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One year on from Morwell fire, action needed to address ongoing crisis in Latrobe Valley

One year on from the Hazelwood mine fire, the communities of Morwell and the broader Latrobe Valley are calling for an urgent long-term strategy to deal with the ongoing economic and social impacts of the fire as well as pre-existing disadvantage, according to a report from the Victorian Council of Social Service.

“The Hazelwood mine fire has had a deep and lasting impact on Morwell and the Latrobe Valley, resulting in significant social and economic upheaval and leaving crucial community supports struggling to meet growing need,” said Emma King, CEO of VCOSS.

“Years of structural change and neglect, along with major service gaps, have left Morwell significantly disadvantaged and the impact of last year’s Hazelwood mine fire is proving to be a long-term crisis.”

“Local services, agencies and community members tell VCOSS they are concerned that authorities are quickly forgetting about Morwell and Hazelwood in the wake of the immediate emergency, when in fact deeper, more lasting, issues are only just emerging.”

The warning comes in a report, ‘One year on: Morwell and the 2014 Hazelwood Mine fire’, which examines the difficulties faced by Latrobe Valley communities in responding to the mine fire which blanketed the town in toxic smoke for 45 days.

The report, based on the experiences and feedback of community and social services working in Morwell, highlights the long-term impacts of the Hazelwood Mine fire including:

  • Loss of pride in the community, lack of trust in the rebuilding process, and the need for further community building activities to help it recover from the fire
  • Ongoing difficulties and lack of funding for community and social services organisations to respond fully to the complex and diverse needs of their clients
  • Operational challenges for community service organisations that have had to shut down essential services, lost revenue and face ongoing staffing issues.

“The mine fire was merely the latest in a long line of upheavals that have hit the people of Morwell and the Latrobe Valley that date back to the restructure and privatisation of the State Electricity Commission in the 1990s.”

“This is clearly a critical period for the Latrobe Valley. There is significant uncertainty of what the future might hold, and a real fear that the mine will ignite again,” said Emma King.

“While emergencies can cause great physical, financial and psychological hardship for all involved, they can devastate those who are already facing disadvantage.”

The report is being launched at the 2015 Emergency Management Forum hosted by and the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV), which will gather local, national and international experts to explore in depth issues and initiatives for vulnerable people in emergencies.

Read the full report One year on: Morwell and the 2014 Hazelwood Mine fire.