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Young Australians say they are unprepared for future climate catastrophes because they are undereducated by schools and unappreciated by politicians, a new World Vision report reveals.

The Our World, Our Say report interviewed almost 1,500 young Australians aged between 10 and 24 on their experience of climate disasters in Australia, including how they are personally taking action against climate change and how they want schools and politicians to respond.

Almost 90% of respondents said they are not being taught enough by schools and not being heard by political leaders. 

The report also showed 73% of young people are either concerned or extremely concerned about experiencing a climate disaster, 83% think there is a connection between climate change and natural hazards and 76% view air pollution as a significant climate change concern.

Almost 70% say Australian leaders are not doing enough to curb carbon emissions.

Surveys and research into the Our World, Our Say report were conducted in the wake of Australia’s recent bushfire season.

The ‘Black Summer’ fires, which peaked between December 2019 and January 2020, killed 33 Australians and over 1 billion animals. Over 12 million hectares of land was destroyed.

A report by the Australian National University showed 75% of all Australians were directly or indirectly affected by the fires.

“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,” survey respondents said in a statement. “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.”

Maddie Canteri, a 17-year-old in Cairns, said young Australians “see the world in a different light.”

"The youth of Australia are future leaders of Australia, and we have new ideas on how to protect the environment,” she said in a World Vision media release. “Politicians need to start listening to us and taking action.”

Annette Gough, a professor of science and environmental education at RMIT University, and Briony Tower, a research fellow at RMIT University, agreed that schools are failing students when it comes to disaster risk knowledge and Australia-specific climate change education. 

"Climate change-related topics in national and state curricula are found only in the senior secondary and secondary Humanities, Geography and Science learning areas, with many being optional,” Gough and Tower wrote for the Conversation. “We must ensure current and future generations of school students have the knowledge and skills to prevent, mitigate and adapt to this future.”

In 2016, Australia signed the Paris climate agreement, a landmark accord to address climate change globally.

According to Gough, Australia, therefore, has a “moral imperative and legal obligation” to teach climate change education.

The United Nations’ Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, of which Australia is also a signatory, says disaster risk knowledge must also be incorporated into formal and non-formal education. The framework likewise recognises young people as “agents of change” who should play an active role in shaping legislation and strengthening community resilience. 


Defend the Planet

Australian Youth Feel Unprepared, Uneducated and Underappreciated on Climate Change: Report

By Madeleine Keck