Big crowd for climate action rally

By John Lewis

The streets of central Shepparton shook to the sound of drums, chants and a megaphone yesterday as placard-wielding marchers demanded action on climate change.

From 11am, more than 200 people gathered at the central podium in the mall to hear a number of speakers address the rally, co-organised by Wanganui Park Secondary College student Emily Minotti-Watson as part of the nationwide School Strike4Climate action.

A mixed crowd of adults and teenagers listened as student co-organiser Stirling McKenzie introduced young people to the podium to voice their concerns about climate change.

Ms Minotti-Watson said the action was not about skipping school.

“This is about climate justice and this is an emergency,” she said.

“Children like me are giving up their education to fight this because the adults running this world aren't smart enough to do it themselves,” Ms Minotti-Watson said.

The 15-year-old Year 10 student also addressed Greater Shepparton City councillors who were notably absent from the rally.

“To our local councillors, do not let this denial or your desire to win approval from climate deniers destroy our future,” Ms Minotti-Watson said.

Ms Minotti-Watson read out a message of support from students at Goulburn Valley Grammar School.

Shepparton ACE college student Zak Donaldson said the message of young people across the world was getting louder.

“This is not about eco-friendly light bulbs or electric cars. This is beyond that. If change is not made it will be too late,” he said.

Former Violet Town student Asha-Mae Chapman-Ralph, 17, said the evidence of climate change was clear.

“Climate change is on our doorstep. We have seen our family's dams dry up and our animals starve - we have to break the cycle of denial that has built up,” she said.

Goulburn Valley Environment Group committee member Louise Costa, in a passionate speech, derided the Australian Government for its lack of action.

“The glaciers are melting, the forests are burning, the seas are rising and they're not panicking. Shame on you Australia - climate change is a science not a religion,” Ms Costa said.

Protestors then marched along Fryers St to Wyndham St then down High St returning to the mall to chant and bang drums.

Yesterday's action coincided with similar protests across Australia which saw tens of thousands of people gather in more than 100 towns and cities to demand action on climate change.