Brisbane student strike draws huge crowd


Mary MacKillop College students at the Brisbane Strike 4 the Climate. Photo by Trina McLellan

WITH calls for climate change action ramping up around the globe, citizens, activists and school children joined forces around the world on Friday, September 20, 2019.

They left their homes, workplaces and schools to rally on the same day as others did right around the world, calling on political leaders to respond to climate change before it becomes irreversible.

In Brisbane, a team from The Argus was on hand to document the well-behaved but vocal crowd of students, parents, grandparents, Indigenous, unionists, activists and onlookers that was said by organisers to top 30,000.

That was three times the number who attended Brisbane’s first School Strike for Climate event in March and far more than could be accommodated in the Queens Gardens.

Child holds a placard aloft reading: My future depends on you. The time to act is now.
A small child perched on her parent’s shoulders to get her message across at the second Student Strike for Climate protest.
Photo by Stephanie Spencer / The Argus

So the excess spilled out down George Street to Queen Street and towards the Victoria Bridge, which the crowd later crossed to spend time at Musgrave Park in West End.

But it was at 1pm – in the presence of Queen Victoria’s statue in her eponymously named gardens – that the latest event began with a warmly received Indigenous Welcome to Country by Aunty Deb Sandy.

Hosted by two 17-year-old Kenmore State High School Students, Megan Gardner and Sara McKay, the event drew huge cheers from an enthusiastic crowd as the succession of school students addressed the throng, telling them they wanted the Federal Government to commit to:
• No new coal, oil or gas projects
• 100 per cent renewable energy generation and exports by 2030
• Funding for “a just transition and job creation for all fossil-fuel industry workers and communities”.

The impressive young speakers included:
India Owen, 17, a proud Butchilla student from Rosedale State School in Agnes Water
Sunny, a schoolgirl aged 11, from West End State School in Brisbane
Parker, a 10-year-old slam poet from Annerley, Brisbane.

Electrical Trades Union state assistant secretary Stuart Traill also spoke, congratulating the students and calling for a fair transition for workers and to ensure renewable energy production remained publicly owned.

The Greens Senator, Larissa Waters, holding a poster that says: No economy on a dead planet
Greens senator Larissa Waters after speakers addressed the Brisbane School Strike for Climate as the crowd began its march to Musgrave Park. Photo by Trina McLellan / The Argus

Speaking to The Argus’ Trina McLellan at the conclusion of the Queens Garden activities, Greens senator Larissa Waters took aim at her Canberra peers.

Proceedings had lasted less than 45 minutes before the chanting crowd departed for Musgrave Park in Brisbane’s West End.

There over the following 90 minutes the students, citizens and activists heard from Indigenous man Adrian Burragubba, Pacific Climate Warriors’ Lisa Viliamu and Lisa Baker, 5th generation Darling Downs farmer and grazier Sid Plant, poetry competition winner Morgan Gilbert and Shadow Hunters star Luke Baines.

Those who made it to Musgrave Park were also entertained by Crown, the Kenmore State High School band, before the event closed at 4pm.

And Brisbane was far from alone in turning out on September 20.

Around Australia there were similar ‘strikes’ in every capital city plus 104 regional towns, with estimates of attendance topping 300,000.

Toddler carrying a flyer from a local activist group at the Brisbane school strike for the climate
Parents brought their toddlers to Brisbane’s Queens Gardens for the Student Strike for Climate. Photo by Celina Rigby / The Argus

Their powerful message, along with the rest of the world, was that political leaders need to act and they need to act now.

And their global call for climate action came just three days ahead of the United Nation’s Emergency Climate Summit, so even recalcitrant politicians should have been watching the turnout closely.

Climate change is the defining issue of our time and now is the defining moment to do something about it.
There is still time to tackle climate change, but it will require an unprecedented effort from all sectors of society.
To boost ambition and accelerate actions to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, UN Secretary-General António Guterres is asking leaders, from government, business and civil society, to come to the 2019 Climate Action Summit on 23 September with plans to address the global climate emergency.
The Summit will spark the transformation that is urgently needed and propel action that will benefit everyone.


Where did this protest movement begin, why are school children involved and how is it growing at a grass-roots level?

The Argus’ Ricco Caiulo went behind the scenes in the weeks leading up to the September 20 rally.


The Argus ( is a photojournalism and photography student publication by the
inaugural 3852QCA Transmedia Storytelling class at Griffith University’s Queensland College of Art.
The publication’s co-executive editors are Trina McLellan and Dr Heather Faulkner.


Want to read more?
The original version of this story is one of 30 in the special online Climate Change edition
of The Argus that was compiled by Queensland College of Art students.