At the time we were still seeing Australian advances in green technology such as in photovoltaic technology and thermal solar power generation being lost to Australia and developed by China, Germany, Japan and California. These economies grew richer on the back of Australian tax-payer funded research into renewable energy technologies so that in effect, thousands of potential Australian jobs in sun-rise industries were gifted to off-shore interests due to the short-sightedness of our leaders. Things did not appear to be changing for the better after a year with the Rudd Government. It was time for the people to lead.
We were just one of many sustainability groups which started in Victoria at about the same time. In February 2009, we held our first public meeting after having a press release printed in the local newspaper. The main attraction for the evening was a talk on solar panels by Geoff Boadle from Sustainable Impacts in Yarragon. More than 60 people attended that meeting and a core of seven or so people formed a committee. We determined then, that we would be an apolitical grass roots organisation and concentrate on promoting sustainability values and not promoting the agenda of the Greens or any other political party.
In 2009, the Group ran a workshop on thermally efficient housing in the wake of the catastrophic bushfires which afflicted the area, had a succession of guest speakers talking about climate change, clean coal technologies and many more.
We initially formed three sub-groups, the first being to lobby for quick changes to fight climate change was called the global issues group, the second was to lobby for local sustainability issues such as recycling at shopping centres and the third group was concerned with practical sustainability around the home or farm.
We became incorporated and since then we have run numerous workshops on solar panels, solar hot water, wind farms and preserving foods at home. We also brought renewable energy proponents Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) to speak about how Australia could quickly progress to a carbon neutral economy within 10 years (in the static energy sector) to Traralgon and they were very well received. We also ran a night for the Eureka’s Future cooperative project and promoted the establishment of a factory in Morwell employing 35 people to manufacture Australian designed solar hot water units. On a lighter note, we also brought Rod Quantock to Traralgon Little Theatre to educate us about climate change in his unique style and give our political leaders a good roasting into the bargain. The 113 strong audience got their money’s worth. We also ran a successful environmental film festival at Old Gippstown, Moe.
We work closely with the other local sustainability groups, especially our neighbours in the Baw Baw Sustainability Network and Wellington Sustainability Group, supporting each other’s functions in many ways.
During 2011/12 we have gotten more involved with the 100% Renewable Campaign. A dozen of our members surveyed people’s attitudes to renewable energy as part of a nationwide campaign to force our politicians to stop ignoring the possibilities of renewable energy technologies replacing coal and gas for generating electricity. We interviewed almost 500 people in this area and presented our findings to our elected MPs Russell Northe and Darren Chester in December 2011.
Since inception, we have made submissions to many official inquiries, such as the Bush Fires Royal Commission, the State Government Green Paper on Climate Change, Carbon Capture and Storage and many more.
Some members have been active in letter writing to politicians and letters to the editor of local, state-wide and national newspapers, educating and goading, challenging readers perceptions of the problem of climate change and mitigation measures. We have been sought by radio and Television presenters for diversity of community opinion. Other members have petitioned local businesses such as the Stockland Plaza in Traralgon to become better at recycling.
Our membership is growing, with a surge in March and April of 2012, due to some questionable State Government policy announcements that set back the cause of sustainability by many years. We are reflecting heightened community concern about coal for export and coal seam gas (CSG). With the website, we hope to have an even wider reach. (See the Issues page on our website)
This is our history, but with the current political settings, it seems that it will be much of our future as well.