This week a special edition of Insight travels to the Latrobe Valley to meet the “forgotten workers” who will be impacted by the closure of Hazelwood Power Station, Australia’s oldest coal plant.
For 52 years, the Hazelwood Power Station – one of three in the Latrobe Valley – has been supplying up to 25 per cent of Victoria’s energy and generations of employment to locals. Entire families work at the station.
On the 31st March 2017, it will be shut down for good, taking with it up to 1000 local jobs. Majority owners, Engie, say there’s just not enough revenue being generated from Australia’s oldest coal plant.
But what will happen to the surrounding towns of Morwell, Moe and Traralgon? How will they adapt?
Jason and Lee Mackay built their dream home for their family of four kids on the promise of work until 2025. John Pettigrew a final year apprentice at another power station in the Valley is preparing to move interstate in order to find work.
Many young people in the area either hoped to work at the station or are now worried about the increased competitiveness for jobs in the fallout from the closure.
Unemployment rates in the Valley are already the highest in the state, sitting at 8.2%.
While politicians throw lumps of coal around parliament, and the stoush around renewables and energy supply plays out alongside recent record-setting heatwaves, a special edition of Insight travels to the Latrobe Valley to meet the Australians on the front line of these debates.
As policy is argued, their lives will soon be changed irrevocably.
Connie Van Eyk – whole family works at Hazelwood
“You know the old Aussie saying, ‘You’ve lived off the sheep’s back’… We’ve lived off the coal.”
Jason MacKay – started working at Hazelwood 4 years ago, promised work until 2025
“My future for now is just take it day by day. Just put food on the table for my family, just do what I can to make ends meet and stay in the Valley
Lee Mackay – Jason’s wife; both dad and grandfather worked at Hazelwood
“We had a fourth child because we thought we’d be able to afford the cost of living on that income. We built our dream home, we leased a car. We just built our whole life around that promise.”
John Pettigrew – final year apprentice
“I want to stay here but without sufficient [job] replacement or new ideas, well then it’s simply not going to be feasible.”
Ray Burgess – local business owner
“One of the issues that people say to me is ‘We’re transitioning.’ Well, what are we transitioning to, welfare and training?”
Tuesday at 8.30pm on SBS.