Locals supporting Fridays for Future by Judy Ireland

On most Fridays there is a familiar small gathering of people and posters beside the Princes Highway at the western end of Bairnsdale. A similar scenario is also frequently seen on Fridays on the highway at Swan Reach and sometimes in Stratford.

These committed locals are part of a worldwide action known as “Fridays for Future”.

Fridays for Future developed out of a youth led and youth organized movement that began in August 2018 after 15 year old Greta Thunburg and other activists sat in front of the Swedish Parliament for 3 weeks every school day, to protest against the lack of action on the climate crisis. She held a sign that read “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (“School strike for climate”). After posting what she was doing on Instagram and Twitter and it went viral. The action changed to promoting student strikes on a Friday, rather than every school day.

Inspired by Greta, students and people generally gathered worldwide to express concerns about climate. A global strike on 15 March 2019 gathered more than one million strikers in 2,200 strikes organised in 125 countries. On 24 May 2019, in the second global strike, 1,600 protests across 150 countries drew hundreds of thousands of strikers.

Having a local weekly roadside prominence to support climate action was first considered by East Gippsland Climate Action Network (EGCAN) in November 2020, as Victoria was coming out of COVID lockdown. In February 2021 a small group gathered on a Friday by the highway, holding clear signs with messages about the importance of climate action. This group mirrored a similar action in Warrnambool, bookending eastern and western ends of the Princes Highway in Victoria. Ballarat and South Gippsland also joined in the action.

Two and a half years later Fridays for Future remains a commitment by local climate -conscious activists from 3.30 to 4.30 most Friday afternoons. Drivers who pass this way regularly on a Friday have come to expect their presence. There are many who toot or give a thumbs up and of course a number who are not supportive.

The message from the global Fridays for Future network remains at the essence of the local action:

“We are fighting for our future and our lives because they are directly threatened by climate crisis and the ecological breakdown. We are taking action against it because we want to protect the beauty of the earth, the diversity of species and the lives of all beings. Our goal is to overcome the climate crisis and to create a society that lives in harmony with its fellow beings and its environment.”

Remember these positive ideals when you next drive past a Fridays for Future gathering.