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Climate Crisis Effects on Mental Health

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 26 August 2021

Tags: Climate Change, Mental Health


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has called a code red for humanity. The United Nations said greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk. The viability of our societies depends on leaders uniting to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Yesterday we moved to declare a climate emergency. The Premier and Minister for Climate Change vacated the Chamber, as did you. In question time he accused us of scaring children by repeating the scientific facts. Sam Eccleston, a school climate strike organiser, wrote yesterday that 'declaring a climate emergency will not scare or intimidate young Tasmanians, it will only help tackle their fears. It sends a strong message that the government is truly committed to climate action and the future of all Tasmanians'.

Do you recognise the IPCC report's findings? As Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, do you agree that many young Tasmanians are highly anxious about the accelerating climate crisis and that your Government's failure to acknowledge it and act accordingly is increasing their anxiety?



Mr Speaker, I thank the member for her question. With respect to the last part of the question, this Government is taking action. In fact, Tasmania is a leader in climate action and we will continue to be. We have the lowest per capita emissions in Australia and some of the lowest in the world.

The Premier and Minister for Climate Change outlined a number of areas of which we can be very proud over the course of the last number of decades regarding our commitment to climate change. Agriculture is one of those areas the Premier highlighted.

On day one as Premier he made it very clear that climate change is the top of this Government's priorities. Indeed, we have a Premier who is the first premier to hold the Climate Change portfolio. I cannot remember a premier between 2010 and 2014, during the Labor-Greens government, who held the Climate Change portfolio.

I am well aware of the views of young people. In fact, you, Ms O'Connor, and I were in Launceston last year listening to young people when it came to the matters concerning climate change.

What the Premier very clearly said yesterday - and I agree with him - is that we need to offer hope to our young people in these uncertain times, more than ever -

Dr Woodruff - Listen to them about how they want to get hope.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Mr ROCKLIFF - not increasing their level of anxiety. I know very well, through the matters raised with me from members across the Chamber, the people who communicate with me through various means, social media, email, correspondence, of the challenges within our mental health system, particularly the anxiety being experienced at this time by young people and adolescents -

Dr Woodruff - They want to hear the truth. The facts.

Mr SPEAKER - Member for Franklin, order.

Mr ROCKLIFF - They want to hear from leaders, they want to hear from Government -

Ms O'Connor - They would have liked to have heard from the Minister for Climate Change yesterday. He did not turn up.

Mr SPEAKER - And the member for Clark.

Mr ROCKLIFF - that we recognise the importance of acting on climate change. We are a world leader and we will continue to be, Mr Speaker.

Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Mr Speaker. Standing order 45: relevance. Would the minister please respond to whether he agrees with the IPCC's reports findings?

Mr SPEAKER - That is not a point, member for Franklin. However, the preamble was long and the minister has the opportunity now to respond to the overall question you have put. He has the opportunity without interjections. I know people are passionate about it but if you continually interject, you know what the ramifications of that are.

Mr ROCKLIFF - I reckon, Mr Speaker, that people are passionate about this issue. I recognise that it is a health issue. I actually sat down with a Greens candidate following this election in the north west and spoke to him about these matters, including climate change and the effects in the short, middle and long term with respect to our health services.

Rather than declaring a climate emergency, this Government is one of action. We do not just talk about it. We do not increase the level of anxiety through very emotive language which actually does scare and add to the anxiety of young people. Young people need to be assured and reassured that we take climate change seriously and that we are acting, which we are doing. What we will do is continue to take action in a responsible and sensible way, which has been the hallmark of this Government.

The transition to a low-emissions economy will take time. It might not happen overnight, as the Premier has previously said, but the Government is supporting this transition and concerted actions across a number of sectors.

I want to repeat that I recognise it is a very complex world now that our young people and adolescents are in. Given the pandemic over the course of the last 20 months, the anxiety and uncertain future plays on our young people's minds. That is why, as Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, I am very conscious of the fact that we need to do more to support our young people. Through leadership in this area and also across government with respect to the economy, ensuring that despite the pandemic we are offering hope and we are having an environment where people can learn, grow and thrive through their education. Also ensuring that we have the skills and the public education training to support our young people to be employed and make a positive contribution to the future.

We can do all those things. We can recognise the importance of action on climate change. We can also ensure that we are doing our job instilling hope in our young people by providing them with opportunities.

That is what they want to hear from a government: to take leadership, not only through the challenging times of the pandemic but also post pandemic, and ensuring we are setting our community up for the future right across our economy, through the environment, our social sector and our economy. That is exactly what we will do. We will never give up on our young people. We will always be a government that instils hope into our young people.