7 February 2024

Hope and positivity at the heart of Wollongong's renewable energy family fun day

| Keeli Royle
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Crowd of attendees at Osborne Park Wollongong

Hundreds gathered by Wollongong Harbour for the renewable energy fun day. Photo: Yes 2 Renewables.

Advocates, educators, politicians and parents were among the hundreds of attendees at a family fun day promoting renewable energy and action on climate change hosted at Wollongong’s Osborne Park over the weekend.

The crowd consisted of people of all ages enjoying quirky inventions like smoothie machines powered by electric vehicles and shaved ice treats created with the assistance of e-bikes to celebrate the future of renewable opportunities in the region.

But behind the kids’ art installations and the live music was an important issue, with the community given the opportunity to talk to a range of stakeholders from the Illawarra, such as Electrify 2515, scientists from the University of Wollongong, and groups from across the country, such as the Australian Conservation Foundation.

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Expert speeches from people such as Austinmer’s Dr Saul Griffith and a representative from Surfers for Climate also helped to shed some light on different perspectives and issues within the region.

“It was a really fantastic breadth and reflection of the community and the messages were all really positive about the opportunities that the transition to renewable energy will bring,” Electrify 2515 coordinator and Illawarra mum Kristen McDonald said.

Kristen said events like this were important to help create a sense of connection within the community as they worked together for a mutual cause, and also brought a sense of action.

“I know a lot of local members I’ve spoken to are really passionate about the climate crisis and feel like they need to show their passion and commitment for change, so events like this are a way of them demonstrating what they want to see take place,” Kristen said.

She said there was an optimistic shift in the conversations about renewables as the community became more excited by the future potential of utilising these resources.

“I’ve been working on the climate change issue in one way or another for the best part of a couple of decades and in the past we’ve talked a lot about the problem and the impact and have had a really kind of negative overtone,” Kristen said.

“While there is still a moral imperative to move off fossil fuels, now we’re also seeing a lot of the opportunities renewable energy can bring. We have a whole new range of conversations and this event really reflected those positive elements of the transition.”

These conversations have been in the minds of many in the community after months of debate about renewable energy zones and the potential for off-shore windfarms along the Illawarra coastline.

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But despite previous clashes and controversy between groups, particularly online and through social media, Kristen said there were no negative or confrontational elements on the day.

“Sometimes it feels like online it can be very vicious and it can be a reflection of a noisy minority, but when you’re talking face-to-face to people you can have real conversations and a lot of that vitriol is reduced and you realise that we’re all people and we actually have a lot of shared interests at heart; we all have our community and our environment at top of mind.

“So there’s more shared values of people sitting on both sides of the debate than differences.”

Simultaneous events were hosted in other areas such as the Hunter, Latrobe Valley and Gladstone, as regional communities work together to have their voices heard.

“The transition to renewables is a long process and people should just keep a really open mind about learning more from whatever your initial starting position is,” Kristen said.

“Let’s try and build community connections rather than foster division.”

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