Real Life

Real life: What it's like to be the mum of a teenage climate activist

''There’s nothing like a bit of pressure from the kids, it’s great!''

By Alex Lilly
In September, tens of thousands of school students around the world flocked to the streets to protest against the lack of action that's being taken against the climate crisis.
Here in Australia, 17-year-old activist Daisy Jeffrey was one of the leading organisers behind the School Strike 4 Climate in Sydney. But in the wake of teen activist Greta Thunberg getting criticised by world leaders and media commentators, Daisy's mum Annabel McGilvray maintains that while she has her concerns, there's nothing to be fearful of.
Annabel says that her daughter Daisy has been very passionate about the environment from a young age.
"She set up a blog when she was about six or seven with some friends on how to recycle, she's been sending letters to politicians about making change, and it's been an ongoing thing," Annabel tells Now To Love.
But it wasn't until the end of last year after the first school strike occurred in Sydney that Daisy decided to try and encourage her school friends from the Conservatorium High School to go along.
"They ended up having a third of the school go along, it's a very small school but after that she got in contact with those who were talking about what was going to happen next."
Watch the Sydney School Strike 4 Climate in the player below. Post continues after video...
While Annabel admits that she has her concerns about the environment, Daisy didn't exactly grow up in an activist household and Annabel even calls herself a "very typical middle-class mother."
"I care about the environment and I do my recycling but I haven't been closely involved with the environment movement until I started watching Daisy's involvement. And to a certain extent it's made me and our family change a lot of what we do. There's nothing like a bit of pressure from the kids, it's great!"
Since Daisy's involvement, Annabel says she's accompanied her to rallies and adds, "I gave her a megaphone for Christmas as a joke!"
Now that Daisy is part of an international movement, Annabel says that Daisy often takes part in international meetings too.
"I rock into Daisy's room and she has 20 people on the screen from all over the world so she's going to be completely set as a backpacker because she'll have all these friends she can drop in and see. And it's a great example of technology being used in a good way."
Annabel she admires Daisy's passion and dedication and even gave her a megaphone for Christmas as a joke! (Image: Supplied)
The School Strike 4 Climate rallies attracted over 300,000 people in Australia but aside from the logistical issue of a group of passionate teenagers organising such a huge event, Annabel said she did have some concerns as a parent.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg was mocked by world leaders and media commentators around the world including US President Donald Trump and Karl Stefanovic and journalist Chris Kenny even criticised Daisy in The Australian saying that her activism wasn't her own.
"It makes me angry. It's ridiculous that you have those who are in positions of power feeling so threatened by young people trying to have their say, who don't even have a voice in our politics just trying to have their say," says Annabel.
"Maybe it's naivety or courage but it makes Daisy and her friends more determined. But I don't think there's anything to be fearful of, regarding criticism and the labelling that goes on from the mainstream media."
"It's ridiculous that you have those who are in positions of power feeling so threatened by young people trying to have their say." (Image: Supplied)
She may have her worries as a mum, but Annabel says she felt so proud to watch Daisy and her friend and fellow activist Jean Hinchliffe on the stage in Sydney's Domain leading the rally.
"Looking at the crowd, not only were there such a great number of kids who were choosing not to go to school in order to make the demand for climate change action but many of their parents came along this time or people from the broader community, old and young."
"They'd all had a sleepover at our place the night before so that they were able to begin the day together. And then to watch them up there so confidently demanding that things change was amazing."
Jean and Daisy at the Sydney School Strike 4 Climate. (Image: Instagram @daisy.jeffrey)
Annabel says to any parents out there of teen activists, support is incredibly important.
"These guys are doing it on their own, they're great organisers and they run meetings and all of these things so I sort of feel if I'm feeding, clothing and sheltering Daisy that's almost all that needs to be done."
"I would be very encouraging if parents who also have kids who are becoming involved, it is a positive thing. It's kids feeling like they have some sort of agency. There will be a lot of parents with other kids getting involved."
She also adds that fitting in schoolwork can be a challenge so helping them balance school and activism is something she's learned to do.
"That's something that we continue to negotiate but having said that, I feel like that would've been an issue anyway!"
Annabel says the most important thing parents of teen activists can do is support their children. (Image: Supplied)