Thousands take to the streets of Perth over climate change

Massive crowds converged in Forrest Place on Friday for Perth’s student led climate change strike. While the event was organised and run by teenagers it found widespread support from businesses, union and adults as well.

An estimated crowd of over 10,000 people filled the city centre armed with placards and banners, individual groups showing support met in surrounding spaces for smaller rallies ahead of the main event.

In the Perth Cultural Centre artists and art companies gathered before marching through the train station to join the Forrest Place gathering. Opposite the Art Gallery of WA The Greens organised their forces.

In the crowded surroundings of Forrest Chase the audience heard the concerns of high schools students frustrated by government inaction, their speeches interspersed with musical performances.

“We know that we have to act now if we want to continue to live on this planet.” said one speaker, “We can’t continue to be unsustainable, digging up sacred land for consumer goods like there is no tomorrow. There is a tomorrow and it is ours.” one student speaker said.

Another speaker argued that climate change was not just a youth issue, but rather a subject affecting everyone.

“Climate change affects everyone, whether you’re a student, a parent, a teacher, a nurse, a politician, or a miner. We all need to take action and strike.”

Another speaker said government’s needed to stop looking at climate change as a problem of the future.

“For decades we’ve been saying we need to look at the future, well that future is here now. We see the effects of climate change every day and it is time to stand up to the interests of the fossil fuel industry, it is time for everyone to step up and demand climate action.”

Alongside the students there were speeches from representatives of indigenous groups and the Maritime Union – the union that represents oil and gas workers.

The activists had originally announced their plans to walk from Forrest Place to Elizabeth Quay via St George’s Terrace, a symbolic walk past some of the biggest energy companies on the terrace, however as the march approached St George’s Terrace the police blocked off the route directing the crowd to proceed directly to Elizabeth Quay.

The organisers encouraged the crowd to sit down, delaying their progression down William Street. After a 5-minute pause slowly the procession moved forward, but after a hundred metres they stage a second sit in.

The march caused city traffic to be redirected around the city centre, the decision to shorten the march route potentially doubled the amount of time it took the crowd to make the journey.

Once assembled in Elizabeth Quay participants heard a second round of speeches encouraging them to take further action on climate change.

The event in Perth was one of ten strike actions that took place around the state, and around the country massive crowds were reported. In Sydney the crowd was measured at 50,000 people, while in Melbourne 100,000 people reportedly took to the streets.

It is estimated the school children in over 150 countries took part in the global action. The protests come just days ahead of a global climate summit at the United Nations.

UN Secretary General António Guterres has stressed that countries need to bring real proposals to the table such as halting the building of new coal based power stations, and realistic targets for achieving zero net emissions.

OIP Staff

Note:  Speirins Media, the publisher of OUTinPerth is a signatory to the WA Arts Workers Declaration of a climate emergency. OUTinPerth editor Graeme Watson spoke at the Arts Workers Gathering as a representative of community radio station RTRFM 92.1.