Local residents and climate activists, including a large contingent of young people, marched through Parramatta on January 14 calling for serious action on climate change.
Rally co-organiser Katrina James told the 600-strong crowd: “It’s really heartening to see young people have turned out to really have their voices heard."
"I was told there was nothing I could do about [climate change] and that I had to wait for the government to fix it”, Australian Youth Climate Coalition representative Jean told the rally. “As a younger person in an adult world we don't have to be powerless, there is so much we can do.”
The rally was organised by Parramatta Climate Action Network and Extinction Rebellion Western Sydney to demand funding for firefighters, emergency support for fire-affected communities, protection of waterways and for local councils in Sydney’s west to declare a climate emergency.
More than 200 people signed a petition on the day calling on Parramatta City Council to declare a climate emergency.
Addressing protesters, Parramatta Greens councillor Phil Bradley said: “The eastern district of Sydney had six days hotter than 35°C – at the same time Parramatta had 19 such days and, much worse, Penrith had more than six times as many days above 35°C, with 37 extremely hot days.
“This is just a taste of what we face in Western Sydney if we are abandoned by governments through lack of strong climate action.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has continued to dismiss criticisms of his government’s handling of the bushfire crisis, telling 2GB radio on January 10: “We don’t want job-destroying, economy-destroying, economy-wrecking targets and goals, which won’t change the fact that there have been bushfires or anything like that in Australia.”
But while Morrison focuses on spin and “downplaying the links between the bushfire crisis and climate change, communities and fire services at the forefront of these disasters are dealing with the consequences of government inaction,” rally co-organiser Susan Price told Green Left.
Regions that have borne the brunt of the bushfire disaster are having to confront the poor allocation of resources that has left fire services “with aging equipment and substandard personal protective equipment,” firefighter Shaun McDonald told GL.
Meanwhile, the Australian Financial Review reported on January 10 that cuts are expected to the NSW and Victorian disaster recovery funds.
McDonald said: “I don’t think the government has a clue what we’re going through … [and] we… need to make sure the[y] ... account for its failure”
Speaking to GL at the rally, Lev said: “The government needs to recognise that trying to salvage their own arse from the disaster isn't helping anyone. They need to let those who are helping do their job by giving them the necessary funds.”
Price told the crowd that “strength in numbers” is not just a cliche but a necessity: “It’s this kind of coalition building that we’re going to need if we’re going to make the change we know is necessary.
“We need to take all opportunities to work together to build a bigger, deeper, broader [climate] movement.”