Rebecca Blunden stood barefoot in front of around 1500 protesters at Civic Park on Friday. She felt like she had come from the future.
"I know that sounds weird," she said. "A week-and-a-half ago I lived in the tiny town of Cobargo. But that's all changed now."
Ms Blunden, formally of Newcastle, spoke emotively about the night fire engulfed the tiny agricultural village on the NSW South Coast.
"I felt safe in our little town," she said. "We are not surrounded by forest. We are a farming town surrounded by agricultural land and rural residential development.
"The fire that came that night had travelled through hundreds of hectares of cleared, human-occupied land in a matter of hours with very little wind, taking out hundreds of homes, two human lives and countless thousands of helpless animals.
"You cannot trust your feelings of safety. Climate change is here and now with flames and smoke," she said.
Friday afternoon's protest, organised by the climate action group Extinction Rebellion, resembled demonstrations in the city in previous months. Hundreds of protesters gathered at Civic Park and bore up placards calling for action to address climate change. Speakers denounced political failings to achieve it.
There were calls for hope, calls to unite in the demand for political action, calls for more sustainable energy policies that transition away from reliance on fossil fuels toward a renewable future.
Meg O'Hara, a protest spokesperson, said she felt as if the message was getting through.
"More people are getting on board. More people are saying 'hey, this is not ok'," she said. "I feel like Newcastle is really coming together now.
"We can't tell people what to think and believe. You just have to put the information out there.
"We will keep protesting until we feel something is being done and the government is responding appropriately."
Dr Ben Ewald, a Hunter GP, drew links between Australia's ongoing bushfire crisis and the need to address climate change.
"The fire crisis we are seeing is with just one degree of warming," he said. "We already have 1.5 degrees locked in ... and with Australia's current policies it is only going to get bigger. It is only going to get worse.
"Coal has given us good energy over decades but that industry has had its day. It's time to wind it up," he said.
"Australia's emissions keep on rising because we don't have a policy. The solution needs to be political. It is going to take political change to get this thing under control."
Organisers collected just over $6000 during the near-two hour demonstration, which will be donated to bushfire relief efforts on the NSW South Coast over the next week. Organisers named the South Coast Wildlife Rescue Centre, three evacuation centres in the region, and local brigades as equal-third recipients of the donations.
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