Our kids’ strike for climate deserves our support

When school kids are brave enough to “tell it like it is” and their claims on climate change are overwhelmingly backed by science, maybe its time for their elders to listen and to offer their support.

In the feverish and dysfunctional debate over climate change that has taken place in Australia over the last decade it is easy to lose sight of what should be the decisive factor: the overwhelming scientific evidence that shows climate change poses an existential threat to humanity.

That evidence has steadily accumulated as more and more resources have been put into research and the tone of the scientific message has turned to alarm as the sheer magnitude of the emergency becomes clearer and clearer.

Without urgent and substantive change, calamity awaits.

The power and influence of highly-placed climate sceptics in the Morrison government and the media, particularly the Murdoch press, means this message has been effectively obfuscated in Australia.

But while these apologists for inaction on climate change can grandstand with their lumps of coal in parliament, or abuse their power on the airwaves to demonise children fighting for their future, the inconvenient truth remains: the planet continues to warm dangerously and that change is accelerating. 

This is important for nurses and midwives because climate change ultimately manifests itself in deteriorating health. It is a core issue for health practitioners.

The director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has put this clearly: “We cannot delay on climate change. We cannot sleepwalk through this health emergency any longer.”

Before the last federal election there were clear signs that the sands were shifting and that a clear majority of Australians were supportive of significant action on climate change.

The election result dampened this optimism with the status quo maintained at the government  level.

But this is no reason to give up the fight. Elections are not the only pressure point for change.

Remarkably, leadership on this issue has come from an unlikely source – our kids.

On 20 September, school children around the world will again strike to save our planet from environmental catastrophe. They have asked older generations to join them.

The Australian union movement, including the NSWNMA, has committed its support.

In striking for substantive action on climate change our kids are also striking for health and I would urge all nurses and midwives to support  them by attending in person or taking some action during your breaks at work via social media in supporting their inspirational stand.

Concerns about staffing aren’t being addressed

Over the last month, throughout the state, our members have been telling us of severe shortages of nurses and midwives in our public hospitals.

At Campbelltown, Concord and Maitland the frustration of nurses and midwives led to well-attended rallies where our members alerted their local communities to the risk of errors or incidents from inadequate staffing.

While winter is always a time when the capacity of our public hospitals is tested with a pronounced spike in demand it would be disingenuous to attribute the problems solely to this.

Our members have spent months raising their concerns about staffing levels in reasonable workloads committees. These concerns have not been adequately addressed.

They are feeling fatigued, are experiencing burnout and feel unsupported by management. They are losing confidence in the current processes for addressing staffing shortages and genuinely fear for patients’ safety.

These problems have been obvious for a long time. The state government recognised this when it made an election promise to bring more nurses and midwives into the public health system. It feels like a promise to give with one hand and take with another.

The government and local managements should heed what nurses and midwives are now telling them: these resources are needed now.