Since 2018 millions of students around the world have taken to the streets calling for urgent action on global warming. Australian young people have led movements like the School Strike 4 Climate (SS4C) with an estimated 500,000 school students participating in coordinated protests around the country (Hilder & Collin, 2022). For many young people the protests are a unique space for their political voice, including messages delivered through banners, body paint, and signs and placards carrying diverse symbols, words, slogan and metaphor (Catanzaro & Collin, 2023). This visual communication created is crucial in representing young people’s political dispositions and capturing how young people feel about the climate crisis, more broadly. The street protest can be considered a contested site by those in power, and as a result the important messages present can be disregarded, not specifically due to their content but instead, the context within which they reside. In NSW the criminalization of certain types of protest has fuelled a further divide between people protesting on the streets and those in power, increasing tensions and negative representations of school strikers.

This paper addresses this by discussing a collaborative exhibition of student work from three Australian universities that aims to reposition the debates and messages commonly seen on the streets of the School Strike for Climate protests into the sanctioned space of the Museum. In doing this, we aim to address the following research questions:

  • What role does visual communication in an education context play in communicating, informing and challenging audiences in the climate space?
  • How might formal institutions (like Universities and museums) provide spaces for the perspectives of young people to be drawn out and presented in ways that bring them into public discourse about the climate crisis?

This paper will explore how educators worked across institutional divides to create a learning experience for students to feel empowered to articulate their concerns in public forums other than street protests. By doing this, we will emphasise the integral role the visual (and the arts more broadly) can play in impacting social and environmental change. Further, we will explore the ways that students can extend their messages in spaces where they will be listened to with greater attention, on issues informed by existing student perspectives and modes of communication on climate change expressed in the global protest movement.

Presented In

Stream B: Panel Two