The answer to climate anxiety is climate action (we thought it was obvious)
This week, Conservative MPs have urged the Prime Minister t increase funding for chaplaincy programs in schools to "help address concerns that activism against global heating is causing mental health problems for Australian children." The Assistant Youth Minister has backed the calls, and added that climate activism is “alarmist and does cause mental health problems for young people.”
Once again, the federal government has just got it so wrong. Are today's students stressed and anxious about the worsening climate crisis? Yes. Is extra funding for support in schools a good thing? Of course. But that's where the good news ends. Young people in Australia are experiencing climate anxiety because governments are ignoring what needs to be done, ie. net-zero targets, commitments to fund renewable energy, a just transition away from coal and gas.
There are a wealth of actions the feds could take to move Australia in the right direction when it comes to the climate and they have done none of it. THAT is why students are stressed you absolute [redacted for legal reasons].
Today's students are striking, marching, and advocating for climate action. Has it not crossed the mind of our nation's leaders that simply listening to them might improve their mental health? Young people are horribly underrepresented in parliament, and particularly in the Liberal National Coalition. But they are making their voices heard through advocacy and activism. They are clearly telling the government what they want.
Andrew Wallace, the MP who proposed the funding, says he "entered federal politics to improve mental health." His portfolio includes blaming porn use for abuse, poor health, and family violence and advocating for 'free speech' in universities. MP Wallace is also reportedly a devout Catholic.
For the uninitiated, school chaplains are like councillors. While the name 'chaplain' is heavy with religious implications, chaplains in public schools are not allowed to preach religion within their roles. However, there are reports from state school students that suggest there are ways around this rule, and chaplains in religious-affiliated schools are free to preach their faith.
Australia is a secular nation with increasing numbers of people moving away from religion. But this does not seem to be reflected in our federal government. Our constitution also outlines a separation of church and state. While all chaplains aren't necessarily religious, many of them are, and it is a good time to question what place religion has in parliament and government-funded schools. Everyone has the right to practice their religion, but we also have a constitutional right to a separation of church and state.