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A Post-Carbon Future? Narratives of Change and Identity in the Latrobe Valley, Australia

Antoinette Holm, Erik Eklund

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The Latrobe Valley, Australia, is a resource community in transition. The post-carbon future has yet to be realised, and the immediate future is one of economic uncertainty. A state and national economy was built upon energy production from brown coal (or lignite) since the early 1920s, but the realities of changing international and national markets and economies for coal-fired electricity are seeing its value diminish. The consequences of mining and power generation, of course, were left to be experienced by the residents of the Valley. The 2017 closure of Hazelwood Power Station and the Morwell or Hazelwood open-cut mine (as it has been called since the 2014 mine fire) proved to be the Valley’s tipping point for a future without brown coal generation. This article uses the case study of the Latrobe Valley to explore government and corporate renderings of the transition, and the closure of Hazelwood Power Station in particular. We introduce the concept of “extractive meaningˮ to understand and theorise the way that narratives are evoked by government and coal-related corporations that use the structures of collective memory and oral history, but that appear to be more akin to practices that seek to codify, confine, and strip popular and local experience of its meaning. Regional memory and oral history are blanketed under a powerful set of discourses. In this exploratory analysis, we contend that in this version of regional restructuring neo-liberalism is given full rein, history and heritage are in flux with strong Government and corporate direction to assist current policy priorities, even whilst dissonant elements of a vernacular interpretation of regional changes are still discernible.


Bibliographie: Holm, Antoinette/Eklund, Erik: A Post-Carbon Future? Narratives of Change and Identity in the Latrobe Valley, Australia, BIOS – Zeitschrift für Biographieforschung, Oral History und Lebensverlaufsanalysen, 2-2018, S. 67-79.