A smoldering four-metre-high 'bushfire koala' set a confronting scene as it made its way from Cannon Hill to the Civic Green on Saturday at the Warrnambool Wants Action Climate Rally.
The rally, organised by concerned south-west residents, began with a march from the main beach, near McGennans Car Park, via Cannon Hill to the Civic Green where about 350 people gathered for speeches and live music.
The march featured Extinction Rebellion's Bushfire Koala, performance troupe the Red Rebels, a drum band and dancers.
Group spokesman Bruce Campbell said the event was organised as a result of "Australia's inadequate response to the climate crisis".
Mr Campbell said the rally was to build momentum locally and for residents "to step forward and tell the politicians we want more action".
"You have to step up if you want to influence what our politicians do," he said. "People power is strong."
Going into the upcoming federal election, Mr Campbell said all political parties needed policies "that will tackle the climate crisis urgently - not by 2050. That's nearly 30 years away".
"Our core message is we want all politicians, political parties and candidates to treat the climate crisis as an emergency demanding urgent action. We are not telling anyone how to vote," Mr Campbell said.
IN OTHER NEWS
He said the impact of climate change was being felt in the south-west now, with predictions of a drier, warmer climate and less rain ahead for the region. "Like the rest of the country we will get more severe weather events. We're not immune here," he said.
"The reason our beaches are washing away now in Lady Bay and East Beach in Port Fairy is because of sea level rise and the prevailing winds are shifting because of climate change.
"We are actually feeling the impacts right now," Mr Campbell said. "The little kids of today, they're going to be grandparents in 2100 and climate change will be totally full-on by then. It's for the little kids today that we're trying to make their future as good as possible."
Passionate young campaigner Lillian Griffiths, 7, addressed the crowd and said there was no planet B and "we need to act now".
"As the temperature of the earth warms up, more animals will become extinct," Lillian said. "Do we want humans to be next? There is no planet B. Save our earth and our future."
Watching on were Warrnambool residents Arleen Wetter and Ann O'Brien.
"We're here because we're worried about the future for young people," Ms Wetter said. "We've got a jewel here. Australian leaders have been slow off the mark."
"It's a choice and we're not making the right one," Ms O'Brien said. "We're doing it for the future and our children's children but we're also here to try to raise the political conscience of the decision makers," she said.
Federal election candidates who attended included Independent Alex Dyson, ALPs Gilbert Wilson and The Greens Thomas Campbell (representing candidate Hilary McAllister who was unable to attend). They were posed the question - If elected what will you do to address the climate crisis that you will be proud of?
Other speakers included young indigenous woman Yaraam Couzens-Bundle, who told of her concerns around the impact of oil and gas exploration in sea country and the impact on whales and whale dreaming along the south-west coast.
Joe Johnston, 18, spoke about his involvement in youth leadership program, Green Futures Now, which builds knowledge, active participation and solutions to address climate change and spoke of his plans for a career in the field.
Friends of the Earth fund-raising co-ordinator Jemila Rushton spoke about its interest and role in climate change while global, independent protest movement Extinction Rebellion national spokeswoman Miriam Robinson talked about the significance of performance troupe the Red Rebels and the bushfire Koala and what they represented as part of the day's march.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Now just one tap with our new app: Digital subscribers now have the convenience of faster news, right at your fingertips with The Standard:
Have you signed up to The Standard's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in the south-west.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.