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Education - Students and Climate

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Tags: Environment, Climate Change, Children and Young People, State Budget

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, do you support students going on School Strikes 4 Climate or similar collective events calling for leadership?

Ms COURTNEY - As a Government we have a clear priority around climate and we've seen that across a range of initiatives. We also saw, through the Premier's Children and Young People Wellbeing Plan, the voice of young people come out. Through that body of work, there has been a clear student voice around concerns about climate change.

We are responding very proactively and I feel confident that the minister responsible for climate change can go further to what we're doing as a state Government.

In terms of engaging with young people around climate more broadly, in September 2020 we undertook a targeted consultation with young people on plans and reasons for growing and expanding Tasmania's renewable energy sector. The responses and feedback revealed that young Tasmanians are highly engaged and passionate about climate change; sustainability issues; the role renewable energy can plan in our economy, in our community and also building a sustainable future to support the broader conversations on renewable energy. The Department of State Growth is working with DOE to develop renewable energy education resource for Tasmanian schools. This resource will support Tasmanian students to understand the different forms of renewable energy and how renewable energy is addressing climate change, as well as creating jobs.

We've also seen in recent times a range of rallies or protests around the state. We do believe that the best place for students on school days is in school. However, we do appreciate that climate change is an important issue for many young people. If students participate in climate rallies, the normal school attendance requirements will need to be met. This means that parental consent is required and the schools need to be informed of the absence, given their duty of care.

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, eco anxiety is something that the Premier talked about yesterday in the Climate Change portfolio and it is a recognised psychological diagnostic area. It's also broadly descriptive of how many people in the world are feeling about the rapidly changing climate. Young people are especially vulnerable. Their futures, with a combination of the climatic changes and a COVID world are looking very different. For many who tune into the science it can look very bleak.

It's important that the school system is on the front foot, speaking the truth about what's happening in the world and providing positive ways for young people to understand it within their learning levels, and find useful and meaningful forms of action they can take that make them feel like they're making the little bit of difference they can, in concert with other people. We know that's what makes humans feel more comforted in difficult times.

What is the Education department planning this year? We have only a few years to get on top of this. What's been planned this year for students of all ages to talk about the changing climate and to address this eco anxiety?

Ms COURTNEY - As part of the Australian curriculum, climate is covered as topic within science, with learners focusing on the established and agreed science to explore the impact and influence it has on other systems. Climate change is also a global issue that may be chosen for investigation within the humanities and social services curriculum. This is where points of view differ about global issues. Learners are encouraged to explore different perspectives and reasons to make informed decisions.

A key focus of both the Australian curriculum, science PAS and years P-10 is learners developing inquiry skills, enabling them to question, explore, test and understand evidence to reach conclusions. TASS geography and environmental science learners study the established impacts of climate change and the associated management structures.

The department works in classrooms, with students, with teachers to make sure that students are empowered to consider the evidence, analyse aspects of issues such as climate change, and think and act with a future-focused approach.

I've already outlined previously the additional investment we've made in professional support staff for schools, particularly school nurses, to ensure that children are well supported. We also have our wellbeing survey, which I've also spoken to, to ensure that we are monitoring the wellbeing of our young people. We also hold a number of student voice focus groups. We held those in term four to explore school data and hear the views of different school communities. As I outlined in my previous question, there is the work that the children and young people's commissioner does in engaging with young people, so that they can be engaged and have their voice heard.

It is quite clear from what I've talked about that we make sure it is embedded in learning, with students being able to understand, look at the information and distill that. Through the wellbeing side, we are ensuring that we are supporting students as well.