The Students of Sustainability (SOS) conference 2015 attracted several hundred student environmental activists from around the country to discuss, educate, organise and exchange campaign experiences.
Held on Kaurna land at Flinders University, from July 8 to 12, the conference opened with a welcome to country from traditional owners, including Kaurna elder Aunty Georgina Williams Tambo Kartanya.
One of the strengths of the conference was that it included a number of presentations in plenaries and workshops by Aboriginal activists from around Australia and from West Papua, including Aunty Sue Coleman-Haseldine (Kokatha-Mula woman from Ceduna), Bogaine Spearim (Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance), Marianne Mackay (Nyoongar Tent Embassy) and Ronnie Kareni (West Papuan independence advocate). The opening plenary featured local Aboriginal custodians including Uncle Bunna Lawrie (Mirning Elder), Uncle Kevin Buzzacott (Arabunna Elder) from Lake Eyre and Karina Lester (Yankunytjatjara Anangu woman).
The conference also coincided with the final leg of the annual Radioactive Exposure Tour, organised by Friends of the Earth Melbourne. Participants from the tour, including members of the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (ANFA) were present at the conference.
This was particularly useful given the recent announcement by the South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill of a royal commission into the nuclear fuel chain. There is deep concern that this puts the prospect of radioactive waste dumping back on the agenda in SA.
Plenary sessions were held at the start of each day, featuring a range of activists from the grassroots environmental movement, indigenous activists, NGO campaigners and academics.
More than 90 workshops were included in the official program, plus dozens more organised in the Open Spaces sessions. The range of topics meant that campus activists could dip into a broad range of discussions as well as acquire new skills.
Informative sessions were held about the responses to attacks on Aboriginal communities and land rights, as well as the multiple threats from oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight, nuclear power and nuclear waste, coal mining and unconventional gas extraction.
A number of activist workshops were held around organising for renewable energy, fossil fuel divestment on University campuses, the need for collective organising and the need for system change to meet the challenge of capitalist environmental destruction.
Aside from ANFA, a number of other activist organisations and NGOs were represented at the conference, including the Australian Student Environment Network, Australian Youth Climate Coalition, The Wilderness Society, 350.org, Sea Shepherd, Climate Emergency Action Network of South Australia, Earthworker and the Socialist Alliance.
A protest action was held on the last day of the conference in the centre of Adelaide against uranium mining in the Murray River region and against community closures, attended by 100 to 120 conference participants and local activists.