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Torres Strait Elders join School Strike 4 Climate march

Rudi Maxwell -

When thousands of students take to the streets on Friday for the School Strike 4 Climate, Torres Strait Islander people are desperately hoping the message cuts through.

Torres Strait Islander law student Chelsea Aniba has travelled from Saibai to Melbourne, where she will join the student protest to explain how her people are at the frontline of climate change.

"It's affecting our homes, our gardens, we can't really grow our traditional foods like we used to anymore," she said.

"Even our seasons are being changed.

"The season that we usually get our geese, the seasons of our turtle and dugong they're being affected as well.

"And of course, the the main one, which is the sea levels are rising."

As Australia prepares for another summer of extreme heat and bushfires, the school strikers are saying the Albanese government is failing on its promise of climate leadership.

Min Park, 16, from Sydney, said she was striking because of Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek's approval of new coal and gas projects.

"She is listening to the fossil fuel lobby, instead of doing her job and taking responsibility to protect the health of the planet," she said.

"The Labor government needs to listen to young people everywhere and say no to new coal and gas projects and speed up a just transition to clean energy, because the worst impacts of climate change will be on my generation."

To encourage school students to attend the rally, School Strike 4 Climate has developed a doctor's certificate in partnership with climate scientists, to take a sick day for a sick planet.

"We have their backing because it could not be more clear that the Labor government is failing young people and a hope for a safe climate future by approving new coal and gas projects," said 16-year-old Joey Thomson from Victoria.

Anjali Beames, 17, has been striking from school all week, studying on the steps of Parliament House in Adelaide, alongside other students from the South Australian Youth Climate Alliance.

"I am studying for my future, but I am worried that without real action on climate change my future will be bleak," she said.

Charlotte Curtis, 16, said in her hometown of Port Hedland they were already feeling the impacts of climate change, with less rain and more extreme heatwaves.

"I want my community to thrive, not suffer through more and more climate impacts," they said.

Torres Strait Islander elders Pabai Pabai and Paul Kabai are also in Melbourne for hearings in the landmark court case they brought against the Australian government for climate inaction and will speak at the climate strike.

Torres Strait Islander elders Pabai Pabai and Paul Kabai are proud to stand with the protesters

Mr Kabai said he was proud to stand with the young protesters to demand stronger climate action.

"The more voices we have, the stronger our fight will be," he said.

"We are not fighting the government for ourselves - we are doing this for the Pacific, for our brothers and sisters, for our home in the Torres Strait and for all Indigenous people around the world.

"So my message is - let's all battle this together, let's fight this climate change for our future generations to live on."

Mr Pabai said he was happy to be supporting the school strike to help deliver a message to the government.

"I say to them, 'help us'," he said.

"I say to them, 'the time for politics must stop, you must take action urgently to protect us from climate change, if you don't, we'll lose everything'."

Protests are being co-ordinated across Australia, with students planning actions in Sydney at Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek's office, in Canberra at Labor senator Katy Gallagher's office, at the Western Australian Energy Transition Conference at the Perth Convention Centre and in other urban and regional areas.

Rudi Maxwell

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