In a passionate display of youth activism, a group of high school students from School Strike for Climate in Brisbane has been holding a marathon “study-in” outside the Queensland Parliament House since 23 October.

They are demanding more robust action on climate change and calling for support for the Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Equity) Bill 2023. [i]

These dedicated students plan to remain camped out until 14 November, drawing attention to the urgent need for political action to combat the climate crisis.

The central focus of their protest is the Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Climate Equity) Bill, introduced by Independent Senator for the ACT, David Pocock. The proposed legislation seeks to amend the Climate Change Act 2022, to compel decision-makers to consider the health and well-being of Australia’s children when making significant decisions. It also requires decision-makers to refrain from approving projects related to the exploration or extraction of coal, oil, or natural gas if they pose a substantial risk of harm to the well-being of children in Australia.

The Senate has referred the Bill to the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee for inquiry and report, with a submission deadline set for 23 November 2023. The students, who have created a makeshift study hub at their protest site, are actively encouraging the public to participate in the submission process to help raise awareness about the importance of this Bill.

Three students. Kaira, Ben and Thia sitting at a desk under a shelters and looking at a lap top.
Kaira, Ben and Thea

One of the participating students, Ben, who is simultaneously studying for physics exams, voiced frustrations at the government’s continued approval of coal and gas projects.

“I’m doing my duty by caring about my education and my future. But the Federal Parliament isn’t caring about my future because they continue to approve coal and gas mines, which directly harm my health and the health of future generations.”

While their primary target is the Federal Government, the students selected Queensland Parliament House as their venue for the study-in due to its political significance. Another group of students is conducting a similar protest outside Parliament House in Adelaide.

Of Queensland’s 93 members of Parliament, only its two Greens MPs have come out to interact with the students. The young activists, however, are determined to broaden their reach. They are calling on all who support the Bill to contact their local Federal MPs or, if their local member is already in favour of the Bill, to write to Queensland Senators or government members of Parliament. They hope to demonstrate broad community support for this critical legislation.

Kaira, one of the students involved, spoke about her experiences of climate change impacts and how they have motivated her to act.

“I grew up in a different country where the climate has already been severely affected by global warming. You can’t go outside. Most kids have asthma. I have asthma from the pollution. And when I came to Australia for a better future, I was incredibly disappointed to see Australia moving in the same direction. It’s appalling that politicians don’t represent our generation.”

For these students, climate change is not just an abstract concept but a harsh reality they have witnessed. They pointed to recent bushfires and flooding incidents that have disrupted their lives and made it difficult to study and attend school.

The group argues that these extreme weather events, fuelled by climate change, cost the government significant resources and, more importantly, human lives.

“I think the really cool thing about the Duty of Care Bill is a duty of care to prevent damage. People have died in the last few weeks from the fires and there are a lot of people injured as well. We can’t legally hold anyone accountable for that now, which is awful when it comes from decisions to accelerate coal and gas projects,” Ben said.

Balancing their academic responsibilities with activism has been a challenging task for these students.

“We are trying to balance our school futures, as well as a future where we’re just simply trying to survive.”

Using the slogan ‘shift the power’ students are determined to send a clear message to politicians that climate change is not just an environmental issue but a matter of intergenerational equity and duty of care for their future. In its third week, their protest is a clear testament to the sense of urgency the student are experiencing in their battle against global warming.

The School Strike 4 Climate is planning rallies Australia-wide on 17 November 2023.

[i] See background past efforts to compel environment Minister to address Duty of Care


Submissions to the Senate Committee can be made HERE.

Senate Pocock’s petition is at link HERE.

All images by Jan Bowman. Cover image, Kaira, Ben and Thea.