‘Quiet Australians’ organise for climate action

A climate emergency rally in Parramatta on February 25. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

Western Sydney residents — so-called “quiet Australians” — took to the streets again on February 25 to demand action to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

This was the second climate rally in as many months, bringing together an all-ages crowd of 200. In January, at the height of the bushfire crisis, 700 people marched down Parramatta's Church Street mall.

The protest was organised by Extinction Rebellion Western Sydney, Parramatta Climate Action Network (ParraCAN) and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition Western Sydney (AYCC WS).

Darug elders Uncle Greg Simms, Jie Pittman and Uncle Chris Tobin gave the Welcome to Country.

Speakers from AYCC WS, School Strike 4 Climate, Labor Environment Action Network (LEAN), ParraCAN and Cool Down Western Sydney all called for swift action.

Maritime Union of Australia Sydney branch secretary Paul MacAleer sent a solidarity message, while Aria-nominated hip hop artist L-Fresh the LION spoke and performed and the Black Throated Finches taught the crowd protest songs.

Cool Down Western Sydney’s Emma McKenna recounted how she and others formed the group after the 2019 federal election to pressure Blacktown City Council “to declare a climate emergency and commit to more ambitious emissions reduction and renewable energy targets”.

McKenna said she was hopeful that the climate emergency motion would pass. It did, by 8 votes to 5, on February 26.

“Critics say declaring a climate emergency is an empty, symbolic gesture but this could not be further from the truth”, she said.

“This movement is rooted in the global need and desire for urgent action from all levels of government to address the climate crisis.

“It is only once we acknowledge the full scale of this crisis and name it as such — only then can we take the necessary action at the speed and scope required to avoid complete ecological breakdown.”

McKenna said that climate action is growing in the west, “an area that has previously been silent”.

“No longer can politicians point to the working class or the ‘quiet Australians’ in Western Sydney to excuse their inaction on the climate.

“We in Western Sydney stand by the inner-city ‘latte swillers’. We stand by the farmers who have done it so tough through the drought. We stand by the communities all over New South Wales and wider Australia who have been devastated by the fires.

"And we stand by the coal mining communities who deserve a just transition away from an industry that investors are already withdrawing from rapidly.

“Call the climate emergency what it is or the ‘quiet Australians’ will keep getting louder!,” she concluded.

[Susan Price is a member of Extinction Rebellion Western Sydney.]