To legally buy alcohol from this Queensland pub you must blow in the bag – and you must blow zero.
Queensland government measures prohibited all alcohol in Kowanyama since 2008
In 2014 the community’s canteen reopened, serving restricted amounts of alcohol
Takeaway sales are now allowed in the community, with each person allowed 12 mid-strength drinks per evening, four nights a week
Kowanyama, a remote town on western Cape York, was one of seven Indigenous communities in Queensland where prohibition was introduced in 2008.
In 2014, the local canteen reopened serving restricted amounts of alcohol.
This year the community has gained more freedom regarding alcohol, successfully applying for a takeaway license.
But that freedom is restricted.
Each person is limited to buying 12 mid-strength drinks per evening, and only from Wednesday to Saturday between 5pm and 11pm.
To enter the canteen patrons you must sign in, take a breathalyser test, and return a zero blood alcohol reading—even to buy takeaways.
They can then, for example, have four drinks at the bar and take eight home.
Producing a members or visitors card at the bar allows staff to keep tabs on how many drinks people have had, while customers are kept informed of their limit by a flashing digital display on the cash register.
A similar canteen has this month opened on the opposite side of Cape York, at Lockhart River — another of the seven communities where prohibition was introduced in 2008.
Venues on Mornington Island and at Pormpuraaw, on western Cape York, are also in the process of applying for extensions of their existing liquor licences.
‘Hardly anyone here’
Many in Kowanyama gathered for the annual Rodeo Ball this month, hosted at the canteen.
Thomas Hudson, President of the Kowanyama Sport and Recreation Association which runs the canteen, said the aim of the ball was to bring the community together.
“For people to dress up and be proud of themselves because we don’t do that every day here in our community,” Mr Hudson said.
Attendance at this year’s event, the first since its inception where takeaway alcohol has been available, was down on previous years.
The steady stream of people buying from the canteen takeaway counter before its 8pm closure confirmed what ball attendee Clive ‘Smokey’ Gilbert suspected – that many were choosing to drink at home.
“There’s hardly anyone in the canteen here,” Smokey said.
“When no takeaways were on this pub used to be crowded but you don’t see that now, they’re always going home now.”
Fellow Kowanyama resident Gwendolyn Dick said despite the below average attendance, the ball did succeed in bringing the community together during an extended period of sorry business.
“We had four deaths just recently, and another one in the last week or so,” Ms Dick said.
“It’s good to see all the families from in the community come together all in one because we often can’t during the sorry business and the funeral.”
Return of rights and responsibilities
Most in Kowanyama welcome the return of the canteen and of takeaway alcohol sales, including the community’s women’s support group.
Security providers and canteen customers said the increase in takeaway sales had resulted in a reduction in fights and anti-social behavior at the pub.
“It’s something good for the community,” Smokey said.
“It keeps them out of trouble and people enjoy their beers at home watching the football.”
For Michael Yam, a former mayor of the Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council the resumption of takeaway alcohol sales at the community’s canteen is a return of the rights and responsibilities of the townspeople.
“It’s about time they gave us something back,” he said.
“It’ll probably minimize the sly grogging because, as we know, in our community there’s always opportunists that are going to do it.”
And he said there were benefits to people choosing to drink at home, rather than at the canteen.
“Some families take their drinks home so that they can be home with their kids instead of drinking in the club all the time, away from their little ones.”
Lockhart River Aboriginal Shire Major Wayne Butcher said that community’s newly opened canteen had been “14 years in the making.”
“It’s created 10 new jobs in the community overnight so it’s great to see a lot of young people working as crowd controllers, security or people serving alcohol behind the bar and preparing food,” he said.
“That’s the other side of the coin that we don’t get to look at too much or focus on.”
From the Dragon Boat Regatta in Broome to the Orange Mardi Gras festival on the other side of the country, community events are being canceled and emergency services are struggling to cope as the number of volunteers plummets.
The trend has triggered soul-searching among community groups and charities — is it a temporary blip linked to the COVID pandemic, or have Australians become more selfish?
“What we’ve seen is a longer-term decline in volunteering rates, and that’s been amplified by the COVID pandemic,” Volunteering Australia CEO Mark Pearce says.
“There are also changes in how people want to volunteer and participate — there’s increasing demand for flexibility that doesn’t necessarily correlate with the structure of formal volunteering programs.”
The 2021 census data recorded a 19 per cent drop in volunteering since the last snapshot in 2016. The finding is backed up by more regular, in-depth social surveys done by the ABS.
The biggest decline has been recorded in the 15-24 year old age group, the same age group posting an increasing number of controversial ‘good deed’ stunts on social media.
The depletion of the volunteer brigade is affecting sports clubs, emergency services and long-established organizations like Rotary and Lions, that help run events and raise funds for local charities.
Country towns suffering
The impact is most noticeable in regional areas, where event organizers and first-responders are more likely to be unpaid.
As a result, some events are being cancelled, such as the annual Dragon Boat Regatta in Broome.
It has been a popular fixture in the town for almost 20 years, and raises tens of thousands of dollars for charity. But this year there weren’t enough people to organize or run it.
“The practical impact in regional and remote Australia is that social activities and the cohesion that takes place by community coming together is lost or significantly reduced,” Mr Pearce says.
“And that has implications for the livability of these communities in which people choose to spend their lives.”
The Dragon Boat Regatta is usually organized by the local Rotary chapter, which currently has only a handful of members.
It is hoping to find enough local people to help with the nine-month organizing process to revive the regatta in 2023.
Events fighting across the country
Meanwhile in Alice Springs, organizers are struggling to pull together enough volunteers to hold the beloved Henley-on-Todd Regatta, which raises money for local Rotary Club projects.
Every August, teams of people race on the dry Todd River in boats without bottoms in front of a crowd of about 4,000 people.
Secretary Ron Saint said getting the right number of volunteers had been “tenuous.”
“We would like to have 130 but we’ve got about a hundred. So we’re at that point where we’d like to have 12 people doing a certain role but we’ll have nine or eight,” he said.
“It’s not going to stop the event … but you’d want a few more [people] in case someone can’t make it.”
Mr Saint believed some people who might volunteer were now trying to make up for paid work lost during COVID lockdowns.
“People are time poor and as we try to get the economy kick started again it’s difficult to commit the discretionary time for volunteer work,” he said.
In March, a proposed inaugural Mardi Gras celebration in Orange, in central west New South Wales, was canceled for the third year in a row when the small team of people organizing the Rainbow City Festival event became “exhausted” from repeatedly having to postpone it .
What’s causing the decline?
Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that people aged 40 to 54 are most likely to volunteer.
Women and men participate at a similar rate, with the greatest number of people volunteering with sporting clubs and religious groups.
People living in remote areas are most likely to volunteer, but the rates in regional and urban areas are almost identical.
Social researcher Hugh Mackay has been monitoring Australian attitudes and lifestyle habits for six decades.
“This is a weird period we are in at the moment, that helps explain the decline of volunteering,” he says.
“We’ve been changing in ways that have made us more individualistic, much more concerned about ‘me and my rights and my entitlements and my identity’.
“And that’s all working against our natural proclivities to be kind and compassionate and cooperative and help each other out.
“But it’s also worth noting that organizations that want volunteers have probably not been quite nimble enough, and not understanding all these societal shifts and the changing culture.”
dr mackaysays the main change has been a withdrawal from community involvement.
This has been caused by an increase in the use of social media to stay “connected’; people living alone; and the trend for having fewer children, resulting in fewer opportunities to develop local friendships through schools and kids’ sporting clubs.
“We’ve also become too ‘busy’, and being ‘busy’ is a kind of hiding place, a barrier between us and others,” he says.
“It’s the enemy of social cohesion and the enemy of volunteering, because as long as we can convince ourselves we’re too busy to help other people, we can get away with it – we have made being busy a virtue.”
Are young people the problem?
Dr Mackay rejects the notion that young people are too selfish to volunteer, saying a more nuanced shift has occurred.
“Millennials have grown up with a deep sense of impermanence and have adopted a mantra of ‘let’s keep our options open’,” he says.
“Committing to anything long-term runs against the ethos of this generation, so they will be happy to help out, but reluctant to join up to anything that requires a weekly meeting or a long-term program.
“One of the favorite occupations of older people through history has been to bash younger people and complain about them.
“But it’s worth remembering that the rise of individualism is not a generational phenomenon, it’s happening right across the age ranges.”
All at sea as volunteers jump ship
Some organizations are adapting by asking people to help out with one-off events, or ramping up social media recruitment campaigns.
But sometimes the challenge is retaining the volunteer recruits who do sign up.
In the waters off Broome, it is a matter of life or death — every few weeks the volunteer Sea Rescue team is called out to save a sinking or stranded vessel.
Skipper Gareth Owen says cyclones, crocodiles and big tides make it a hazardous job.
“It’s vital we’re able to crew the vessel, because the calls can come at any time,” he says.
“It’s always very close as to whether we have enough people.
“It’s a major problem, because we’re low on numbers and the commitment to training is quite high, so it can be difficult to maintain people’s enthusiasm.”
Mr Owen, who originally signed up to learn marine skills with his young sons, says he’s not surprised the latest census data shows a drop in volunteer numbers.
“I think we’ve seen over the past few years that some people have become a bit more self-centered and they don’t go out as much because of COVID,” he says.
“So I guess a lot of people have prioritized families, and that has put pressure on volunteer groups like us.”
Annie Stephenson has been volunteering with the group for two years, and coordinates recruitment.
Ms Stephenson says a recent advertising campaign attracted more than 20 people, but the numbers dropped away as they realized the commitment involved.
“It’s one thing to recruit people, but retaining them can be hard,” she says.
“Because there’s so much training involved, we’re looking for people who can commit for two years minimum, but people’s circumstances change, they’ll get a new job or have family commitments, which is totally understandable.
“The key thing for us is to have a big enough pool of qualified crew to share the load and fatigue management, and to make sure people don’t get burned out.”
One of the new recruits is 18-year-old Byron Schaffer.
He says he doesn’t know many people his age who volunteer regularly.
“I think some teenagers see it as something that ‘adults’ do, people who are a bit more settled down,” he says.
“I really enjoy it, it’s something to do in your free time that makes you feel good.”
What does the future hold?
Volunteering Australia says there has been a small increase in participation rates this year, following the easing of COVID restrictions.
But they are still well short of the volunteer numbers of five years ago.
Volunteer skipper Gareth Owen hopes recent natural disasters might prompt Australians to sign up and offer their time and expertise.
“With the floods and the firefighters you see so many awesome volunteers doing things, and I think people forget they are volunteers because they’re doing such an excellent job and they’re at it for so long,” he says.
“Sometimes people might think it’s part of the service we get for being Australian, and not realize we need to put our hand up and look out for each other by volunteering.”
Dr Mackay, now aged 83, remains optimistic.
“I think this rise of individualism marks a really weird, aberrant period in human history, and it’s not actually who we are,” he reflects.
“I think our true nature as communitarians, cooperators, and kind and compassionate people who look out for each other will re-emerge.”
“The pendulum is going to swing back, I am sure of it.”
A senior doctor at Adelaide’s biggest hospital says the health system is under “siege” and pinpoints Mondays as the busiest day.
South Australia’s hospitals are usually busiest on Mondays
Discharging patients on weekends is harder due to fewer available services
Patients coming in for elective surgery on Monday also add to demand
SA’s struggling health system was again in focus this week due to the death of a 47-year-old man while he waited for an ambulance in suburban Adelaide on Monday.
Problems around ramped ambulances, overcrowded emergency departments and full inpatient hospital beds, trouble doctors and nurses on any day of the week.
But each Monday a perfect storm of complications aligns, cranking up pressure on health staff and patients.
So, what makes Monday the busiest day in SA’s hospitals, and what can be done about it?
A weekend hangover
As medical lead of the surgery program at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and chair of the Australian Medical Association Council, Peter Subramaniam knows South Australia’s health system well.
He says it is under “siege”.
“The system is under pressure and there is a significant demand and our capacity to meet that demand is not working,” Dr Subramaniam said.
The qualified vascular surgeon pinpointed Mondays as the busiest days for hospitals.
“You can see from the data we have that ours are lower on the weekend compared to weekdays,” he discharge said.
“So that contributes to the log jam that occurs on a Monday.”
Dr Subramaniam said fewer doctors working to patients over the weekend had an impact discharge.
“Most acute care hospitals operate on reduced staffing,” he said.
But that’s not the only thing bringing down discharge numbers.
“We rely heavily on community services to be available and accessible over weekends and often that’s difficult to organize,” Dr Subramaniam said.
“You might need a rehab bed or a step-down bed or a community nursing service to be able to manage the patient once they’re discharged.
“Once we’ve discharged the patients, they need to go somewhere.”
Chief executive of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Association’s SA branch Elizabeth Dabars said the “absence of senior clinicians” on the weekend was driving up ramping times.
Professor Dabars wants to see nurses, allied health professionals and junior doctors able to discharge more acute patients under something called criteria-led discharge (CLD).
“It’s a win for the people wanting to go home and it’s a win for the broader community who would have better access to hospital beds,” the qualified nurse said.
CLD has been hotly debated for decades and was a policy directive issued by SA Health in 2019.
Professor Dabars said it was never fully implemented.
“That has not really seriously been put in place and that is a blocker to people being discharged,” she said.
“It doesn’t actually make sense for it not to be enabled.”
But the former president of the South Australian Salaried Medical Officers Association, Dr David Pope, said the number of patients that would fit the CLD criteria was small.
“Item [CLD] works quite well in some areas but I defy anyone to go around and find patients sitting around in the hospital for want of a doctor to come in on a Monday morning,” Dr Pope said.
“That just doesn’t happen.”
He said a crowded start to the week was a side effect of elective surgery.
“That worse effect on a Monday is purely a function of when elective surgery patients arrive,” he said.
The doctor said the idea that senior clinicians were unwilling to provide care on weekends was damaging to an already stretched workforce.
“Doctors are in the hospitals 24/7, so if there’s a need for a doctor to be in the hospital they will be there if they exist,” he said.
What will change?
The state government said it was looking to make criteria-led discharge “a regular part of hospital operations.”
“Expanding its use will reduce bed-block by ensuring patients ready for discharge can leave hospital, freeing up beds for those in the emergency department and easing pressure on frontline workers,” a government spokesperson said.
Dr Subramaniam said he supported the “safe” implementation of the policy.
“Criteria-led discharging is part and parcel of a modern healthcare facility and it’s strongly supported,” he said.
But he said it needed support to work effectively.
“We need the right level of resources,” he said.
“We need more efficient ways of using those resources and we need to strengthen our community care.”
He said addressing other issues, such as transitioning long-stay NDIS patients out of hospitals, was complex and would take time.
“If we don’t achieve a system response to dealing with acute care and the challenges that are going to come, we’re going to find patients are going to be left by the wayside,” he said.
The site of a fatal car accident in Victoria’s east, where a 4WD carrying four teenagers plunged over a cliff, is set to be widened and have safety barriers installed.
Two cars within a fortnight went off the road outside Walhalla, resulting in the death one person
It came five years after a similar non-fatal accident which prompted unsuccessful calls for a barrier to be installed
Work is now underway to widen the road, install safety barriers and undertake other works at the site
The crash in June this year on Walhalla Road just outside the historic town of Walhalla, claimed the life of a 19-year-old passenger.
There have been at least two similar accidents at the corner — one a fortnight later, while the other in 2017 prompted community calls for safety barriers at the time — to no avail.
Local Mayor Michael Leaney, who runs a hotel in the town, said the upgrade was something the local community and visitors to the historic town would “welcome wholeheartedly.”
“This has been a long process to get to where we are but we are pleased that we’ve been able to get the solution of having barriers installed at what is a dangerous corner on the Walhalla Road,” he said.
“We hope with the installation of these barriers, and the other safety measures that have been installed at this location, that we won’t see any further incidents at this place, and there won’t be any further fatalities or serious injuries.”
Barriers to be installed in coming months
The planned upgrades come after Regional Roads Victoria and Victoria Police visited the site last month to investigate how safety could be improved.
“New signage has been installed following a recent safety audit and we plan to widen the road and install safety barriers to further improve safety,” Minister for Roads and Road Safety Ben Carroll said.
The new signage includes advice to drivers to reduce their speed to 25 km/h. Road-side foliage has also been trimmed.
Specialized safety barriers will be needed to suit the narrow section of road, with work to install them expected to start in coming months, following completion of detailed planning and site assessments.
Line marking and road resurfacing is also on the list of jobs.
Mr Leaney hoped it would be completed quickly.
“We hope that this will happen before the busy summer season, although there have already been a number of improvements at this corner,” he said.
“There’s been big warning signs installed, there is some road treatments that are going in as well at the same location.
“Certainly, people are more aware of the dangers of this corner and adding a barrier will just finalize the matter and hopefully, will make it safe for locals and visitors alike.”
Almost 200,000 Australians are often forced to drink water containing unsafe levels of uranium, arsenic, nitrates, fluoride and E.coli, according to the peak body for water suppliers.
Almost 200,000 people in remote Australia don’t have access to drinking water that consistently meets health guidelines
40 per cent of locations affected are remote Indigenous communities
Researchers say too many bureaucratic layers allow for blame shifting and inaction
A further 400,000 people across Australia regularly drink water that fails aesthetic standards, a new Water Services Association of Australia report has found.
Researchers discovered unsafe drinking water in 115 locations, while hundreds more had water that failed aesthetic standards.
Towns and communities in the Northern Territory, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia returned the worst water quality results, with remote Indigenous communities found to be the most affected by unsafe drinking water.
Jackie Mahoney and Pam Corbett, who live in Alpurrurulam, 500 kilometers north-east of Alice Springs on the NT-Queensland border, say poor water quality causes a wide range of illnesses and problems.
“It makes you itchy … and causes kidney problems and makes you sick in the stomach,” Mr Mahoney said.
“People with sensitive skin were treated for scabies, but it wasn’t scabies. Children’s scalps were dry and itching, and lots of calcium on the taps and clogged pipes caused problems.”
The community recently installed a filtration system which, they said, had helped to improve the water quality, but it did not remove everything and many people still suffered health issues because they had been forced to drinkpoor quality water for years.
“Before that it was worse,” Ms Corbett said.
“We didn’t know we were drinking no-good water. It made our stomach sick, and… our kids.”
Ms Corbett said she and her partner had approached governments, the Central Land Council and other funding bodies for a new water bore for the community but progress had been slow.
“I’m worried because of our kids, their future, the next generation. We need to fix this. We need new water soon, ASAP,” Mr Mahoney said.
“It’s our homeland. We’re there for life and we should have good water.”
600,000 rely on poor quality drinking water
The Water Services Association of Australia report shows 115 locations across remote Australia exceeded safe guidelines at least once in 2018-19, while 408 locations did not meet aesthetic standards, affecting more than 600,000 people.
More than 40 per cent of all locations surveyed were remote Indigenous communities, the report said.
But association executive director Adam Lovell said the number of locations and breaches of the guidelines actually could be much higher because there was not enough testing being done.
“There’s hardly any data to understand what the water quality looks like,” he said.
“When we talk about closing the gap, we don’t know what that gap actually looks like right now.”
Unacceptably high levels of elements like uranium or arsenic could result in long-term chronic health issues, Mr Lovell said, but the most common risk was E.coli.
“It’s immediate. If a water supply is not being disinfected properly then there’ll be gastrointestinal problems in the house,” he said.
“Over the longer term you’ll see that the chemical impacts build up and build up and build up and they’re the chronic impacts, which are much harder to see immediately and then much harder to treat.”
‘Blame shifting’ over water quality
Mr Lovell said in Australia’s major cities there were usually hundreds of water samples taken a day, testing for microbial contaminants like E.coli and chemicals.
“Australian drinking water guidelines should preferably be legislated and regulated across all states and territories, which currently it is not,” he said.
Report author Eric Vanweydeveld said there were too many government departments and other organizations involved in service provision for remote communities, which led to blame shifting and inaction.
“If there is a water leak in the street, and you are a member of a remote community and you try to understand ‘who do I need to talk to fix this leak?’, you will deal with probably seven or 10 different departments ,” he said.
The report has recommended that the federal government spend $30 million to establish a national water monitoring program.
“That will help us understand what closing the gap looks like,” Mr Lovell said.
Steven Porter, from the Northern Territory Power and Water Corporation, said it had been working with the Central Land Council to secure $5.2 million from the National Indigenous Affairs Association to bring two new bores online but there was still a $1 million shortfall.
“In doing that we can access better sources of water and improve the quality of water for the local community,” he said.
The mother who pulled her unconscious son from a car and cradled him on a busy north-west Melbourne roadside has been reunited with the good Samaritan couple who rushed to help her.
Madeleine Crawford’s child had a seizure on the way to hospital on August 3
Thi and Cindy Le assisted in getting him there but the group did not exchange details
They were all reunited after Ms Crawford put the call out through ABC Radio Melbourne
Madeleine Crawford, and 20-month-old Stirling, met Thi and Cindy Le of North Sunshine at an emotional weekend reunion.
It was the first time they had come together since Ms Crawford put out a call to find them so she could finally say thank you.
Suffering a fever, chesty cough and struggling to breathe, Stirling was being driven by Ms Crawford to the Royal Children’s Hospital emergency department on August 3 when he started having a seizure in the back seat.
A clean bill of health
Desperate for help, Ms Crawford pulled over on the corner of Churchill Avenue and Ballarat Road in Maidstone, grabbed Stirling from the back seat, and stepped onto the median strip.
Ms Le and her husband had been driving only a few vehicles behind and did not hesitate after spotting Ms Crawford gesturing wildly at passing traffic.
“I immediately knew something was wrong,” she said.
“I didn’t know what else to do so I told Madeleine I’d hold baby Stirling while she drives to the closest hospital.
“Thankfully my husband was a quick thinker and drove in front with hazard lights on to escort us to the hospital safely.”
They made it to Footscray Hospital where Ms Crawford ran inside and Stirling was immediately triaged by the nurses.
Reunited via radio
There was no time to exchange details.
Ms Le said when the pair arrived home, she could not stop thinking about what had happened.
“As a mother myself, I knew how distressing it would’ve been to have experienced that,” she said.
“But I would never have thought Madeleine would try to find us. I just did what I could at the time to help.”
Both families were reunited on Sunday after Ms Crawford put out the call to find them via ABC Radio Melbourne.
“It was incredible to be able to express our gratitude in person,” Ms Crawford said.
“It was a very special afternoon — lots of hugs and smiles.”
A clean bill of health
Stirling was diagnosed with respiratory syncytial virus but has since been issued a clean bill of health.
Ms Crawford said it was his seizure that had caught her off guard and urged other parents to learn how to respond to a similar situation.
In a twist, the Le family revealed their own granddaughter, Aria, had been through a similar experience only months ago.
Their daughter, Anita, had phoned them for help after her sick toddler started having a seizure.
According to the Victorian government, about one in every 20 children between six months and six years old will experience a febrile seizure while suffering a high fever. While alarming, it is not epilepsy and it does not cause brain damage.
“It is absolutely terrifying if it happens to your child,” Ms Crawford said.
“I would recommend parents read the guidance so they can be as prepared as they can if or when it happens.”
A decision to cease funding for a successful statewide community renewable energy program is leaving hundreds of projects important to Victoria’s de-carbonisation targets in limbo.
The Victorian government funded the Community Power Hub program for 12 months
Community groups are disappointed funding has not been extended
More than 200 community renewable energy projects have been supported
The Victorian government has not re-funded the Community Power Hub program, which ran in six areas across the state for the past 12 months.
Program leaders say the abrupt end to the program will create an uncertain future for the community renewable energy projects it was designed to help progress.
Not-for-profit organization Ballarat Renewable Energy and Zero Emissions (BREAZE) led the Community Power Hub for the Grampians region, which supported 40 projects through the feasibility stage.
President Mary Debrett said many active community members would continue driving their projects to completion, but others would struggle to get off the ground without external support.
She said she was disappointed the program was not re-funded.
“It will be those communities that have proactive people that will be the ones advantaged and those that don’t will be disadvantaged,” Ms Debrett said.
“For those organizations and communities where we have done feasibility studies, they are going to be needing some extra support.
“They are slow-burn projects that take a lot of work.”
Grampians Community Power Hub staff and volunteers worked with communities in Ballan and Pomonal to investigate community battery options and residents in St Arnaud on a renewable energy hub.
They facilitated energy audits at Grampians Health and J Ward in Ararat and the installation of solar panels at golf clubs, disability services, schools, community halls, and sporting clubs.
Slow, complex projects
Natimuk Community Energy president Edwin Irvine said their community solar farm project had been progressing for 14 years, but the Grampians Community Power Hub assisted them through crucial steps.
He said Grampians Community Power Hub staff and volunteers helped them through a complex design and approvals process as well as governance and finance decisions, which they could not have done on their own.
“Before doing this, I didn’t know anything at all about energy regulation or the physics of a solar farm and how it connects with the grid. I needed that help,” Mr Irvine said.
“I can imagine there are a lot of other community groups that are going to need that help.
“If that help is not there, those other community groups are going to find it really, really hard.”
Experts say community renewable energy projects will play an important role in Victoria’s renewable energy transition.
Melbourne Energy Institute’s Professor Pierluigi Mancarella said sharing energy on a community level made sense because of cost and efficiency.
He said smaller renewable-based power plants with batteries and storage should replace “gigantic” fossil fuel-based plants and community-level batteries would be more efficient than household ones.
Professor Mancarella said supporting community renewable energy projects would be fundamental to Victoria’s decarbonisation process.
“There is so much learning… it is a competing revolution,” he said.
“It completely destroys the business models, commercial models and regulatory environment, which we have operated in so far.”
New funding scheme
Victorian Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the successful Community Power Hub program had been funded for 12 months and progressed 200 proposed projects in that time.
“We hope these local success stories inspire more renewable energy projects in the community, taking advantage of our rebates and programs for households, community groups, and businesses,” she said.
The Victorian government has created a repayable grants program, where at least $50,000 is available for community group renewable energy projects, but loans must be repaid in five years.
The money is a low-interest-rate loan to help groups secure third-party funding.
The Victorian government has legislated a target of 50 per cent renewable energy for the state by 2030.