By Dinusha Soo, Student Researcher for New Possibilities: Young People and Democratic Renewal
How are young people driving action for climate change? A crowd from different disciplines and generations came together at the Powerhouse Late: Climate event on 27 July 2023, to understand the impact of young people’s efforts.
Inspired by 100 Climate Conversations, the evening featured an electrifying performance by Betty Grumble, visual signage across three universities, including our very own Western Sydney University, workshops allowing people to pen their feelings and frustrations on climate change and most notably, a panel discussion that considered how the power of young people's visual language on placards at strikes, can help bring about action for climate change.
“Even though the student climate movement isn’t new, there’s been so little public engagement - and research into young people’s leadership of climate activism,” says Professor Philippa Collin, Young and Resilient Research Centre Co-Director.
The panel discussion held during the night helped to address this very issue. Taking research conducted as part of "New Possibilities: Young People and Democratic Renewal” into the sphere of the public forum, the panel members discussed how the research helps to understand young people and the ways they use visual language to express themselves.
The panel also spoke about the exciting juxtaposition between how students may represent themselves in a street setting versus in a more formal context like the Powerhouse Museum.
“For young people at the strikes, many who can’t vote, the strikes are a space for their political voice to be heard. But while the street protest can be considered a contested site by those in power, [in an exhibition setting], students can extend their messages in spaces where they will be listened to with greater attention,” says Dr Michelle Catanzaro from Western Sydney University.
The audience was given the chance to understand this differentiation further by viewing university student responses to the climate crisis and comparing this to the images presented in the panel discussion.
The night played homage to the importance of young voices in enacting action for climate change.
“Young people are at the forefront of issues, marching in the streets and volunteering for causes,” says Natasha Abayawickrama, Australian Youth Climate Coalition grassroots organiser and mentor.
The importance of centring young people’s voices was evident throughout the night, whether this was the children who earnestly drew posters during their workshop, penning their love letters to the environment, or whether it was by viewing university design students' compelling visuals.
It was evident to the audience that young people are central to bringing about action for climate change, and this was the perfect event to amplify their voices.