Wendy Farmer’s community organising experience was like being thrown into the deep end & learning to swim. It started with the catastrophic Hazelwood Mine fire. During this unprecedented disaster, the community’s health concerns were largely ignored by local, state and federal government organisations. We came together with outraged community members to speak up for our community when we were told ‘the air was okay, just don’t breathe it’.
A community advocacy group called Voices of the Valley formed and called for the the first inquiry. Collecting data we quickly realised that the fire had caused deaths, and so we called for the second inquiry, participating in and influencing change. Voices of the Valley’s advocacy work has led to, notably, the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiries, which found that the mine fire contributed to 13 extra deaths in the Latrobe Valley.
Voices of the Valley were finalists in the 2015 Victorian Premier’s sustainability awards in the Environmental Justice category and in 2016 winners of the Premier’s sustainability award for Environmental Justice, as well as 2016 Vic Health Award for Health Equity.