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Development   /  Josie Hess

Life After Coal

Artists from a soon-to-be ex-coal mining town explore what life after coal could look like in Australia.


Impact areas







  • DIRECTOR Josie Hess

  • PRODUCER Stephanie Sabrinskas



Life After Coal is set against the backdrop of Morwell, a Victorian mining town perched on the edge of the world’s largest open-cut brown coal mine, and two power stations one set to close by 2028. The economic landscape of an area once responsible for producing 85% of Victoria’s electricity is changing drastically.
In the face of an unknown future, those that are setting a new agenda are not the politicians or the coal executives, but community groups and activists.
A group of colourful local artists, determined to delve into the inherited wicked problem facing their home, have a plan. Through exploration of identity, technology, history and politics, their artworks help the townspeople to envision a future and process the collective trauma of the end of the fossil fuel era. Paving the way for what life after coal could look like in Australia and the world.

Support this project

10.63% funded
  • $75,000.00

  • $7,976.01

  • November 2022

  • 22

Minimum amount is $ Maximum amount is $





Andy Jim $100.00
Andrew Rothery $1,000.00
Anna Brownfield $100.00
Jordan Critchley $20.00
Naomi Pullen $50.00
Anonymous $30.00
Jemma Cotter $50.00
Jim Batt $25.00
Anonymous $100.00
Andrew Rothery $5,000.00
Fran Tanner $100.00
Jayson McNamara $50.00
Wendy Farmer $50.00
Dan Stewart $100.00
Margie Barrett'Poolr $50.00
Danila Coady $50.00
Isabel Peppard $50.00
Meagan Wyke $100.00
R + R Sabrinskas $500.00
Hugh McQueen $101.01
Alex Mann $50.00
David Evans $300.00

Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

Life After Coal sits at the intersection of the green revolution, the end of fossil fuels and the social impact of that shift. Our film covers the topic from an arts-based perspective, creating hope and a vision of the future. The film tackles large, global issues via an eclectic town in the Victorian countryside. The group of artists selected create artworks that imagine a new future for the town, each grappling with the scientific, environmental and philosophical impacts of reimagining a new identity as the coal industry ends.
The film exclusively features artwork from local artists, alongside the central observational documentation of the process of creating the artworks, to help illustrate the complex web of issues that make the change a vexed topic. The film also seeks to address the false dichotomy and narratives around left/right, greenies/coal workers established by the mainstream media that are divisive rather than helpful.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

Our impact campaign is centred around the #lifeaftercoal movement, utilising a three pronged approach for impact, the film, the community and education. Our central goal is: How do we empower communities to imagine life after coal for themselves?

Our film bakes impact into the heart of the process. The film follows 5 artists, who will be funded to create large-scale public artworks that explore life after coal.


What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

We want to open up the possibilities of what life after coal could look like in Australia. Everyone in the world needs access to cheap, clean power, and by using The Latrobe Valley as a microcosm of a shift that is happening around the world, we want to show the myriad of game changing possibilities that communities can dream up for themselves. The power of art as a tool to change minds is the core of our project's philosophy.
By baking in the impact process to the narrative of the film itself, and ensuring the process would be replicable, we know the impact of this film could send ripples around the world. As the climate crisis intensifies, there is no more immediate existential threat that needs minds opened up to new ways of creating power.


How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

By documenting and telling the story of the often-overlooked people of the Latrobe Valley, and presenting a completed impact doc whose central purpose is to offer a new vision of the future, we are able to plant the seed of change into people's minds. To achieve this we have each artist cover the issue differently, which will widen the accessibility and appeal to audiences. The film documents the genesis and creation of the artworks which each grapple with various elements of mine rehabilitation, green power, politics and media. The film then culminates with the townspeople interacting with the public art, which sparks conversation.

We are also mindful that so many climate emergency films feel hopeless and distressing and grim. Our film, with playful artists, set against the backdrop of an odd country down will be warm, jovial and accessible. We are also offering hope and solutions, instead of dread and despair.


How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

We are in the process of acquiring official partnerships for the film. We are supported by the Doc Society Art + Impact fellowship, who are helping to arrange a roundtable with partnerships for this project specifically. The relationship with the doc society has been instrumental in our film having a strong impact component. We’ve been fortunate to learn from the leaders in impact producing about the kinds of impact campaigns we can run, both on an independent scale and if we are to secure funding.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

After watching the film, we want our audiences to discuss and share their visions for the future, via the #lifeaftercoal conversation. We want them to advocate for alternative visions of Australia, as a renewable powerhouse. We want people to seek information about the rehabilitation plans in their own communities. We want people to change their behavior when it comes to participating in designing and dreaming up what their towns and communities could look like in the future.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

1. If we are able to replicate the arts workshops (Inspired by the Coal Hole workshops by artist PollyannaR) in other communities via the workshop package we make available online, with all the tools facilitators need to run a similar program in their town.
2. If we see tangible change at a local, state or federal level of government in the way they talk about the end of fossil fuel based power. We are seeing this shift during this election cycle, but we want to push that conversation over the edge so Australians want to see themselves as a renewable powerhouse, not a coal giant.
3. If we can change minds, closing the gap for those who might see the issue as black and white (coal = jobs, green energy = the end of the world) and bring those on the fence across the line by offering tangible options for a better future (aka, a just transition plan)
4. The number of community screenings and connections/networks linked up via panels and post-screening events.