More teachers’ unions, Uniting Church back student climate strikers

August 26, 2019
A School Strike 4 Climate rally in Sydney on November 30, 2018. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

The student-initiated Climate Strike, which will take place across Australia on September 20, continues to gain support from teachers’ unions and a church that has endorsed students and staff from its schools joining the protests.

The globally-coordinated strike is demanding governments take action on climate, just days out from a United Nations Emergency Climate Summit in New York.  

This month, the NSW Teachers Federation and Independent Education Union of Australia (IEUA) NSW/ACT joined the Queensland Teachers' Union and Australian Education Union Victorian branch in voting to support the strike.

Similiarly, the NSW and ACT Synods of the Uniting Church, which runs several schools and an advocacy organisation, passed a resolution endorsing its 10,000 students and 8000 staff skipping school or work to attend the Climate Strike. It is encouraging its 50,000 members to do the same.

The NSW Teachers Federation, which covers staff in public schools, passed a motion at its August council meeting, which reads: “Climate change is one of the most critical issues facing Australia and the world. Our children and future generations face a grim future unless action is taken to reduce carbon emissions now... 

“The global Climate Strike on September 20 is an opportunity to put action on climate change front and centre of the political debate and bring together a united cross-section of our society to protect and defend the environment and work to ensure the viability of future generations in terms of sustainable food and water, health, education, housing and secure employment. 

“Federation acknowledges that the global student climate protest is a movement generated from the determined activism of students but welcomes the call for adult action and the call to join a union.”

The motion calls on the government to move towards publicly-owned 100% renewable energy by 2030, a just transition to green jobs and no new fossil fuels.

It also commits the union to publicising the strike, encourages workplaces to hold meetings on the day to pass motions on climate change, and urges “members to encourage their family and friends to become involved”.

Private and religious school teachers passed a resolution at the IEUA NSW/ACT council meeting, which recognises “climate change is a global emergency representing an existential threat” that will “disproportionately affect working people and already disadvantaged communities and members of society".

The motion also expresses the union’s “solidarity with students who are engaged in taking action on Friday September 20” and states that members “will support students where it is safe, appropriate and ethical to do so”.

Among the ways outlined in the motion that such support can be expressed are: posts on social media; investigating if schools are sending students to the strike so that staff can accompany them as part of their duties; having a visible union presence at the strike; and passing motions at lunchtime meetings.

Speaking about his church's decision to back the protest, Uniting Church Reverend Simon Hansford said it needs to back the initiatives of its youth "and that includes support of the global climate strikes,'' according to the August 26 Sydney Morning Herald.

Hansford added: "The potency of the resolution for us is that we are responding to the initiative of young people.”

This is a "crisis confronting the planet and our young people are calling our attention to it again," he said.

"It’s their future that is at stake and their protests are genuine and informed and should not be ignored."

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