Earthworker Cooperative installing solar hot water systems on community housing

From Chain Reaction #126, April 2016, national magazine of Friends of the Earth, Australia

After a campaign spanning from December 2015 to late February, the Earthworker Cooperative's #GiveTanks crowdfund raised $24,328. It's inspiring to see so many individuals and oganisations prepared to open their hearts and wallets in answering the call to install solar hot water systems on community housing.

Significant donations included $5,600 from the Electrical Trade Unions Victorian branch, whose Victorian state secretary Troy Gray said: "Unions have always been a force for collective and positive social change ‒ for looking out for the vulnerable, and of course for dignified and fair workplaces. We're proud to contribute to a project that does these things, whilst also dealing with the question of climate change".

Even before the crowdfund had ended, installations of solar hot water systems had already begun, with the first crowdfunded installation being made in January on the property of an elderly tenant managed by Aboriginal Housing Victoria.

Des Rogers, Director of Operations at Aboriginal Housing Victoria, said: "This opportunity to crowdfund for the installation of hot water systems into some of our properties is very very exciting. Most of our tenants are on low income, and many have disabilities. So building and providing appropriate, affordable and sustainable accommodation for our tenants, who are in vulnerable situations a lot of the time, is really important to us and obviously to our tenants as well."

Earthworker Cooperative is pleased with the outcome of the crowdfund, with organiser Melissa Corbett saying: "What makes an Earthworker Cooperative solar hot water system special is that the tanks will be manufactured locally in a unionised worker-cooperative. Through the #GiveTanks crowdfund we are both generating orders for the still in forming Eureka's Future Workers Cooperative, while meeting Earthworker Cooperative's social justice commitments to addressing climate change, and ensuring that low-income households are benefiting from access to renewable energy technologies. We're looking forward to getting on with the job of installing these hot water systems on properties managed by Aboriginal Housing Victoria and Common Equity NSW thanks to funds that we have raised."

All in all the #GiveTanks crowdfund has been a win, win, win for the community, jobs and climate. Earthworker Cooperative would like to say Tanks Mate to everyone who donated and supported the #GiveTanks campaign!

Looking into the future, there are many exciting developments happening in Earthworker Cooperative. Recently Earthworker received an invitation to become involved with the establishment energy consumer cooperative, an initiative that the National Union of Workers is currently looking into the feasibility of.

Godfrey Moase from the National Union of Workers first spoke publicly about the idea for an energy consumer cooperative at the recent 'Hot Jobs ‒ Clean Energy' forum that was held as part of the Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne. This initiative aims to increase the amount of renewable energy generation feeding into the power grid, while lowering the energy bills of members of the cooperative, many of whom will have joined through their industry union.

Another key part of our commitment to a just transition has been our long term goal of establishing a factory manufacturing renewable energy technologies in Morwell, at the centre of the Latrobe Valley's coal fired power industry. Due to the unfortunate closure of Everlast Hydro Systems, the small manufacturer in Dandendong that Earthworker had partnered with to establish Eureka's Future, Earthworker is now considering ways of moving to the valley sooner than had previously been envisioned. If our current negotiations prove successful, this could mean that Earthworker Cooperative's flagship Eureka's Future factory could be operating in Morwell in the not too distant future.

Eureka's Future is not the only worker-owned cooperative that Earthworker is helping to establish. Hedge Row Farm will be a large farm containing a mosaic of small scale farmers, rural businesses and other compatible activities; with members of Earthworker currently involved in establishing their own cooperatives as part of this rural business incubator.

Earthworker Cooperative is always looking for more active members and organisers who are keen to be a part of the initiatives that we have mentioned here, so please get in touch!