Book Review: “Lead the Way” by Jean Hinchliffe (@PanteraPress @EasternRegional)

Lead the Way: How to change the world from a teen activist and school striker (Pantera Press, 2021) by Jean Hinchliffe

In Jean Hinchliffe’s Lead the Way: How to change the world from a teen activist and school striker (Pantera Press, 2021), one sentence particularly stands out: “As long as politicians don’t feel under threat of losing their seat, they will continue to ignore those they’re supposedly working for.”

Indeed, we as Australians are not afraid of creating change to make our world a better place. As Hinchliffe stresses at the beginning of her book: “At the end of the day, if you don’t take action, then who will?”

Hinchliffe correctly recognises that it is not enough for individuals to do the right thing. Instead of relying and therefore putting pressure on individuals to change their lifestyles and worldviews, systemic change is almost always necessary.

Hinchliffe began her activism at the age of 13, volunteering with the Vote YES campaign for marriage equality. She has also volunteered with organisations such as GetUp and Stop Adani. Now 17, she is a Sydney-based climate activist and an organiser within School Strike 4 Climate, campaigning for legislative action against the sourcing and usage of fossil fuels.

For anyone with an urge to fight for what’s right, Hinchliffe provides a detailed analysis of power and change, arguing “power is essentially control over three major issues: who makes the decisions, who sets the agenda, and who sets the culture”.

When we see how power is unfairly distributed and unjustly used, it is natural that we want to make a change by shifting power to those who can and will make a more equitable and fair society. The key is to do it professionally, efficiently, consistently and collectively, learning from the past and developing new strategies and techniques for the future.

Creating change is not easy, particularly for young people. In Hinchliffe’s words: “We’re stereotyped as ‘self-obsessed and apathetic’; yet, if we proceed to genuinely care about the political decisions impacting our lives, we’re labeled ‘bratty and brainwashed’.”

Lead the Way opens our eyes to the kind of sophisticated, strategic thinking that young people utilise in their campaigns. Driven by passionate and dignified determination and acutely aware of their duty to balance school work and activism, the last thing that young people need is condescending comments.

Lead the Way details how young people think and act, and how they educate themselves and get ready to shoulder their responsibilities. From volunteering and understanding intersectionality to working as a team, from mastering the art of reaching people to harnessing the power of mainstream and social media, and from maintaining a professional work environment to time management and self-care – these are valuable lessons for activists of all ages.

To create change first requires a change of mindset. For those of us as individuals and community groups who want to make a change but feel powerless – and especially for those of us voting in every election but still feeling hopelessly ignored by our politicians – it is time, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, that we learn from our young people.

Note: This book review was originally published under the title “A guide to change-making for activists of all ages” by Rangers Trader Star Mail, July 27, 2021, P.12.

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