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Striking for a better future

16 September 2019 at 8:33 am
Wendy Williams
Around the world millions of students are preparing to put down their pens and walk out of class to demand action on climate change. Daisy Jeffrey is one of those students. She is this week’s Changemaker.

Wendy Williams | 16 September 2019 at 8:33 am


Striking for a better future
16 September 2019 at 8:33 am

Around the world millions of students are preparing to put down their pens and walk out of class to demand action on climate change. Daisy Jeffrey is one of those students. She is this week’s Changemaker.

17-year-old Sydney student Daisy Jeffrey is one of the lead organisers of the School Strike For Climate (SS4C) here in Australia.

The School Strike For Climate is an international movement of school students, most of whom have never met in person, but who have been united over a concern for our planet. 

Inspired by Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg, who staged a protest in August 2018 outside the Swedish Riksdag, the movement has grown to become the biggest ever global climate action. 

There are now more than 2,500 strikes planned across 120 countries this Friday – three days before world leaders meet in New York for the United Nations Emergency Climate Summit.

Students across Australia – in every capital city and in dozens of regional towns and centres  – will be joined by workers, First Nations people, parents, unions and more at strikes. 

In Australia the grassroots movement is calling for three things:

  1. No new coal, oil and gas projects, including the Adani mine.
  2. 100 per cent renewable energy generation and exports by 2030.
  3. Fund a just transition and job creation for all fossil-fuel workers and communities.

Organisers say everyone is invited. Everyone is needed.

Ahead of this week’s climate strike, Jeffrey talks to Pro Bono News about her decision to strike, why students have been forced into taking action, and how people can get involved.


How did you get involved with the SS4C?

I found out about it maybe a week before it happened and I didn’t realise that you could get involved online. So I brought about half my school. My school has only got 160 kids, but I brought along quite a few kids to the strike. And then I got put in touch by someone who knew the main organiser for Sydney at that stage. So I became involved on the day. And then a week later, I ended up speaking at this massive Stop Adani rally at the town hall. So it’s just been a pretty insane rollercoaster.

What has it been like to go from being a Year 11 student focused on your studies to being thrust to the front of a movement?

Well, for me, and I think you’d get the same response from a lot of kids who are in the strike movement, it felt terrifying before, like I was suffocating, not being able to do anything or not feeling like I had any power over my own future or what the lives of future generations were going to look like. 

To have the chance to get involved and actually fight for a better future has been time consuming and difficult, but it just feels like some of that stress has been slightly alleviated.

And how are you finding balancing studying and being involved in the strike?

It’s really difficult! And particularly when it’s such an important cause, you kind of feel like you want to be around all hours of the night to make sure that everything is being handled correctly. But I survive on coffee.

What does your role look like in organising SS4C?

So what we have at this point, at least here in Sydney, and I think Melbourne and Adelaide have similar systems, is a main communication system. We’re about to set up a real national structure. At the moment we have a national network. And basically everyone is on it, but only really lead representatives communicate on there. Then you have your core teams in your cities. And here in Sydney, we have a core team of about 10 people and then a broader Sydney team of about 50. That broader Sydney team was only put together a few weeks ago, and it was because we knew other kids were really interested in being involved and so we wanted to bring them into the movement and to give them that opportunity to actually learn about different forms of activism and leadership and how to handle interviews or generally doing posturing or social media and different ways of going about making a difference, and outreach. So that’s been a really interesting process in the lead up to the strike, putting that together.

And as far as actually putting together a strike, it just involves a whole lot of paperwork. Hours and hours of talking with the police, the council, and particularly with The Domain because it’s privately owned. So that’s probably the least fun part of it. 

Largely, the campaign is done through social media, when it comes to actually advertising the strike. And this time round, we’ve had a lot of communication with the unions surrounding our third demand, which is the demand for a just transition policy. So there’s been a lot of that and we’re hoping to get a strong union turnout on the day. 

It’s just been a really incredible process. And this time we’re also inviting adults to come out, not only in support of the youth, but in support of First Nations’ climate justice and worker’s rights as we transition to renewable energy.

What is it that you’d like to see?

I just want to see adequate climate action. That’s all we’re asking for.

At the moment, we have a deputy prime minister who has basically said that he doesn’t believe in climate change. We have a prime minister who’s going to be in New York but not going to the climate summit. And, it is so far below inadequate. It’s astounding.

So in Australia, we really have no choice other than to go out on strike, because we just need to see this action as soon as possible. We don’t have time to wait until the next election. And unfortunately, I don’t think Labor would have made much more of a difference, but I think they would have made a difference. And unfortunately, this government just does nothing. 

Why do you think it is important for students to be leading this movement?

We’ve taken the charge because it’s our future. To be honest, we’ve enjoyed the rallies and whatnot and we’ve enjoyed getting to know each other, but none of us want to be doing this. It’s something we feel like we’ve been forced into. We’re in a position where we have no alternative because the generations before us, particularly the older generations, have such a refusal to do anything. And our future is in the hands of a small number of massive corporations and governments, and neither are really doing anything to combat climate change. 

How can people get involved and support you?

Get involved by finding us on social media. We’re pretty easy to find. And just send us a message, we’ll put you in touch with the relevant people and you can get involved. And if you don’t have the capacity to be at a strike, share it on social media with your friends, maybe do a little bit of posturing or just send an email around. 

Or even just lower your carbon footprint. Individual change is not going to solve the climate crisis, but it must come hand-in-hand with system change. And even making those small changes yourself and encouraging your friends and family to lower their carbon footprint is still making a difference. 

I feel like this is an overused line, but we don’t need one or two people doing things perfectly. We need billions of people doing things imperfectly. And that’s the only way we’re going to be able to make a difference.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Tough question! I suppose I’m quite into hanging out with people and Netflix. I’m your ordinary teen. This just happens to be taking up 100 per cent of my life at the moment.

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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