A conversation with Jean Hinchliffe

By Sevin Pakbaz

Vertigo had the chance to chat with 17-year-old climate justice activist Jean Hinchliffe about her first book, Lead The Way. 

From the age of 13, Jean has been involved with various social justice campaigns and protests, including the Yes campaign, GetUp! And Stop Adani. Her book, Lead The Way, is a guide on “how to change the world from a teen activist and school striker”, where she shares powerful tips and tricks from her lived experiences.

Jean will be appearing at the upcoming Sydney Writers Festival (SWF) to talk about her writing and youth activism. 

SP: Hi Jean! So nice to speak with you. You are so young, yet, you’ve already achieved so much. And you’re obviously a very passionate climate activist. Can you share with us what inspires you and drives you to be so outspoken about the environment at your age?

JH: I think I’ve had this constant awareness of this crisis ever since a young age — though I don’t think I was aware for a very long time of just how bad it is. I’d learned about it in class, and I’d hear adults talking about it and I always thought of it as an issue that would be dealt with, and the adults would be responsible to control it. But I saw that wasn’t the case. And I think a big turning point for me was seeing the UN report, which had a deadline of 12 years to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis. And I felt that it was my responsibility to do something. Because if I had a voice, and if I could do something, then it would be insane, not to.

SP: For sure. I mean, it’s one of our most pressing issues and will only get worse if we’re not taking action to prevent it. How important do you think it is for young climate activists like yourself to amplify your voices and get involved in this movement?

JH: Yeah, I think it’s particularly important for young people. It’s so important to get the message out and to continuously say how much of a crisis this is, and a lot of people are in an emergency. I think particularly, it is our responsibility to also have a really intersectional message and to be amplifying marginalised voices the entire time. Because if we have control over this movement, and the messaging, it is vital to ensure that we do it in the most responsible and best way possible, that really shows people the crisis we’re in.

SP: This year was exciting for you. Your book Lead The Way came out at the start of March. Can you explain what the book is about to our readers?

JH: I was looking to write a book, which was a sort of guide  I wish I had when I began my activist journey. So it’s a combination of practical skills and learnings, with very practical instructions, as well as stories and anecdotes from my time as an activist., I found that it was important to have a guide that not only covered activists theory and the broader theoretical things, but also that really baseline stuff, like how do you even go about organising a protest and just getting your roots within activism? I hope it’s been helpful for people. I think I’ve heard from lot’s of people that it’s been a really useful toolkit so far, which has been awesome to hear.

SP: And what kind of content did you include in the book? 

JH: I  open with a section about access theory and how change is made. And then I go into finding your foundation, your base within activism and taking your first steps. There’s some practical stuff regarding pulling actions together, meeting with MPs, doing lots of different sorts of activism — online and offline. And then I get more into the depths of movement, organising, working as a team, and self-care, and all those sorts of things.

Jean will be appearing at SWF at the Voices of Our Future talk on May 2nd, along with some other young and inspirational activists, so book your tickets in advance. 

Follow Jean on her Instagram @jeanlola.h

Jean’s Sydney Writers’ Festival program →  [swf.org.au/writers/jean-hinchliffe/]

Click here → [swf.org.au/festivals/festival-2021] for the full program. 

You can find Lead the Way here → [booktopia.com.au/lead-the-way-jean-hinchliffe/book/9780648676980.html]