About 100 students from universities across Australia and New Zealand shared campaign stories and made plans for the year ahead at the Fossil Free Convergence in the Blue Mountains in NSW over March 10–13.
Organised by 350.org, the convergence brought together fossil fuel divestment groups from universities across Australia and New Zealand, including the Australian National University, University of Auckland, University of Queensland, Melbourne University, RMIT, University of Newcastle and University of New South Wales — which brought 25–30 people to the conference.
Campus groups started planning actions for the global divestment week, May 5–13. Some groups are aiming to have university faculties and student clubs declaring their support for a fossil free campus.
Becca Rast, a 350.org coordinator in the United States skyped in to the convergence and spoke about how the campus divestment campaign in the US is becoming more political since Donald Trump came to power.
Workshops included skills-based training such as creating narratives for campus campaigns, facilitation, understanding power, organising strategies and NVDA theory among others.
One workshop involved writing your own climate activist story, because personal stories can be more engaging than facts and figures.
There was space for networking between the groups and national hubs were formed around communications, research, community organising and actions.
There was discussion about strategies to recruit and train people, as well as focusing campaigns on the fossil fuel industry as opposed to just campuses.
There was screening of The Bentley Effect, a film that portrayed the fight against fracking in the Northern Rivers and the community campaign that culminated in the Bentley blockade.
It was the first national gathering for the campaign in Australia and builds on the campus actions last year that saw students participate in protests and occupations at their universities. It bodes well for campus divestment actions and laid the foundations for stronger national links between the various groups.