For many school students, Friday morning is a time that involves making lunch, checking that all homework is done and counting down until 3 pm when the weekend strikes. But for Fort Street High School student Jean Hinchliffe, it involves slotting in calls from journalists about her involvement in the upcoming #ClimateStrike all before she heads off to school.
Jean is one of the chief organisers of the upcoming school #ClimateStrike which will see Aussie students walk out of school today as a protest against government inaction on climate change. Jean, the organiser for the Sydney event, isn’t a stranger to activism, having already dipped her toe in the water for GETUP in the past.
“I got involved with some calling for the ‘Yes’ campaign, mainly calling people who would likely vote ‘yes’ and getting them to guarantee that they would actually vote,” She says. “From there I’ve done a lot of activism, so for younger people, it’s a lot easier than they expect, but a lot of younger people feel like it’s [activism] just for adults.”
It doesn’t matter what your age is if you want to get involved. Jean stresses that when it comes to taking a stand, she feels “confident because everyone who participates in activism is so encouraging. Getup gets quite a bit of hate from 60-year-old men saying that we’ve been brainwashed, but I actually find that really funny.”
For the young student, the strike next week is just one way to take concrete action against a sluggish government response to climate change initiatives, such as the Paris Agreement. “It’s difficult to tell when I got into caring about climate change…through primary school, I remember learning about it and hearing about it from then.” reflects Jean.
The strike itself follows the model of the #ClimateStrike demonstrations done by school students across Europe, and found its way to Victoria first. “The strike here was started by a couple of girls in Victoria, I got involved when the only event that was set up at the time was the Melbourne walk-out. I emailed straight away and offered to organise the Sydney event, now there are 27 events around the country.
“Now my friends all really wanted to get involved and to help out which is really great.” Just up and leaving school might sound like a rebellious punkish dream with small consequences to most kids, but it hasn’t been easy for all students.
“I haven’t had any trouble, most teachers have been really supportive,” says Jean. “However, I was chatting with a girl who’s organising the Perth event and her teachers said that she would be suspended if she took part in the strike.
“Shortly afterwards they said that because it was a good leadership opportunity, she could take part, but not tell any friends or promote it at all. Adults assume kids are only doing it to take the day off, but to be honest, that’s not what it is at all- we all really do care about these issues.”
#ClimateStrike takes place in schools across the country today. Find all the details here.