When Ellen Sandell spoke at RMIT

by Rachel Short | @TheRachelShort

Have you guys noticed there’s a bit of weirdness with the weather lately though? How summers are getting hotter and it’s only May and it’s already six degrees at eight o’clock at night? Dare I call it this early in the piece and say, “CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL”? This is what state MP for Melbourne, Ellen Sandell, had to say when she came to spread the word on climate change as part of a symposium held by the Centre for Communication, Politics and Culture at RMIT.

Greens MP Ellen Sandell Photo - Supplied
Greens MP Ellen Sandell. Photo – Supplied

Following Senator Christine Milne’s resignation as Greens leader and the concern the party may have internal problems, they have not let the importance of climate change slip. Their new leader Richard di Natale is promising to get the issue back on track.

According to Fairfax Media, Senator Di Natale said the Greens would be challenging the government health, education and public transport problems but believes the addressing climate change is the highest priority – for without it, everything else is kind of superfluous.

Sandell used her appearance at RMIT to give her background in politics and especially environmental issues. The first matter she addressed was how to communicate climate change to the government.

Born in Mildura, she was interested in conservation of the environment from an early age. After receiving a scholarship to the University of Melbourne to study arts and science, she was finally in a place where her passion for activism could be unleashed.

She helped run a campaign for the university to become carbon neutral. After being knocked back several times, she encouraged the population of the university to speak up about their concerns surrounding climate change and finally the university agreed to become carbon neutral by 2030. “The way to convince them is to make them ask themselves, do people care enough about this for us to care about it?” said Sandell in early May.

After graduating university, Sandell’s first taste of politics was as an employee for then-Victorian Labor premier, John Brumby. She worked as a policy advisor on the Brumby government’s climate change strategy and Green Paper.

Her reasons for leaving the Labor government were many, but perhaps the most important was the scrapping of her plans to install solar panels in every primary school in Victoria. After after parents called into talkback radio and voiced their concerns about their children in classrooms on a 38-degree day, the government moved in favour of installing air conditioners

A fair amount of the talk was used by Sandell to express the importance of the successful dissolution of the East-West Link toll road and the campaign to see the closure of Australia’s dirtiest coal mine, Hazelwood. Labor promised in 2010 to replace Hazelwood with clean energy solutions, but it still remains open.

She said the template for getting rid of the East-West Link was a fantastic model to run other campaigns on. She said you could apply this in replacing Hazelwood:  pressure community and  local councils, take the government to court for misleading people and then apply electoral inner-city pressure from the Greens.

Sandell was optimistic as she spoke of climate change being addressed much more significantly in the future. Perhaps the most resonating part of her talk being about the importance of smaller governments in creating change.

“State and local governments can do so much to influence sustainability and climate solutions,” Sandell said.

“It’s great to have a carbon price and the Federal Government working on an international treaty, but actually the people who are going to implement these solutions, are the teachers, are the doctors in hospitals, are the people who run on city councils, are the universities who are often quite influenced by state and local governments. Solutions can come from the ground up.”

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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