Oxfam Summer in Tasmania

Campaigning for change article written on the 03 Mar 2011

Photo: Jess Gracey Jacobson/OxfamAUS

Summer Holidays. A time for the beach, relaxing, no obligations, being with friends, and forgetting the big issues. So you wouldn’t expect a group of teenagers to band together with the objective of obtaining hundreds of signatures to increase Australia’s action against climate change, but that is exactly what Oxfam Summer Campaigns entailed.

The group of activists (all of whom are under the age of 23) travelled from Hobart to Cygent to Golconda following festivals and markets in order to chew Tasmania’s ear off about climate change. Each festival had its own vibe and we adjusted accordingly. At Cygent Folk Festival the crowd was happy to talk to the Oxfam crew while we handed out free sunscreen. They were also excited to sign our petition, especially when asked by a girl in a blue morphsuit.

On Australia Day, people’s minds weren’t too occupied with the effects of climate change in developing countries, but with the help of free green cordial (and Jess in a polar bear suit), we pounced on the parents as the children drank and hugged our entertainment.

Circus Fest was one of my favourite festivals. The acts kept a lot of people busy, and most families seemed to have remembered sunscreen, but that did not deter us. We walked around with a bottle of sunscreen in one hand and a petition in the other. The conversations went a little something like this:

Hey guys, enjoying the festival? Excellent. We’re here with Oxfam campaigning for climate change with this petition. Would you be interest- I’LL SIGN IT!

Not exactly the hardest crowd to engage with this issue.

I went into this program with the intent to teach people about the effects of climate change and the injustice of poverty. I came out with such a valuable, realistic knowledge on campaigning and a humbling respect for the people with whom I worked. I may have the phrase “we’re basically asking the government to take responsibility for Australia’s contribution to climate change, while realising that it’s people in developing countries who will experience the effects first and worst” branded into my memory but I don’t mind.

Although I barely went to the beach all summer, had a few obligations to worry about and was regularly confronted with the big issues, I met amazing people through Oxfam (and at the festivals) and had just as much fun as I would at the beach. All the while doing something I’m not only passionate about, but let me step outside my own selfish world. I’m grateful to Oxfam, and I can’t wait until next Summer.

Mel O’Neil is a volunteer for Oxfam Australia

Check out some of the great photos from the Tasmanian Oxfam Summer crew

Photo: Jess Gracey Jacobson