The acting head of Charles Sturt University in Wagga has announced intentions to actively support students and staff who choose to take part in a climate change protest next week.
An internal message was circulated across the university community on Monday, quoting the acting vice-chancellor Professor John Germov.
"No Charles Sturt student or staff member will be penalised by the University for attending the [School Strike for Climate] events, which are an admirably peaceful and powerful way of advocating for much-needed action to address climate change," Professor Germov said in the statement.
Scheduled for September 20, the School Strike for Climate event in Wagga forms part of a nationwide movement of student-led protests.
It is intended to become a precursor to United Nations meetings in New York later this month.
Ed Maher, member of on-campus environmental collective CSU Green, has welcomed both the strike actions and the university's outward support.
"The uni has made it clear its views on climate change," he said.
"CSU's position on climate change is public and clear, we've long been managing our own footprint and saying that 'business as usual' is not a real option.
"We all need to take action to prepare our communities for the change we're already seeing."
Wagga's CSU joins the other regional-based institutions in pushing for sustainability options on campus.
"We're the first carbon neutral university and we're always moving forward with renewable sources, and there have been decisive steps towards including sustainability in course options," Mr Maher said.
"The impact of our physical footprint is only a proportion [of the wider community's carbon output], but the community, staff, businesses and students do look to us to be leaders on these issues.
"We're preparing future leaders and it should be an inspiration to the wider community on what can be achieved with some effort. Hopefully, it will normalise this kind of [environmentally-conscious] behaviour."
Students have been asked to provide prior notice of their intention to join the protests "should this impact assessment deadlines".
"Take measures to ensure they do not compromise their learning or that of fellow classmates, particularly if they are involved in group work," said the acting vice-chancellor.
Some criticism has arisen, suggesting the university's support of the student-led strikes might be misled and out-of-touch with the sensibilities of the broader community.
It follows Wagga City Council's recent rejection of a proposed climate emergency plan.
"It's an alignment with our position as a science-based, evidence-based institution," Mr Maher said.
Citing a 2019 study by the Lowy Institute that indicated the increased fear of climate change in the minds of Australian young people, Mr Maher said participation in the strike action bolstered the university's "relevance and preparation for tomorrow".
The Lowy report found that 64 per cent of Australian adults see climate change as a 'critical threat', which was an increase of six points since 2018, and 18 points since 2014.
Without the threat of academic penalty, Mr Maher is hopeful the strike action will receive a groundswell of support.
"I'm aware of a few staff who now indicate they will attend," he said.
"It's validation from the university to get involved with the issues that matter."