Activism isn’t a co-curricular activity – a photo essay

Six photos that captured the passion and anger of the 2021 School Strike 4 Climate in Melbourne


“What we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools.”
– Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia


Calm before the storm: Two students arrive at the rally in Melbourne with a clear and colourful message for the Prime Minister. 50,000 students attended the School Strike 4 Climate rallies around Australia on 21 May 2021. The School Strike for Climate (‘SS4C’) rallies in Australia were started in 2018 by a group of students inspired by Greta Thunberg’s weekly protests outside Swedish parliament.
Rallying the troops: Student, and prominent 16-year-old strike organiser Anj Sharma (right) with 14-year-old Ella Simons, addresses the crowd. The students made three clear demands. First, they want no new coal, oil or gas projects started in Australia. This includes the Adani mine. Secondly, they demand 100% renewable energy generation and exports by the year 2030. Thirdly, they want the Government to fund the transition of fossil-fuel workers and communities to new sectors.
World first: School Strike 4 Climate lead organisers Ella Simons and Anj Sharma, who raises her fist in the air as the march gets underway. Anj is one of eight students who, with the help of Sister Brigid Arthur, recently took Environment Minister Sussan Ley to the Federal Court of Australia. In the week following the rally the Court found the Minister has a duty of care to protect young people from the impacts of the climate crisis. It was a world first
A fight for young and old: The strike has attracted support from an unlikely coalition of NGOs, business groups and political groups. Support has also come from different corners of Australian society, as well as attracting curious onlookers.
Seen and heard: When the 2018 strikes first started in Australia the Prime Minister said students should go to school and that he did not support schools being turned into parliaments. “What we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools,” he said. Many have claimed these comments galvanised the movement.
We’re just getting started: Since 2018, the movement has grown from strength to strength both in Australia and around the world. For many students protesting isn’t a co-curricular activity, it’s mandatory, because their very futures are at stake.

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