I Took the Kid to

Students’ Strike for Climate

It feels merely years ago that I graduated high school, headed off to uni, did some travel, and was ready to change the world. But it was 17 years ago.

My generation was going to do the fixing. We would be so well informed, so conscientious. We would wrestle the power from the older generation because we knew what was at stake. Now I’m 34. My generation are not in power yet. We are the generation of workers, fathers and mothers. There’s so much work to do. Women of my generation are still busting our guts for equality, and still being killed by our partners weekly. Our Indigenous brothers and sisters are still far worse off than us, and their children less educated and more incarcerated. We are nowhere near being in control of the world; nowhere near wrestling the country from the hands of the middle aged white males who still rule.

So, as a teacher, and a mother, I am buoyed by the actions of students this week. I mean, my generation aren’t doing anything to fix the world, so I sure as hell support them in their endeavours.

With my daughter in childcare, my 8 month old son and I set off for Geelong town. We didn’t make it in time to meet the crew at Richard Marles’ office (damn!) and, knowing the strikers were heading off to the Town Hall at 10am, at 10:08 we were power pram walking up the wrong street (oops), chasing protesters we couldn’t see. When we turned up towards the Town Hall, sweat dripping off my brow and the only activist t-shirt I could find (Girls Just Wanna Have FunDAMENTAL RIGHTS) sticking to my back, we had the strikers in sight. A public servant offered me a “Good morning!” as I pushed my ridiculously heavy infant up the hill towards the flashing police lights and the sounds of some good in-unison chanting.

When I was in Year 10, I participated in the Walk for Reconciliation and when I was 18, I walked in protest of the Iraq war. In the year 2000, my Japanese teacher quietly divulged to us that she wasn’t sick one day – she was off in the city protesting the tax being placed on sanitary items. She was/is still my hero.

These children that my son and I went to support were striking FOR THEIR LIVES. This is their planet, their climate, their livelihood. We listened, happily, inspired to their speeches – one by one, student by student, they got up and explained to the crowd their fears and dreams. From the mouth of a 14 year old, a famous quote: “When the leaders are acting like children, and the children like leaders… you know change is coming.” The moment was lost when a state Upper House member got a hold of the microphone and started banging on about how important it was that students took the situation out of the hands of the 50 year old men in charge… like him. The crowd were confused about whether to applaud or not. “SO WHAT ARE YOU DOING ABOUT IT??!?” someone yelled from the back. He went into some political campaign rambling. “GIVE IT BACK TO THE STUDENTS!!!” He  acquiesced, to all our relief.

The students break into music and dance. My son bobs around in my arms. So many faces, so much passion. “Maybe it will all be okay?” I look for hope in his little face. He blows a raspberry in agreement.

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Australia… I thought we were mates

I find Australia sitting alone in the corner of the playground.

“Oi! Australia! What are you doing over here by yourself?”

Australia looks up from his book. “Ohhh, nuthin.”

“Where are your friends?”

Australia scratches at the ground with a stick. “Dunno.”

“What!? Where’s Indonesia? Weren’t you guys hanging out?”

“Nah, well, Nezzy found out I had hacked her Facebook account ‘n’ stuff…”

“Ha? Why did you do that?”

“Thought I’d find some stuff out that would make us better friends.” Australia smiles up at me, honestly as though that makes sense. “Hmmm, right.” I look around the playground.

I see Sri Lanka chasing after some kids with a stick in each hand.

“SRI LANKA! STOP THAT NOW!”

I look back down at Australia, “Hey, Ozzie – maybe you could let those guys getting chased come and sit with you here? Whadya reckon?”

Australia looks up, squinting at the kids being chased by Sri Lanka. One of them falls over into the dirt, and is hit repeatedly with the sticks. Australia doesn’t flinch, just goes back to scratching in the dirt.

“Australia?”

“Nah, I don’t let anyone sit here unless they come through the obstacle course.” He motions to his right, without looking up. “And anyway, I gave Sri Lanka one of those sticks.”

“You gave Sri Lanka one of the sticks?”

“Yeah, Sri stops people jumping my queue to get to my obstacle course.”

“Your obsta – what?” I turn to where he has waved nonchalantly. There is a line of kids, queued single file, weaving a long line that disappears into nothingness on the horizon of the football oval. The first few – lucky as they are to be at the front – are sliding through barrels, wading through mud, jumping hurdles, crawling through nets…

“WHAT – AUSTRALIA! You used to be nice to the other kids! You used to give them lunch money when they were poor, and welcome them into your little nook here! What changed??”

“I’ve grown up Miss. I’ve changed. I need to look after myself.”

“But… all those kids you used to help, they helped build – all of this – ” I gesture to Australia’s area, which really, now that I look at it, is quite a nice little place. And spacious. “And you have so much room!”

Australia looks around and shrugs. “I can’t let them all in. They’ll take over.” He looks off into the distance.

I am distracted by some commotion behind me, and the sound of splashing.

“BRITAIN! What are you doing? Are you okay!?” I can see Britain trying to pull flailing bodies out of the swimming pool. Some other kids run over and start pulling out the drowning kids. “Australia, go help Britain.”

Australia looks over thoughtfully at Britain and the others at the pool. After a few seconds he speaks. “Britain’s not talking to me.”

“What? Why’s that?”

“Ohhh he got angry coz I didn’t back him up when he was telling off Sri Lanka for beating up people with sticks. And coz I gave Sri the stick…”

There is more splashing and screaming behind me and I can see that Tuvalu is the first to go under fully, the top of her head disappearing under the water. “Ozzie come ON! They’re drowning in the pool!

Australia looks at me blankly, and then after a few seconds laughs – an off-putting element of hysteria in his voice. “Miss, we don’t have a pool!

I look at Australia. And then to the queue that stretches to the horizon. And to the bullies chasing kids with sticks, and that damned obstacle course – the gateway to a yard of freedom.  And then at the kids drowning in the pool.

I look back at Australia.

“Who are you?”