A school strike today has been organised by a network of adult activists from climate campaign organisations.
A school strike today promoted as a “student-led protest” by thousands of children skipping classes to attend climate change rallies around the nation has been organised by a network of adult activists from climate campaign organisations.
The primary backer of the planned student walkout called School Strike 4 Climate Action is the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, a non-profit company registered as a charity with an all-adult board and 68 adult staff.
The AYCC was set up a decade ago to mobilise young people on climate action by Anna Rose, an adult activist and the wife of former GetUp national director and Greens candidate Simon Sheikh.
Mr Sheikh was listed in the AYCC’s 2013 constitution as one of its 16 full members, along with Ms Rose, with voting rights to elect the group’s board.
The adult-controlled AYCC has extensive links to other climate action and anti-Adani groups with large campaign budgets, including the Sunrise Project, GetUp and Greenpeace.
Asked about adult activists helping to organise Friday’s strike while it was billed as student-led, AYCC national director Gemma Borgo-Caratti told The Australian that students taking part were “an inspiration” and the group was proud to support them as they fought for their future.
“It’s been so powerful to see parents, organisations, unions and people of all ages standing with them,” Ms Borgo-Caratti said. “Either you are with these students or you are standing on the wrong side of history.”
While Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian have urged students to attend school today NSW Labor leader Michael Daley backs the student walkout as the “right thing”, just a week before the NSW election.
Ms Borgo-Caratti said the AYCC, which received donations and grants totalling $2.8 million according to its last submitted financial report, was a “people-powered, people-funded” organisation. “Our supporters are people of all ages and backgrounds with a shared vision for a clean energy future,” she said.
As well as 68 adult staff, the AYCC says it has 850 volunteers aged 13 to 30.
The group runs a high school program called Switched on Schools, with student workshops and summits.
An AYCC spokeswoman said schoolchildren were “determining” the climate protest today, while confirming staff were “helping to organise and giving support” at the request of students. “Young people are passionate but they may not have really organised a big event before,” she said.
The contact number for inquiries about the strike by “children aged 5-18” is the AYCC.
Another key group helping with organisation is the recently formed Climate Leaders, which says it represents under-18s who cannot vote or run for public office.
Climate Leaders, which endorses political candidates such as Warringah independent Zali Steggall who “meet our criteria and prove, in an interview with us, that they have what it takes”, was co-founded by Christina McPhail.
Ms McPhail, a professional activist and the group’s chairwoman, said she had been working “full-time” in recent months on today’s school strike.
Other members of the all-adult Climate Leaders board include Django Merope Synge, a national campaigner for GetUp recently involved with Ms McPhail in the campaign to oust Tony Abbott at the expected May election, and Chris Cooper, a campaigner for GetUp offshoot group Purpose.
When students staged a sit-in at Parliament House in Canberra during their November strike, they were addressed by Greenpeace chief executive David Ritter, GetUp environmental justice campaign director Sam Regester and Sunrise executive director John Hepburn.
Children used as ‘pawns’: Cormann
Adult climate activists are “using” children as “pawns” for their own purposes by encouraging them to leave school to attend today’s environment strike, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has said.
“I think that most Australians would take a very cynical view of professional adult activists using and abusing kids for this purpose, for their purpose during school time. During school time kids should be at school,” he told Sky News.
“They should not be used as pawns by professional adult activists as part of a cynical political strategy.”
He called on those involved to send children back to school.
“It’s a free world and during their free time kids can pursue whatever agendas and issues they want to pursue,” he said.
“I call on all involved to ensure that kids, during the day, during school time attend school.”