High school students oppose war
On high schools
across Australia, students are getting together to campaign against war
on Iraq. Green Left Weekly's BRONWYN POWELL spoke to JOCK PALFREEMAN,
a year 11 student at St Ignatius College (Riverview) and a Resistance member,
about the formation of the Riverview Student Peace and Unity Congress.
Why did you decide to start the Riverview Student Peace and Unity
A mate and I thought it would be a good time to start a group because
the issue of war is topical at school. There's a large majority against
the war, but still some people who support it. Most of the staff that I've
talked to support the anti-war movement. Having a group is a great way
to mobilise left-leaning students into action.
What are the aims of the group?
We want to get as many students in uniform to go to the anti-war rallies
as we can, and to have guest speakers at school to talk on hot-spot issues.
We've set up around the war against Iraq, but we intend to go beyond this
to campaigning around other issues as well. We want a group that can stay
active and protest after the war has been resolved, and survive after the
founders have left the school. We also want to work with other student
groups who have the same ideas as us, like the Fortians for Refugees at
Fort Street High School.
How did you go about setting up the group?
I organised with a few friends to meet to discuss setting up a group
and plan the first meeting. We downloaded from the Resistance web site,
some leaflets and information about the Books Not Bombs student strike
against war, which will happen on March 5.
So my friends met up, but it had got around by word of mouth that we
were meeting, and more and more people kept turning up! We went and printed
off more copies of the leaflet, and had to keep going to do more and more
as eventually about 60 people came. This was just within year 11 students.
We were more organised for the second meeting, and decided on a name,
logo and to go to the Walk Against War rally on February 16, together with
a banner for the group. We've also adopted a simple, half-page manifesto.
Was there opposition from the school?
We kept our plans private till we had a strong group, and now have permission
to wear school uniform at the Walk Against War rally. Teachers are important
allies because they're basically in charge of the school. We made a ruling
that teachers can join our meetings, but are not encouraged to say anything
so that we just have a student point of view. We're thinking of asking
the teachers' union about supporting the March 5 student strike and seeing
if students can go without problems from the teachers.
From Green Left Weekly, February 19, 2003.
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