Aimee Griffiths is a Year 12 student with three SACs coming up next week. At the time she met us at a cafe for an interview, she had one due the following day. She was literally on her way to the State Library to keep studying for the afternoon. With aspirations of studying human rights law, these deadlines have pretty major ramifications for her future. But on top of the stress and the study, there are other things keeping her up at night.
“As I grow up, because of climate change, there are going to be so many people who are displaced and impacted by incomprehensible circumstances that we can’t even imagine right now,” she said. It’s why she’s taken on a lot of work in organising the School Strike for Climate, coming up this Friday, May 21. “But the fact is, a lot of it is happening right now. The obvious impacts we’re seeing right now are increased natural disasters, droughts and bushfires and floods all in the one season.”
Aimee is half-Vietnamese, and moved to Melbourne when she was nine years old. This connection with South-East Asia fuels a lot of her anxieties.
“I want to move back home to Vietnam one day, but my city of Hanoi is predicted to be underwater by 2050. About fifty percent of Vietnam is predicted to be underwater. You already see it in the river deltas in the south. The flooding is getting worse every year.”
She says that people in South-East Asia understand climate change in a way that many Australians probably don’t. “I go back twice a year, except for last year obviously. My mum is still there and she always talks about the air pollution. She has asthma and sometimes she can’t go outside for weeks at a time. Those aren’t things we deal with a lot in Australia…” She pauses to think. “Except when we’re on fire.”
It’s not just fear that’s sparking her climate activism. It’s also anger. For Aimee, the School Strikes were such an important part of channelling her frustration at the government’s refusal to do anything on climate change. She hopes others have a similar experience to what she had at her first march, in 2019.
“I think that’s what’s so powerful about a student walk-out: you can go along with your friends and come in with no information, but then you’re standing there in the crowd and listening to these great speakers - students, farmers, Indigenous voices. That’s why we convene at Treasury Gardens first, to hear all those speeches and set the tone for why we’re here. And then we release that anger and frustration with the march itself.”
Since then, Aimee has propelled from participant to leader.
“We’ve been having in-person meetings every Sunday but then we have working groups throughout the week. I’m doing logistics and outreach. The real nitty-gritty stuff. Looking at prices for bulk-buying hand sanitiser and masks to take into account the COVID safety plan. That sort of thing.”
It’s a lot of work but the pay-off will be when thousands of students descend on the Melbourne CBD to demand action on climate change.
Aimee has also been doing union outreach. “We’ve got 23 unions to endorse us so far, which is amazing!” She thinks one of the reasons unions have been so supportive is the School Strike’s focus not just on moving away from fossil fuels, but on a just transition for doing so.
“You can’t just go from 100% fossil fuels and then straight to renewables. You need to invest in creating clean and sustainable jobs so that coal workers aren’t just suddenly unemployed. A just transition for all is so important, and we need to acknowledge that right now.”
“We strike next week to demonstrate the public will. We know the science and we know what we need to do. We know the solutions. So many other countries are doing it. We just need Scott Morrison and the Liberal Government to take initiative and set ambitious targets.”
When Aimee and her friends watched the Federal Budget being handed down, there was “a lot of yelling” at the TV. “The general feeling wasn’t even disappointment, because we didn’t really have expectations. I think there was about a 20-second mention of the climate crisis? They just ignored it.
“The Federal Budget just gives us more reason to strike,” she said, flatly.
After the strike, their plan is to continue the momentum given the election on the horizon.
“We’re going full speed ahead. With groups all over the country, we’re going to build a really strong coalition for national opposition to the government’s energy policy.”
The School Strike for Climate is coming up this Friday, May 21st. See you there.
Aimee Griffiths is a year-12 student with three SACs coming up next week. At the time she met us at a café for an interview, she had one due the following day. She was literally on her way to the State Library to keep studying for the afternoon. With aspirations of studying human rights law, these are pretty big deadlines with ramifications for her future. But on top of the stress and the study, there are other things keeping her up at night.