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They’re only children

Malala Yousafzai was barely 11 years old when she began championing girls’ education, speaking out in TV interviews. The Taliban had overrun her home town of Mingora, terrorizing residents, threatening to blow up girls’ schools, ordering teachers and students into the all-encompassing burqas.

Malala was only 15 when the Taliban shot her in the face.

She was 17 when she won the Nobel Peace Prize for her “struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”

Emma González was 18 when she survived the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida which killed 17 of her schoolmates and injured many more.

She has become a vocal advocate for gun control in the US, incurring the wrath of the NRA and conservative politicians and media with one Republican candidate (and NRA member) labelling her a “skinhead lesbian”.

The Greensboro Four were teenagers when they changed American history by walking up to a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., sitting down, and refusing to leave.

The momentum that began at the Woolworth’s lunch counter would eventually contribute to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed segregation in public spaces.

The pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square were led by students as are the current protests in Hong Kong.

The examples of student-led movements creating real change are many – the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia which led quickly to the toppling of the Communist government, students in Johannesburg objecting to a law that mandated Afrikaans-language education set in motion a global movement against apartheid.

Scott Morrison has dismissed concerns about climate change as “needless anxiety”, told the kids to “get back to school”, and made it very clear that he will not be lectured to by a girl with “no life experience” when Australia is “doing our bit”.

Apparently, “doing our bit” means exporting enormous quantities of fossil fuels, refusing any push to stop subsidising the industry, approving rampant land-clearing, destroying river systems by extracting and diverting water, resisting fuel-efficiency standards for transport, and using accounting tricks to disguise the fact that our emissions are now higher than they were in 2000 and are on an increasing trajectory.

“Doing our bit” for a peaceful, rules-based world also apparently means becoming the second largest importer of weapons in 2018, up from fourth largest the year before.

Last year, Christopher Pyne told us that “We expect that in the next nine years because of the investments of this government we’ll move to being in the top 10 defence exporters in the world, and so we should be.”

Except Australia last year fell from the world’s 18th largest military exporter to now be ranked 25th despite all the money we are wasting on pretending that the death industry creates jobs.

To the young people of the world I say, we need you to be loud and proud.

This time, we know we all can stand together

With the power to be powerful

Believing we can make it better


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  1. Phil Pryor

    J Farnham is hardly an educated and forceful driver of change for freedom, but… Young people today are educated, (i e, self educated by enlightened awareness, not merely trained or indoctrinated) . The western view, British post imperial view, USA domineering egocentric hyperinflated view, the roman catholic supremacist fascist view, the islamic righteous aggressive view, all these are wrong, weak, erroneous, misguided. For Russia to put up Sputnik after forty years since degradation in revolution and war is amazing. For China to arrive at its current level in every field after seventy yeas since Mao’s winning struggle over all forces is equally amazing. Yet Africa is still raided, looted, controlled by western post imperial networking exploitation, Australia is a little quarry run by subtle chains from foreign holders of financial and political power, Asia remains a rising area but disregarded by the west, and South and Cental America remain cyclical victims of USA overt and covert exploitation, pressure, subversion. Europe does not seem to realise its luck in having half a century of prosperous peace after thousands of years of class and tribal savagery. What a wonderful world.., no. Can we find a post U N O system of universal respect for all peopple, with good law, practice, open negotiation, co-operation?? Yes?? If so, and when and how, we might start to commence to begin to advance, a litle. And if we can actually improve, young people of today will become the leaders to do it. Support them now and encourage them to surprise us.

  2. Kaye Lee

    But he’s a damn fine singer and it’s a great song. Music has power when we sing together.


    Young people surprise me every day. Their energy and passion enliven me and their creativity and ingenuity give me hope. We must show them that most of us do care. How can we teach them to be responsible citizens and leaders of the future if our example is that wealth at any cost is the most important thing to protect.

  3. New England Cocky

    The children are revolting ….. thank goodness!!

    The Union, united, can never be defeated!

    Why is it wrong of children to want to define the world that they will live in?? Oh, I remember, because the adults have established elites that benefit from the present system and want to remain in their present privileged position rather than change for the benefit of everybody.

  4. Aortic

    Out of the mouths of babes. Far more common sense than our coal fired idiots who insist we are doing our bit, whatever that means. As a pensioner I have as much self interest as the next person in hoping for the odd rise now me then, but hopefully with enough vision to realise that money has to be prioritised and expended accordingly. If the climate problem is not up there in the forefront, politicians are not doing their job. Amorphous and vacuous statements are nowhere near good enough and more power to the the young folks, keep it up until they have no choice but to take notice and act with meaningful policies.

  5. Wobbley

    Greed will and is destroying humanity, climate change is the biggest challenge to us humans but it is still a long way behind GREED!!!!!

  6. Keitha Granville

    You’re The Voice is one of the best new protest songs around. Back in my day, 60s-70s , protest songs abounded and were the calling cry of youth. I for one am glad they are back, the children, fighting for their world as we did.

    Loud and proud kids, some of us oldies are behind you.

  7. Zathras

    These children will be responsible for picking our retirement homes and caring for us in later years.

    Let’s hope they have a degree of compassion and empathy, but except for a few outstanding examples from their own generation I don’t know who their role models would have been.

  8. Al

    I find it laughable when a weedy nobody [I use the word “nobody” in terms of his personal limitations, not of the office he currently holds] like Morrison, who has risen by surfing the Murdoch press and exploiting public fears, claims that Greta Thunberg has “no life experience”. Well, she’s only addressed the UN, is in line to be (possibly) the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize… but in fact her lack of life experience is what gives her, and the millions of other school children around the globe, her power. She has said time and again that she shouldn’t be where she is, she should be in school. But since the grownups have made such an almighty cock-up of the world, and refuse to listen to evidence or reason, it’s the children who are screaming at us to use our power for good, and to leave them a world to grow up in. We ignore them, as we ignore scientific evidence, at our peril.

  9. pierre wilkinson

    I remember the 70’s where the same old arguments applied to those of us who dared question the legitimacy of conscripting an 18 year old, sending them to war where they often had to kill someone, then letting them back into a country which reviled their sacrifice. At the time they were not allowed to vote, drink a beer or join a Club despite active overseas assignments.
    Those of us who protested were equally reviled and often locked up, but we effected change nonetheless.

  10. Kaye Lee

    I remember in the 70s being asked to leave the snooker room at the club. When I asked why, I was told that the language might offend me. I said I was not bothered by others’ lack of vocabulary. I was then told I would hold up play so I challenged the director to whom I was speaking to a game. I have to give him credit that, instead of chucking me out, he agreed. I beat him reasonably quickly. The rules about women in the snooker room changed not long after.

    Also in the 70s, I was not allowed to enter the public bar to tell my partner (who was bartending at the time) that I was there to pick him up. I had to hang at the door with the kids trying to attract their fathers’attention to get one of them to tell him I was there. If I wanted a drink while I waited for him to wrap up, I was welcome to do so in the Ladies Lounge aka The Parlour.

    I was allowed to compete in the Lions Club Youth of the Year Quest in 1975 but even if I won, the highest placed male would go on to represent the area in the state finals.

    I was the only female bookmakers clerk in the Ring at Harold Park trots (and we didn’t have computers or calculators).

    Ahhhh the 70s…..

    Change happens when young people demand it.

  11. RomeoCharlie29

    Kaye Lee, ah the 70’s. Loving the revelations of your colourful past. I can see what is driving your writing

  12. Kaye Lee


    Gough Whitlam visited my school in 1972, Malcolm Fraser’s cousin was my economics teacher in 1975 when the Liberal Party paid for me to go to Canberra as part of a future leaders thing (the year of the dismissal), and I went to uni with Tony Abbott in 1976 (my bf was a GPS rugby lad too so we hung in the same circles).

    I write for many reasons but mainly because I hate bullshit.

  13. wam

    The point that should be noted that they are women! Operating in a world of men. The critic are men and their women?

    It was normal practice last year when karen uhlenbeck achievement wasn’t headline news, The fact that institutions have have ignored or down graded women’s entrance exam results barely gets a mention 50 years after ginsberg(just saw her film)
    Time for the green white and purple?
    put in ginsberg and see if ruth appears?
    Rosie Batty. Gillian Triggs get negative mention by the boys but have we heard of any of these
    .Antoinette Braybrook. Khadija Gbla. June Oscar. Sally Rugg. Cheree Toka. Nicole Yade. Rosemary Kayess Lizzi Price, Justice King, Barri Phatarfod, Dorothy Bennett, Claire Mallinson and dozen more???

  14. Al

    Nice one wam – yes indeed – who would have heard of Karen Uhlenbeck? – although her achievements are breathtaking. Maryam Mirzakhani might have got a tiny bit of news, but really, not nearly enough. A few years ago (to move to another discipline completely) the orchestral conductor Marin Alsop was the first woman to conduct the Last Night of The Proms, and in an interview afterwards commented that it was extraordinary, in this day and age, that there are still firsts for women.

  15. JudithW

    WAM, my partner commented that the speakers at the Melbourne rally were female also. Maybe we need a women’s news service.
    I created a short clip of 80 or so inspirational teens from across the globe and found 60-80% were females also, and most of the boys were included for scientific achievements…
    Just an observation…

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