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The mums and dads behind Australia’s climate action plan

8 April 2022 at 4:51 pm
Maggie Coggan
Suzie Brown is the non-executive director of Australian Parents for Climate Action, an organisation supporting parents across the country to fight for a safe climate future for their kids. She’s this week’s Changemaker. 

Maggie Coggan | 8 April 2022 at 4:51 pm


The mums and dads behind Australia’s climate action plan
8 April 2022 at 4:51 pm

Suzie Brown is the non-executive director of Australian Parents for Climate Action, an organisation supporting parents across the country to fight for a safe climate future for their kids. She’s this week’s Changemaker. 

According to the world’s top climate scientists, it will take “transformational change” in every sector in every region of the world to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees celsius. 

If action isn’t taken, the world that Suzie Brown’s six-year-old daughter Lila lives in, could be nearly unrecognisable. 

It was this climate anxiety that led Brown and a small group of volunteer mums to step up and call for climate action in 2019. 

This small group has now transformed into a powerful force for change. The group has over 15,000 supporters from across the political spectrum, in every Australian electorate, and from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. It also has volunteers in every state and over $71 million in public funding committed to climate solutions in schools. 

Australian Parents for Climate Action is seeking non-partisan responses from government and business to climate change and its impacts, such as commitments to a 75 per cent emissions reductions on 2005 levels by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2035, and halting any new fossil fuel projects, including stopping the Adani coal mine. 

Her leadership is informed by a 20-year career in environmental education, policy and advocacy with NFPs, and local and state government. Brown also teaches mindfulness meditation to help Australians to feel less stressed. 

For her efforts, she was named as one of this year’s Pro Bono Australia Impact 25 Award winners. 

In this week’s Changemaker, she discusses the impact Australian Parents for Climate Action is having on climate action, why you shouldn’t ever be afraid to speak out, and how working in this space has changed the way she sees the world.   

How did you get into the job you’re in now? 

Referring to my role as CEO of Australian Parents for Climate Action, I founded the organisation. I was inspired by the School Strikers to start a group for parents in 2019 and it just took off. It grew rapidly and we got some grant funding, and I was able to be employed as CEO to lead the organisation in its initial rapid growth. In mid-2021 I stepped back from the CEO role to be on the board, and we employed a new CEO.

What kind of impact are you trying to achieve through Australian Parents for Climate Action? 

Australian Parents for Climate Action was formed for two main reasons: to be a support for parents who are fearful for their children’s future; and to get parents together to be a strong voice for making change towards a safe climate. We need to stabilise the climate in order for our children to live a long, healthy life. As a collective of parents in every federal electorate of Australia, we are working to ensure our elected governments hear us and act on climate, the most urgent issue of our times.

How do you manage challenges in your work? 

We have had COVID lockdowns and challenges almost the whole time we have been growing the organisation. As a largely online group, we were able to keep operating. But lockdowns took a huge toll on our staff and members as we were all required to homeschool our children. The way we deal with this (and other) challenges is to try and be realistic about what work we can do, and give our parent-members a break when they need it. We plan around school holidays so that parents can take a break with their kids. 

Did you think 10 years ago that this is the job you’d have today?

No, I never thought I would be doing this! I had worked in environmental advocacy groups before, such as the Australian Conservation Foundation, but I never thought I would branch out on my own and start my own group. With the climate crisis worsening however, I knew that I had to do something I can’t just stay quiet when my daughter’s future is under threat. 

What advice do you have for others wanting to make a change in the world? 

Don’t stay quiet. Come out and start speaking to our leaders, and get others who agree with you to join you. We need people all over the world to stand up and do something in the face of the climate threat. By staying silent, we have allowed fossil fuel companies and the elected officials they donate to, to determine our future. We need to all stand up and be heard so that it’s the people of Australia’s best interests that are the basis for decision making in all our governments. 

How has your work changed the way you see the world? 

I feel encouraged by the courageous parents who have stepped forward to be heard in the media, writing letters or meeting with MPs and ministers, and at public events. Many of our members had never done advocacy before and it takes guts to speak out. So I feel inspired that there are people willing to step out of their comfort zone and speak up.

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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