I celebrated the end of year 12 by joining Australia's largest civil disobedience for the climate.
I was one of 109 people arrested for blockading the Newcastle coal port. I travelled from Adelaide and, with thousands of people from Newcastle and across the country, we occupied the shipping channel in kayaks, pontoons, rafts and surfboards, delaying half a million tonnes of coal set to be burnt on the other side of the globe.
For 30 hours we paddled, swam, danced, and sung out on the water, disrupting 10 coal ships from moving through the port.
At 4pm on Sunday, when our permit for the action expired, I joined more than 100 others who remained on the water, prepared to risk arrest. If our government doesn't stand up to the fossil fuel industry, then the people will.
I've spent much of my time as a high-schooler standing up to the fossil fuel industry. Since 2019, when I marched alongside 20,000 others in Adelaide's largest School Strike for Climate, I've organised and attended more protests than I can count on both hands. Despite years of students taking to the streets to demand an end to new fossil fuel projects and a just transition for workers, we're yet to see any real progress towards any of these goals.
In fact, I've witnessed a global regression on meeting emissions reduction targets, and the acceleration of climate breakdown. In 2019 I still had hope that leaders around the world would act to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Even then, as a 14-year-old, I could understand that going above 1.5 degrees would mean severe increases in the number of heatwaves, droughts, fires, floods, and species extinction. Now, the UN's latest Emissions Gap report has found we are on track to reach 2.9 degrees of warming by the end of the century.
While I may or may not live to 2100, I am seeing the climate crisis right now. Record-breaking heat, followed by severe flooding weeks later. The bushfire season is beginning already, giving us a taste for the reckoning we will face this summer. Amid this escalation, our government continues to pour fuel on the fire by approving new fossil fuel projects.
The Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, has approved four coal projects this year, while the NSW government presides over the largest fossil-fuel expansion since the Paris Climate Agreement.
I remember being appalled when I found out that the Newcastle coal port is the largest in the world, a shameful title to hold given how little Australia has done to prevent the unfolding climate crisis.
When burnt, the coal exported by this one port releases the equivalent of almost 1 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions. That's approaching the same amount as the whole of Australia's annual domestic emissions.
That's why I travelled to Newcastle to take part in this historic protest. I am tired of being ignored when I ask 'nicely' and protest the 'right', lawful way. I am sick of my simple plea for a liveable climate and a safe future being disregarded. We are fighting for our lives, and yet we are the ones treated like criminals. Why should I get arrested for participating in a peaceful act of climate defence when fossil fuel executives are actively profiting from the destruction of the planet?
Why aren't they being persecuted like the criminals they are for endangering all life on Earth?
I am not alone in this dejection, frustration, and anger. Many students like myself are also turning to civil disobedience as a last resort. It's the government's failure to act that's pushing us to break the law, to draw attention to injustice of climate inaction. We, the youth, are taking every possible step we can to forge the future we want to inherit. We need this mass movement of resistance to give us hope; that maybe we can turn this around, that maybe we can defy the pathway to destruction the fossil fuel industry is leading us down.
Until our government takes serious action on the climate crisis, this won't be the end of my story, nor of this fight at Newcastle Port. It is merely the beginning.