You are here

Youth Week

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 11 April 2019

Tags: Climate Change, Young People

Youth Week Matter of Public Importance: O'Connor


Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I move -

That the House take note of the following matter: Youth Week.

We recognise today is Youth Week. Youth Week is a celebration of our young people but also an opportunity to make sure we are cross-checking with ourselves that we are listening to the views and concerns of young people and taking every possible step to empower them.

Earlier this week, the Youth Network of Tasmania organised a launch of Youth Week for Tasmania and I thank YNOT for the incredible work it does representing young people in Tasmania no matter where they live and to recognise that YNOT provides us an excellent window into the lives of young Tasmanians and the matters that concern them.

We had two speakers at Youth Week. Here was Matt Etherington, a very impressive young man who works for Red Cross on its youth advisory committee and immigration support program. One of the things he said was that we are often told young people are the leaders of the future but we are actually the leaders of now and it is important that the older people among us support young people in showing that leadership.

I want to read into Hansard the contribution from Bronte Scott. This is straight from Bronte, who gave the most incredible speech that morning -

It's so nice to see so many friendly faces here at this ungodly hour of the morning. My name is Bronte. I'm a 19-year-old Marine and Antarctic Science student studying at UTAS. I chose to study marine biology because I have always been fascinated by and very passionate about the ocean. It's so big and so beautiful and it is home to so many of my favourite species. It's the key to life here on this planet, our planet, but at the end of the day, the main reason I chose marine biology was because I want to play my part in protecting our oceans from the growing number of threats they're facing. It's such a special place and I want my kids and grandkids to experience it in the number of ways I have.

I run a business with my close friend Bridget called Two Aussie Mermaids. Our mission through our business is to educate, inspire and advocate for the ocean and all living creatures within. We translate scientific papers into a format that everyone can understand.

For example, on Tuesday 19 February 2019 Norwegian oil giant Equinor released their 426-page environment risk plan for their proposal to drill in the Great Australian Bight. The fact that it was 426 pages full of hard-to-read graphs and tables is just so dodgy in itself. It was made to be that long to ensure that no-one would take the time to read it, but I did and, my goodness, did I have a lot to say about it.

The Great Australian Bight is a large stretch of open bays spanning over 45 000 square kilometres off the southern coast of Australia. Finishing the document, I can't even begin to explain how I felt. My favourite place in literally the entire world was at risk of being completely wiped out. More than anything, I was just terrified, terrified that this decision was being left up to a bunch of people who sit in airconditioned offices all day, people that actually think the money made from big oil drilling in the Bight could possible outweigh the irreparable damage caused to a place so unique that over three-quarters of species living there exist nowhere else on the planet, people so ignorant to every single issue affecting our environment and climate.

When I finished the risk plan, my first thought was the fact that I'm so small and the world is so big, that I'm so young that I have no hope of fighting this, because it's so hard to want to make a difference without even knowing where to begin. Then I thought to myself, I didn't spend an entire week reading this huge document for no reason. I wanted to simply spread awareness and get people educated, make people aware that these are real issues, issues that affect us and will continue to affect us if we do nothing about them. So I wrote a response of sorts. I took the key points of that 426-page document and summarised it into a small post to share on Facebook. The response I received was beyond overwhelming.

Recently I read a quote that said, 'The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are quite often the ones who do'. Us young people are living in such a powerful and progressive time. We have so many empowering youths to look up to across the globe. Take Greta Thunberg as an example. At just 16 she quickly rose to prominence for starting the first school strike for climate outside the Swedish Parliament in August 2018. Only months later on March 15 2019, a global strike for climate took place in more than 2000 cities worldwide. On that day I stood among 8000 other young people at Parliament Lawns in Hobart, along with an estimated number of 1.4 million pupils worldwide. Every single day youth are discouraged from speaking out, having a voice and making an impact, but it was on that day that I truly understood the power of youth and that together we can move mountains. We're a force to be reckoned with.

Together we stood united because climate change does not discriminate. It's a universal problem with universal repercussions. Every single day we're faced with more global issues directly associated with climate change. Every single day we wake up to a slightly more chaotic world, but instead of being disheartened by this we use it as motivation because, after all, what good is a fire without fuel? While we cannot change what our ancestors did, we can change the future, and I'm not sure about you, but that gives me a lot of hope. Yes, we might still have a really long way to go, but just look how far we have come. We are the future of this world. We will stand up for what we believe in and we will stand up for change, because change is coming and if they won't do something about it we will. We're the first generation to grow up understanding the implications of our actions on this planet we call our own. We're the last generation that can do something about it.

The people around me this morning are so inspiring and I am so grateful for this opportunity and to be standing here among them. So this morning I leave you with a quote from a very wise man. Dr Seuss once said, 'Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot nothing is going to get better, it's not.'

Madam Speaker, I read that into the Hansard because it was such a fantastic speech and for the people who attended the YNOT launch it was emblematic of the hope that we have in young people. Happy Youth Week to everyone and particularly to all the young people we are elected to represent in here.