoming one of the main organisers of today's event, stepping up and speaking out at school assembly, on the radio, and in Maam Gaduying Park.

"I'm a little bit shy, it's hard for me to get up on stage and speak. But it's something I'm passionate about," she said.

She said what has impelled her is a growing frustration with the lack of care and cowardly attitude displayed by our politicians, those who should be taking the hard decisions.

"One of them was talking about how it's an ideology. But there's all this science to back it up. It's happening all around us, there are droughts, there are floods, there are heatwaves. There are people dying in India because their bodies just can't handle the heat," she said.

She's incredulous that the Adani mine is touted as an important source of jobs, when the Great Barrier Reef, which is dying, provides massively more. 

"Climate change needs to be addressed, we can't put it off any longer. We're not putting enough money, enough energy and enough care into this."

Sue Lennox from OzGREEN also addressed the crowd. "It's so cool to look out and see a sea of young faces," she said. "Congratulations for walking out and being here and making a statement."

Sue said the three main drivers of the climate change crisis were firstly, that there are too many human beings; secondly, that we are consuming too much (the equivalent of 1.7 planets, and if everyone lived like Australians do, we'd need five planets) and thirdly, that our economic system is geared towards infinite growth but our planetary resources are finite.

Ben Ferris, who is running around Australia in thongs fundraising for @DroughtAngels, happened to be passing through Bellingen and also came up on stage to tell the students to "Keep up the good fight, after all, it's your future at stake."

A series of young people, including Youth Leading the World ambassadors and Bellingen High captains Nadia Birch and Tomas Pocilujko, stepped up to the microphone to say a few heartfelt words.

All the students present were then asked to come to the front and face the crowd to have their photo taken, and someone in the audience captured the mood perfectly by calling out to them: "We love you and we are so proud of you!"