AEU member Campbell Gomes is assistant principal at Collingwood College. In his spare time, he’s been getting active with Extinction Rebellion (XR) – and getting arrested into the bargain! He tells us why.
How did you first get involved with XR?
I’ve long considered myself to be politically engaged. I’ve been supporting campaigns around environmental and social justice for many, many years — signing petitions, going to rallies, getting behind union campaigns. If I think about taking that step from being politically engaged to becoming an activist, really it was the shock of this year’s federal election result. Waking up on the morning after the election and realising we had at least three years more of inaction, was the turning point.
When I first read about XR in London, I was struck by the fact that these were people who, like me, were feeling that signing petitions and voting was just not enough to tackle the climate emergency. I first went along to a “die in”, where people dress up and act out a funeral procession in memory of all the species that are going extinct every day. We weren’t blocking traffic or anything, that was more a classic bit of street theatre.
What sort of people are involved with XR?
I’ve met many, many people from all walks of life and all ages who are really becoming engaged for the first time in their lives. There are lots of people who are worried about government inaction in the face of ecological emergency who are now finding their voice.
Do you think it’s important for teachers to be involved?
Is there anything about being a teacher that has encouraged me to get involved with XR? I think there is. For me, it comes down to the notion of a teacher’s duty of care. For me, the notion of future generations is not an abstract notion. People can talk about climate change as something people in the future will have to deal with, but I feel that more directly and more tangibly, because I’m working with those generations now. I feel a responsibility to keep them from harm and injury.
Can you tell us about the protest that led you to be arrested?
A few weeks ago, XR had a protest on Princes Bridge, just outside Flinders Street station. Some of us had declared ourselves willing and available to be arrested. We sat on the bridge while others behind us chanted and waved flags. At a certain point, the police arrested us one by one.
I don’t feel good about slowing down a few people on their way to work. But if, through our actions, we can bring about quicker and more effective responses to the climate change, then the small amount of disruption we’ve caused to commuter lives would be well worth it.