The end of coal-fired power will transform Collie — and not just for mine workers

Social researchers say the looming end of coal-fired power in Collie is an opportunity to transform the lives of the more vulnerable people in the West Australian coal town.

The WA government is spending more than $600 million to secure new projects and create jobs before it exits the coal power market in 2030 — a move set to impact 1,200 workers.

There is a push to ensure vulnerable groups in the community also benefit from the government funds flowing into Collie.

two people face away from the camera, one wears a rainbow pride flag on their denim jacket, the other wears a black union jumper
A transition workshop brought together diverse groups to discuss the future of Collie.(ABC South West: Georgia Loney)

Edith Cowan University researcher Naomi Godden is studying the social impact of the shift from coal in the town, in particular for Indigenous people, the LGBTQI community and those with disabilities.

She wants her work to help marginalized groups in Collie so they don’t face further disadvantages when the town’s main industry ends.

A woman in an orange jumper and long hair stands, leaning over a table to write
ECU researcher Naomi Godden attends a coal transition workshop.(ABC South West WA: Georgia Loney)

“How can a just transition be inclusive of everyone in our community in a way that leaves no-one behind?” she said.

Looking to the future

Collie resident Kai Payze is an advocate for Out South West said they wanted more support and counseling to be made available for LGBTQI young people.

A transman with dark hair and a denim jacket, he has a badge saying "He/they}
LGBTQI advocate Kai Payze says they want more support services in Collie.(ABC South West WA: Georgia Loney)

He said some young people were not comfortable to come out in the town.

“I always let people know I am here to support them, just letting people know I am here, whether you would like to come out or not,” Mr Payze said.

He said he saw the looming end of coal as part of the process to address climate change.

“What’s going to happen in 30 years, 50 years? How are we going to fix things?” Mr Payze said.

no crystal ball

Indigenous elder Joe Northover was born in Collie and said he hoped to see more of the transition funds spent on encouraging Indigenous employment.

An older indigenous man with a green jumper sits at a table, with a serious expression
Indigenous elder Joe Northover at the social research workshop.(ABC South West WA: Georgia Loney)

“Now you see things closing down around the town, the shops, businesses, or people are heading down the hill [to Bunbury],” he said.

“The [transition] money is all wonderful to get things going, but it’s long-term answers that are required and we don’t have a crystal ball.”

Opportunity to transform community

Mining and Energy Union representative Greg Busson said it was important to hear from all groups about how the town would change.

An older indigenous man and middle aged white man with a MEU shirt sit at a table talking
Mr Northover and Mr Busson discuss the future of Collie.(ABC South West WA: Georgia Loney)

“It’s important we get a feel for the whole community instead of just looking at working life in Collie,” he said.

“It’s important we get a whole community outcome instead of just an outcome regarding jobs.

“Through this process I’ve always been glass half-full. We have an opportunity to make this community what we want it to be.”

The research is due to be finished in 2023.


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