Whether or not the Prime Minister and his ministers agree that climate change is happening, that it is caused by human activity, that something can be done about it, that they are doing enough about it, or that it is a threat to our kids' futures, what cannot be disputed is the threat ignoring our children on the issue poses to their wellbeing now.
Every child in Australia deserves the chance to reach their potential for a full life, happy and contributing to our community. There is not a reasonable adult in Australia who would dispute this, and there would be no politician who disputes this. Indeed, most politicians have pursued that extremely tough career, wholly or in-part, to improve the wellbeing of our kids.
This week every politician has a great opportunity to do something for the wellbeing of our kids - and that's to take seriously their concerns as embodied in the School Strike for Climate. We've heard the rhetoric from our Parliamentarians about how keen they are to engage with their constituents, particularly the quieter voices. This week's activities provide a perfect opportunity to listen to a group who have no formal voice at all.
Research tells us the wellbeing of young Australians is contingent upon their needs being met in six key interlocking areas: being loved and safe; having material basics; being healthy; learning; having a positive sense of identity and culture; and, participating.
This means that participating, being taken seriously and having a say in issues that affect them and their future, is central to the wellbeing of our children. The ongoing campaign of school strikes is clearly the result of frustration felt by Australian school kids at not being heard and, as a result, frustration that action is not being taken to protect them. This frustration is damaging their wellbeing, and it's doing it now.
So, what needs to happen?
For a start, it's time for a proper dialogue with young Australians on climate change. Our leaders may well be doing all they can on the issue and their actions may be enough to avert the disaster young Australians see in their futures. But, rightly or wrongly, they are not convinced and that's why tens of thousands of school children are taking to the streets.
The Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth suggests all politicians listen to young people and show they're listening by responding to them. If our leaders believe their policies are good enough, we urge them to go out to explain and defend them in school halls, in mainstream and particularly, social media.
We suggest our politicians listen to the ideas that come back to them from young people and to discuss these ideas with young people. Afterall, it's young Australians who have the most skin in the game and who are using their considerable collective intelligence to think through both the problems and solutions. The acorn of a brilliant set of climate stabilisation policies may be contained in the etchings on the back cover a Year 9 maths text, or on the Twitter feed of a year 6 student.
And even if they don't have the answer now, asking them to participate will not only increase the wellbeing of our children today, but it will doubtless ensure the leaders and policy makers of the near future have had experience in responding issues, big and small, that will shape their futures.
Our research shows that regardless of whether one believes in climate change and our ability to do something about it, ignoring our children on the issue does them damage, and for that reason, it's time we paid young Australians the attention they deserve.
- Penny Dakin is the chief executive of the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth.
- ARACY is a not for profit which exists to ensure the maximum benefit to Australia's children (and taxpayers) by ensuring that policies and programs, designed to help young Australians overcome obstacles and reach their potential, are based on evidence of what works for kids.