Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Shoi and I live on Naarm land, Melbourne. I have been involved in youth climate movement for a while – initially with the School Strike 4 Climate and then in the Tomorrow Movement more recently. I’m also Bengali-Indian but have lived in Australia my whole life and this has informed my activism.

Tomorrow Movement is an unstoppable movement of young people fighting for safer climate for all and greater public services. We are trying to address climate and economic crises as the interlinked issues as they are – and how they are hitting young people especially. We are also advocating for a climate jobs guarantee. This is way to address and solve the climate crisis and the various economic factors such as unemployment. We note that everyone deserves a good climate and good jobs. It’s a lot about transition for fossil fuels dependent communities and covers all sorts of public services that supports society and education.

Why were you protesting?

It was the first day of Parliament and the new government and we wanted to send a strong message to the newly elected parliament and crossbench that young people are really serious about what we are demanding. There’s a clear climate mandate from the Australian public at the election, and it doesn’t end there. We want to make sure that we are acting and make clear what actions we expect the government to take.

We wanted to get the message out about the climate jobs guarantee and make sure the narrative isn’t just about targets – lets have action to back them up. They are being talked about with the full scope of crises affecting all Australians and not isolated into issues facing one community and area.

What was your experience of the protest like?

We were met with hostility before we even got in. We were going in groups and were literally being told we were identified as protesters and we weren’t allowed to come in. Which is ridiculous because we are young people and weren’t doing anything illegal or violent. Most of us had never been to Canberra let alone to Parliament. We knew from the beginning that they were not going to give us the space, but they were also not treating us very well. Security was trying to intimidate us as young people.

As soon as we got in, people began by singing. Those of us inside joined in. As soon as we started singing the cops were coming towards us and dragging people off the stairs. It was a ridiculous amount of force. Particularly ridiculous because we were just young people singing.  

I am really angry because we have faced a decade of young people not being prioritised or having our voices heard in politics. What we wanted was the bare minimum to be allowed to sing and give our speech in such a peaceful way and have that experience in Parliament. As a young person who hadn’t been to parliament before – it’s such a wakeup call about that building and the system thinks about young people. I’m really angry about how I was treated by police. But I’m not even surprised. That’s the reality of the police state. Both sides of politics are interested in continuing to militarise. Reminds me that this is the reality of the climate that young people are living in. Trying to protest when our voices aren’t heard in any other avenue.

What is the dream outcome of the protest and what messages do you have for the Albanese government/new parliament?

We are calling for the climate jobs guarantee. We want to take the transformative action and having economic security for all. Ending the unemployment crisis and giving meaningful work to everyone who wants a good job. Ideally that is what we want – to see government championing in parliament. Specifically, we want a Senate inquiry into the climate housing and economic crises to form the basis of the climate jobs guarantee.

We don’t have those answers but communities do. Having community outreach to form that basis and the principles of what a climate jobs guarantee looks like. We want MPs to address and respond to our climate jobs guarantee campaign.