“We see the world in a different light. Politicians need to start listening to us and taking action”, a youth leader says.

Nearly 90 per cent of young people say they feel unprepared for future climate disasters, and want politicians to give them a bigger voice on climate change, a new report finds.

Conducted in the wake of the catastrophic summer bushfire season, the new Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience and World Vision Australia research found that despite hazards such as bushfires, floods, drought and tropical cyclones posing a greater threat, young people said they were more likely to learn about earthquakes at school.  

This left 88 per cent of survey respondents feeling unprepared and unable to protect themselves and their communities, even though nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) had experienced at least three events such as bushfires, heatwaves and drought in the past three years. 

“We anticipate that we will experience personal impacts from natural hazards in the future, whether we are living in capital cities, regional centres, or rural areas,” respondents said.

“The 2020 bushfires demonstrated that you need not live in the bush to be affected by a bushfire. We are experiencing these persistent worries while having to contend with life, school, growing up and everything else that comes with being a young person in Australia.”  

It is the most comprehensive consultation of children and young people on climate change, disasters, and disaster-resilience in the country, with 1,500 people participating in the online survey, supported by UNICEF Australia, Plan International, Save the Children, Oaktree and Australian Red Cross.

Young people concerned, but not heard 

While 66 per cent of young people were found to be taking steps to reduce their environmental impact, such as switching to reusable water bottles and coffee cups and avoiding unnecessary purchases, an overwhelming majority of survey respondents (90 per cent) said they did not feel heard by leaders in government.

For 17-year-old Maddie Canteri, one of the youth panellists involved in helping analyse the survey results, having her voice heard by politicians on climate change was critical. 

She said young people had both the capacity and desire to be powerful agents of change.

“It’s pretty worrying for us, we are already experiencing the effects of climate-related disasters,” Canteri said.

“The youth of Australia are future leaders of Australia, and we have new ideas on how to protect the environment. We see the world in a different light. Politicians need to start listening to us and taking action.”

World Vision’s senior policy advisor on climate action, Evan Davies, said the survey results sent the government a powerful message on climate change, and it was now time for them to listen.  

“Young Australians have spoken, and they’re sending the government a powerful message – Australia is doing nowhere near enough on climate change,” Davies said. 

 “They want government to hear their plea on climate action. We must do more to prevent climate disasters like the Black Summer fires of 2020.”

 A full copy of the report can be found here. 

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News, covering the social sector. Republished from Pro Bono News 24 August 2020.

Photo Young people send strong message, climate strike 2019. Susan Melkisethian. flickr cc.

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