OUR POWER is a Melbourne-made documentary about the Latrobe Valley community as they bear the brunt of the privatisation of Victoria's electricity in the 1990s and deal with the devastating Hazelwood mine fire of 2014. It is an emotional and intense roller-coaster that exposes the tragic impacts of the 45-day fire, the fundamental issues facing the community today, and their transition to a 'post-coal' world.
The Latrobe Valley is Victoria’s powerhouse and hosts three brown coal mines which together provide up to 80% of the state’s power everyday.
This raw and unfiltered documentary traces the footsteps of the Latrobe Valley’s history; starting from the coal community’s birth in the 20s, to the establishment of the State Electricity Commission Victoria (SECV) and the eventual privatisation of the industry in the 1990s.
At a time where coal is seemingly the only option for the community, the Latrobe Valley have been sparked into action and are taking charge of their health and future. The film takes its audience through an emotional and intense roller-coaster as it exposes the fundamental issues facing the community today.
OUR POWER wishes to connect all Victorians with the source of where their electricity comes from and the human cost of generating this power.
Official Trailer >> https://vimeo.com/168614446
SUBSTORY: HAZELWOOD MINE FIRE
The Hazelwood mine fire of February 2014 played a significant role in awakening much of the local community in the valley. After receiving conflicting information from different government bodies about the health and social impacts of the pollution in the area, they decided to take matters into their hands.
Latrobe Valley residents were badly let down by the political and economic systems in the region, and are yearning to get truthful and honest answers to questions that no one seems to want to answer. From this, the Voices of the Valley were formed. They are proof that with correct amount of determination, motivation and hurt, people can inspire change and achieve remarkable things.
How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?
We are a small and passionate film crew of six, who together with the film are offering a message of unity for all Australians and presenting a way forward with an amazing chance to make positive social change.
OUR POWER is a film that not only addresses the environmental issues of climate change in Australia, but more importantly addresses the root of the issue - social justice. The purpose of the film is closely tied to education as it aims to connect everyday Australians with their local community who are doing it tough; encouraging everyone to have a conversations about a safe, healthy, just and more sustainable ways of living.
In the last year and half, our crew have worked extremely closely with the Latrobe Valley community leaders to ensure this documentary is 100% authentic and is extremely representative of the community as we want this film to be something the community are proud to show and in turn share their story with the rest of the Australia.
The Latrobe Valley Community lost approximately 75% of their workforce, almost overnight, since the the privatization of electricity in the 1990s. The community has never really recovered from this. Unfortunately this also means that the community as a whole are quite cynical and have very thick walls ensuring no outsiders are ever brought into the true story of their historic community.
We have built close and strong relationships with various community leaders in the Latrobe Valley which has led us to gain the trust of the community. This translates into extremely unique footage – it’s raw, it's truthful and it’s 100% sincere. It is because of these key qualities that the film has a very poignant perspective on the social justice and human rights issues within the Valley. We strongly feel it’s the perfect time to share this story with the rest of Australia.
Social change starts with education and the correct facts, and we feel OUR POWER has all the right tools to ignite Australians, and especially Victorians in helping propel a way forward to a sustainable energy system. We have such a massive potential in such a progressive state, here in Victoria and we want to ensure that independent and raw stories hit the mainstream populous.
Other than closely aligning with the community of the Latrobe Valley, the film has aligned itself with other 100% community-led grassroots organisations such as Environment Victoria, Voices of the Valley, 350.org Australia, Earthworker Coorperative and Energy for the People.
OUR POWER believes in the concept, “power of the people” and that the more support that we have in the community’s corner, the better the chance of social change. With your support we really believe we can spark a wave of positive influential change across Victoria and ideally, all across Australia.
What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?
Aims & Objectives
In an ideal world and with the right budget, we would hope that this film is used as a tool for education all across Australia. The filmmakers would travel with the film and hold workshops with other coal communities across the country and together almost “workshop” what our future without coal could look like (reference our 2015 video with the Anglesea community as they discuss their next steps after closing their brown coal mine). There is potential for the film to tee up with a NGO and NFP and together open up the conversation about the possibilities of redesigning and re-imagining our new future; not just in the next ten years, but for 20, 30, 50+ years time.
Realistically, our first and most tangible outcome of this project is to educate Victorians and connect them to the human faces behind where their power comes from. Naturally, measuring this type of social impact can be hard. Especially if it needs to be done over years and decades.
Since we took on the project, the social momentum and the attention that is turning to The Valley is increasing every single day. We feel that a film like ours will ADD to the debate and provide another perspective into the physical power issue in Victoria (moving from a centralised system to a more distributed system) and how this facilitated through the political, economic and social systems too. This film will allow the Valley to have a product and the ‘social legs’ to proudly stand up on. We feel this story is universal to many other communities and we believe it will travel well to other coal communities in Australia, such as the Hunter Valley and even in Newcastle. This type of impact and outcome is hard to measure, but we feel with a distributor such as TUGG, the measurement of its impact is quantifiable.
In regards to the impact – well, if that makes positive change and puts pressure on current governments to think MORE LONG TERM (less reactionary, less short term), that’s a great start in our books. We want to unite communities and start to focus on positive, community-focused, long-term goals.
What is your education and outreach strategy?
In this day and age, we believe education can change the world. Unfortunately, the way the media is regulated and owned, we can’t always get the most important and ‘long term’ messages out there to the wider community and that’s where independent documentaries have a strong voice. With the correct distribution strategy, we believe this film can make social waves in Australia.
There are strong educational elements within our film that we believe most ‘everyday’ Australians will want to learn about. The film takes audiences through brown coal as a commodity and the history behind the 90+ year old community, following its demise during the privatisation of Victoria’s electricity and into the failure of socio-economic and political systems which resulted in the Hazelwood Mine Fire 2014.
OUR POWER aims to educate audiences about the three mines in the Valley (Yallourn, Hazelwood and Loy Yang). The film asks big questions and opens the debate to:
** How brown coal is economically ‘cheap’ and how the ‘hidden costs’ are put upon the health system and the community, resulting in a shorter life expectancy, a high ratio of mental health issues and in some cases, deaths.
** What are some of the ways in which we can transition from centralised power generation grid to distributed and shared power generation and consumption (this concept is mirrored through the political, economic and social systems too)
OUR POWER needs to be in front of audiences so that Australians can directly interact with the social justice and environmental issues that the film discusses. Audiences need to be educated and to be inspired to make change within their own world. For change to happen, our communities must lead the way.
OUR POWER has every intention to release the film in cinemas all over Victoria through the use of TUGG (currently in negotiation). This way, we can ensure that the film will be seen by people who want to see it and engage with its content in a face-to-face forum (we feel,the most effective!).
More so, we’d very much like for the film’s very first premier to be held in the Latrobe Valley. It would be very fitting if OUR POWER rolled out the ‘red carpet’ in Morwell and pay respect to the community who have generated our power here in Victoria for over 90 years. By doing this, we feel we treat the community like royalty – they are the star of their own show. A simple strategy like this will mean that the film is the talk of the town thereby creating buzz, which no doubt will reach Melbournians. We will want to follow the film as it's shown in various cinemas so that we can connect with other likeminded individuals in the area.
Director, Peter Yacono has always said, “this film is just an excuse to get a cinema full of people to talk about what our future could look like. It is us, community members, who will lead the way in change”.