“We Can Create a Better World”: Young Activists Gather for Climate Justice
Was there ever any doubt that the younger generation truly is our future? As seas rise, coal burns and politicians equivocate, it’s young people who are stepping forward as Earth’s staunchest defenders. Power Shift – an online and in-person conference in Meanjin/Brisbane from 23–25 September – is offering young activists across Australia and the world the opportunity to gather, learn and plan for real change. To find out more about the upcoming event, we caught up with organiser Angie Judd from the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) to hear more about how the kids are fighting to be alright.
photo JULIAN MEEHAN
What is Power Shift?
Power Shift is a big climate justice summit run by the AYCC for any young person (aged 30 and under) whether they’re brand new to activism or have been involved for years. It’s a three-day ‘conference’ of sorts, with heaps of speakers, workshops for different experience and knowledge levels and opportunities to connect with and meet other people. This year we’re running it both in-person in Meanjin/Brisbane and online, recognising that attending an in-person event isn’t accessible for everyone.
Tell us how you got involved…
I got involved at Power Shift 2017! I had just finished my undergraduate degree in politics and economics, and was interested in getting some experience and meeting new people. An ad for a climate summit popped up and I got a ticket last minute, which was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I learned SO much that weekend and was so excited by all the conversations and action happening that I knew I had to stay involved. I haven’t looked back since, stepping up soon after Power Shift to be a volunteer coordinator and then getting a role on the AYCC staff team the next year supporting volunteer leaders. I’ve made some of my closest friends and had countless opportunities that I never would have had (or even dreamed of having) if I hadn’t gotten that ticket to Power Shift years ago.
photos COURTESY OF AYCC
Climate change was a defining issue of this year’s Federal election – and young people were key to making that happen. What is it about the younger generation that you think has been so pivotal in this space?
I think we’ve been pivotal in creating change and bringing issues to light because we actually believe that we can create a better world and we’re determined not to let the decisions of today impact our future. But also because we’ve grown up with access to the internet and all the incredible ways this allows us to organise en masse, connect with one another, distil information and learn from the past.
How can young people build relationships and learn more about the vital skills needed to take action for climate justice?
By coming along to Power Shift 2022 in Meanjin or online! Honestly meeting LOTS of other people who care and are ready to do something is the best way to get started – and that’s what Power Shift is all about.
We actually believe that we can create a better world and we’re determined not to let the decisions of today impact our future.
What are some of the overarching topics for this year’s event?
Each day of the program has a theme – our time, our role and our power – and the sessions for that day fit these themes. The first day focuses on the moment we’re in (globally and here in so-called Australia) and the urgent need for us to act. The second day focuses on cutting down the big issues and thinking about what we can strategically do together. The third day is about demonstrating our collective power and giving people the opportunity to be part of action bigger than themselves. We’re not here to “educate” people about what climate change is – young people know! We’ve seen and are living through the impacts firsthand but instead want to create a space for people to realise their own power and ability to create change. There’s something for everyone’s interest and experience level in the program, with six or seven options on offer for each workshop slot in Meanjin/Brisbane, and three or four options on offer for each workshop slot online.
photos JULIAN MEEHAN
Which speakers are you personally excited to see?
Oh my gosh, there are so many! I remember seeing Murrawah Johnson at Power Shift in 2017 and being blown away, so it’s been really cool working on the program and having her involved in this year’s event – this time sharing her work on a landmark legal case with Youth Verdict, taking Clive Palmer’s Waratah coal mine to court. I’m also really excited to see some incredible past and present AYCC and Seed volunteers stepping up as keynote speakers and workshop facilitators – people like Phoebe McIlwraith, Safe Shahab and Varsha Yajman (among lots of others). And of course, I’m stoked to have our wonderful MCs hosting the weekend and bringing lots of energy to the event, with Felicia Foxx for Brisbane/Meanjin and Tishiko King for online.
How will the integration of digital and live events work for those not in the Sunshine State?
We’ve got an exciting lineup of keynote speakers who will be opening and closing each day for both the Meanjin/Brisbane and digital summits, but the rest of the program is unique to the specific format – with many interstate and international speakers only running sessions as part of the digital conference!
We’re a volunteer-led organisation and we know that being able to give up your time is a privilege that not everyone has, so removing as many barriers to participation was really important for us making this event as equitable as possible.
Why was it important to AYCC to offer a variety of scholarship options for the summit?
As the event is ticketed (putting on big events costs a lot of money and we wanted to make sure we could compensate our frontline speakers in particular for their time and travel to the event), we wanted to ensure that money wasn’t a barrier for anyone being able to attend Power Shift. We’re a volunteer-led organisation and we know that being able to give up your time is a privilege that not everyone has, so removing as many barriers to participation was really important for us making this event as equitable as possible. We have some incredible partners and supporters who have helped us provide various scholarships to get people there – covering transport, accommodation and/or ticketing costs.
What do you hope attendees will feel, think and do after the summit is over?
I really hope attendees will feel powerful; think that climate change is a justice issue that we all need to act on; and stay involved in the movement going forward – starting a local AYCC group in their area or joining an existing one, getting involved in an online AYCC team, coming to training, organising days of action and more!