They’ve been striking against climate change for more than three years, are pretty good at making protest signs and they do it in all weather – they are Bega’s Youth Action and Regeneration (YAR) group.
“We’ve put up about 300 flyers on cars and around town,” says Amalia-Grace Thompson on Thursday, 24 September, the day before the group joins School Strike 4 Climate, rallying the community to join them in marching down Bega’s main street.
However, this strike is different as it’s the first one to take place post-COVID-19.
“Usually we gather in Littleton Gardens, the big open space in the middle of Bega, but this time we’re walking and riding bikes down the main street,” explains Sue Andrew, who helps the group organise their actions. “This is to help keep us socially distant.”
The strike is being held at 12 pm on Friday, 25 September, which means the group is missing a few hours of school.
For Harry Haggar, 13, a Bega High School student, this is no problem because his parents give him permission to leave. But he says other students are keen to come, but can’t.
“We need a valid reason to leave school and a climate strike isn’t a reason,” he says. “Some of my friends really want to be involved but can’t because their parents won’t let them.”
Bega High School student Isha Constable adds with a grin: “Some kids want to come not because they are worried about climate change but because they want to miss school.”
The last big action the group took part in was just before COVID-19 took hold and it attracted around 800 people.
“This one will probably be smaller, but maybe it will look bigger because of social distancing,” smiles Amalia-Grace, who says she looked at a map of the global protests happening on Friday, 25 September, and felt good to see Bega among more than 3000 planned strikes around the world.
Jada Koek says the actions become more meaningful as she learns more about climate change.
“We plan to keep doing these strikes until action is taken,” she says. “We have the facts; it’s as though the government is ignoring them because they don’t want to be wrong.”
Alina North-Andrew, 12, has been taking part in climate actions since she was in grade four, inspired by a speech on climate change that her friend, Amalia-Grace, wrote for a school project.
Nicknamed “My Greta” – after Swedish activist Greta Thunberg – by her proud grandma, Alina concedes she is happy to have company while striking.
“I would’ve been really scared if it was just me,” she says. “I don’t really like having to do this but I’m hoping eventually people who don’t believe in climate change will start believing and taking action.”
YAR is growing all the time, says Amalia-Grace, looking at the circle of about 20 students making signs on a stormy Thursday.
“It started with just me and Alina, then Jada joined and at some point Harry appeared,” she says. “Now we are really a group. We’ll keep doing it as long as we need to – until people listen.”
Global Climate Strike is happening on Friday, 25 September, with thousands of strikes taking place all over the world.