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Arfa Khan.

Arfa's vision for the region’s future is that it makes the most of its natural advantages.

Oct 5, 2020

Words: James Norman
Images: Esther Lloyd

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Arfa Khan moved to the Latrobe Valley with her husband eight years ago after moving to Australia from Pakistan several years earlier. Arfa says when she first moved to the region, she wondered why she was there — but was soon won over.

“I soon realised it is one of the most beautiful areas of Victoria and Australia,” she says.

“The natural environment was the first thing that attracted me. When you just move in, you don’t know anyone. It was just my family, my children. Then you start exploring, and you start making friends, and then you see that this part has so much to offer, and we can offer this place a lot of things, too.”

Arfa says her vision for the region’s future is that it makes the most of its natural advantages.

“The coastlines are beautiful here, just walking around the area, the mountains and scenery are breathtaking. Many of these beautiful walks on the coast and the high country can be used for tourism, rather than building mines or other developments that are not really necessary.”

As the transition away from mining and other traditional industries accelerates in the Latrobe Valley, Arfa says we need to focus on what will be best for our children.

“I realised that this is about our future. We need to start talking about it because there are many people out there who care — but they may not have even been asked.”

“Local people have seen the good and the bad aspects of developments that have taken place here. Now it is time to ask what do we want our culture to be? What sort of investors do we want to see invest here? Do we want to see a good future for our children?”

Arfa says she became involved in Communities Leading Change because she realised the older generation had made a lot of mistakes, and that it was now up to the community to develop a better plan for the future.

“I realised that this is about our future. We need to start talking about it because there are many people out there who care — but they may not have even been asked.”

“I think the small steps that we make are going to make a lot of difference also. We need to educate our children and the younger generation about where we’ve gone wrong in the past. We need to admit to it, learn from it, and start making the changes from there.”

Special Edition - Communities Leading Change

It is our stories that define us and the conversations we have that shape what we value and believe in. We all have fears and dreams, but it is our shared stories that bring us together.

The Communities Leading Change Project began as a partnership between Climate for Change and the Gippsland Climate Change Network in 2018, and was one of 24 projects across Victoria primarily funded through the Virtual Centre for Climate Change Innovation (VCCCI).

It was a community co-designed program that aimed to empower people in and around the Latrobe Valley, and with support engage other communities as a way of exploring the big questions around climate change and energy transitions with a local focus.

We provided two cohorts of workshops during 2019 for 33 local people from different backgrounds including the coal, renewable energy, and agricultural industries, health professionals and community workers, environmentalists, multicultural leaders, artists, students and more.

These local people facilitated small group conversations called “Conversations for Change”. It included about 185 community members over a seven-month period, and was undertaken over a shared meal. More than 60 hours of recorded conversations were collected. Quotes reflecting the main themes that came out of these discussions are scattered throughout this publication.

We found that most people were concerned about climate change as a serious and urgent threat (78%), while about 70% also believed that an energy transition in the Latrobe Valley was not happening fast enough. People had mixed feelings about the changes already happening and how the community could reach a just energy transition. However, people agreed the significant need for the community to be supported, come together, find solutions and put in concrete plans was essential to guarantee these future visions.

This special edition collects some of the stories and sentiments of people involved in, and engaged by, Communities Leading Change more widely. We hope it will inspire you to join us in bringing people of all backgrounds in the Latrobe Valley and surrounding areas together so we can build a strong community that has a voice and is active in building a prosperous, fair and sustainable future for all.


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