Uncertain to hopeful, overwhelmed to excited.
That was the change in Latrobe Valley residents’ thinking about the region’s future in the space of just two hours on Thursday night.
About 80 locals attended Latrobe City Council’s community conversation to discuss their aspirations for the region as it prepares for the closure of Hazelwood power station and mine in March.
The council’s draft transition document was dissected – the good, the bad and the missing – to create a plan reflective of the community’s desires.
The document was created following a previous session in July prior to the Hazelwood closure announcement.
Ideas marking the pages of the draft document include a Latrobe Central Station, Aged Care Hub of Excellence, out-posting of government departments, a Gippsland Regional Aquatics Centre and a fast rail service.
Its focus is on the six key areas of education, wellness, community connectedness, building economic resilience, community liveability and economic growth.
Latrobe City general manager community services Sara Rhodes-Ward said most of the ideas created at the last community conversation were included in the document, but council wanted to capture any ideas it had missed.
“It was the best thoughts of everybody on the night but there may be some people who are here who weren’t at the initial one and we’d like to capture what their hopes and aspirations are around the transition of Latrobe City.”
The aspirational document, shared with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last month, was praised by attendees at the event.
Morwell’s Lisa Morgan commended its focus on the region’s strengths.
“I’m interested in a project that looks at strengths rather than deficits of the community,” Ms Morgan said.
“People who have been involved so far are really looking at acknowledging where we come from in our traditions, but are willing to explore the exciting opportunities going forward.”
The council’s view to overhaul Gippsland’s rail service and attract government agencies were among ideas praised by attendees.
Rebranding the municipality and marketing the research and manufacturing of renewable energy and a focus on arts, tourism and sports was also mooted.
At the end of the forum participants were asked how they would feel about the region in 2026 if the night’s discussion points were realised.
“Secure”, “free”, “proud”, “diversified” and “healthy” were among the responses.
Ms Rhodes-Ward said council would consider including all ideas in the draft transition document, however the evening was just one aspect of a larger conversation.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do in terms of talking to young people, culturally diverse people, indigenous communities so that’s something we’ll do after this as well,” Ms Rhodes-Ward said.