Students dream in green

Anne Simmons

A chanting plea for climate justice “now!” came from the mouths of about 80 Gippsland high school students at Federation University Churchill’s outdoor amphitheatre yesterday.

Better recycling practices, more solar power and LED lighting were some of the ideas local teenagers shared at the Australian Youth Climate Coalition event to help lower the environmental footprint of their school.

Trafalgar High School and Kurnai College were two of seven schools to attend the Climate Justice Youth Parliament.

“For the young people of the Latrobe Valley I think transition isn’t a scary word,” Australian Youth Climate Coalition director of organising Laura Melville said.

“Transition has to happen away from the fossil fuel industry. It’s just whether or not their voices are heard and whether it’s a just transition is what they’re concerned about.”

The organisation has introduced students to local environmentally-conscious organisations in the region such as Earthworker Cooperative and given students skills in how to start petitions and speak to the powers that be to actually turn ideas into actions.

Trafalgar High School year 9 student Jesse Soppe Harris is seeking to establish a ‘green team’ at his school to help ideas get off the ground.

“We plan to motivate people to begin using the rubbish bins more,” Jesse, 14, said.

He said the green team would come up with ideas to help the school save money which could be spent on “better things, like gardens”.

“Gardens could offer the school better education … considering the farmer crisis going on now. So if people wanted to become agriculturalists they could have a sort of a head start by learning how to do farming early on,” Jesse said.

Jesse said he could picture the Latrobe Valley as a place which produced renewable energy.

“We’ve made it this far using coal and it’s been over a year since the Hazelwood factory shut down so we’ve obviously made it this far so what’s going to stop us now?” he said.