CW: This post discusses sexual, colonial and environmental violence
This past week we have seen some examples of incredible initiative by young people all over the country, banding together to change systems and take apart the structures that have enabled ongoing violence (whether that be environmental or physical), showcasing the power of collective action. Collective action is any “action taken together by a group of people whose goal is to enhance their condition and achieve a common objective.” Historically collective action and similar community-led movements have been central to assisting many social justice movements including disability movements, LGBTQIA+ movements, racial and feminist fights.
Anj Sharma, a campaigner for School Strike 4 Climate Australia, is the face and lead of a historic class-action lawsuit happening right now against the government to fight their inaction against the climate crisis. Together with 7 other teenagers from around Australia and with help of Sister Brigid Arthur, a nun who will be acting as their litigation guardian (an adult appointed under court rules through whom a person under 18 years of age conducts legal processes), they will be making a case that the government has the duty of care to protect future generations from the ongoing effects of the climate crisis. The team hopes that this case will cause a paradigm shift in policy and law, halting any further fossil fuel projects that will continue to cause catastrophic damage to the environment.
Image of Anj Sharma (right) and Sister Brigid Arthur (left). Image from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/02/a-duty-of-care-australian-teenagers-take-their-climate-crisis-plea-to-court
Meanwhile, activist Chanel Contos has started a petition called “Teach Us Consent” with currently over 24 thousand signatures and close to two thousand testimonials, calling on schools to implement “holistic sexuality education earlier in the school curriculum.” This followed what started off as a poll on Chanel’s Instagram story where she asked – “If you live in Sydney: have you or has someone close to you ever experienced sexual assault from someone who went to an all-boys school?” Chanel received a huge response, with an overwhelming majority replying ‘yes,’ and with hundreds of accompanying recounts.
Throughout history, groups of young people have taken the forefront on a whole range of issues that have changed and paved the road forward. ‘Never Again MSD,’ the student-led committee for political action against gun violence in the US, completely transformed their national conversation about gun ownership. The teens leading the ‘One Mind Youth Movement,’ in South Dakota came together as a community to fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline that would cause large scale environmental destruction to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. In South Africa, the Soweto Uprising fronted by school children served as a revolutionary movement towards the abolition of apartheid.
Young Indigenous activists protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Image from: https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2016/standing-rock-sioux-tribe-takes-action-to-protect-culture-and-environment-from-massive-crude-oil-pipeline
Although it’s disappointing to have to be both a victim to these injustices and the ones battling them out for ourselves and future generations, it’s also empowering and inspiring. Unfortunately, sometimes the only ones who are passionate enough about an issue are the ones who have to face the brunt of it. As mentioned earlier, taking collective action in any form can form real progress and set the path up to make a quantifiable difference against issues that have an impact on marginalised people.
The revolution can start with you but especially with your community and network. Getting involved in the fight for social justice doesn’t have to be big either, it can be in your own communities, schools and even your families. Searching your local council or coming together with some friends from school can be a place to start. Together, identifying an issue and fighting to fix it has been the catalyst for so much change, something we can all be apart of.
Photograph from Black Lives Matter Protest
If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault here is a list of support services across Australia.
Here is an additional list of places you can contact if you need help, support or just someone to talk to.
Sanduni Hewa Katupothage
Sanduni is a body and a soul interested in arts, science, social justice and spirituality. They also love lemonade and cupcakes.