Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 24 June 2021) . . Page.. 2072 ..
commentary on the issue of climate change; that is a matter for Ms Lee and Ms Castley and we have expressed our strong commitment to addressing climate change. But I want to make a couple of points.
If children are going to be participating in protest activities, we want to make sure that there is no harm done to them with anxiety and mental health. Our kids are facing a lot of stress at the moment through COVID and climate change, and we have to find the right balance between informing children, making sure they are aware, but also making sure that they are not overexposed and that they do not become frightened and plagued with anxiety.
If you look at the statistics, it is certainly the case that young people are confronted with a lot of depression, a lot of anxiety. I will quote from an article written by Ellouise Bailey entitled “Belonging to a radicalised youth: a heartfelt letter to our young people”, a young lady climate change activist who participated in these sort of activities:
The real pandemic the youth are currently facing is their mental health and obviously gearing up fellow youth for battle will only make matters worse.
According to the World Health Organisation depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents and suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15–19-year-olds.
The seven year study on youth mental health produced by Mission Australia and the Black Dog Institute found rates of psychological distress among young people had risen 5.5 per cent between 2012 and 2018. I can only see this instability rising in coming years.
We have to be careful in terms of our approach around the age at which children participate in these activities. You might engage in civics activities in a college environment and so on—you might have been a young Johno Davis involved with political activism as a 15-year-old. But we have to be cautious about much younger children and how they will interpret some of those messages. We have seen images that have been taken from the climate protests in Australia, and particularly in Canberra, of very young children with signs saying, “You’ll die of old age; I’ll die of climate change”, and I want to make sure that that sort of activity does not have an unintended and negative effect on young children. That is the point I would like to make.
The second point I make is that if we are going to endorse or encourage or support children to participate in these activities, they should be respectful. I quote one sign, “Hope Scott’s house burns down”. Is that the message we want to be sending out there to young children? Other examples are “Climate change is not a joke but ScoMo is”, “Coalition climate criminals”, “ScoMo more like ScumMo”, “Break the Liberals, not the planet”—I’ve received advice I cannot use the full term for the next one, but I will leave it to the imagination—“Eff ScoMo”; “Frack you, ScoMo”; images of children with placards of Liberal members that have been pasted over and defaced; “You, sir, are a baboon”, with a picture of the Prime Minister; “Liberals suck corporate”—and there is more language that goes with that that would not be