The Earthworker Cooperative, a community-led initiative with the aims of addressing the reality of climate change and a lack of secure, dignified work in sustainable sectors, has taken the first, major step in setting up an Australia-wide network of community-owned and managed cooperatives in sustainable industries.
Its first enterprise, Eureka’s Future, is now up and running: a worker-owned manufacturing cooperative that produces high-quality solar hot water systems in Morwell, Victoria.
Eureka’s Future ran a successful crowd-funding campaign last year and is already distributing solar hot water systems ahead of moving into its new premises. The cooperative addresses the combined challenges of inadequate or underpaid employment in the region, corporate control over energy supply and prices, and the need to reduce carbon emissions given the accelerating climate crisis.
It has taken many years for Earthworker to manifest its first, commercially viable enterprise, and the achievement is all the more remarkable given the prevailing anti-environmental, climate change-denying culture in Australia, as well as the location: Eureka’s Future is based in the heart of Australia’s Latrobe Valley, known for its coal mining and production industries. The co-op is therefore enabling a transition not just from dependence on fossil fuel energy but also on fossil fuel industry jobs.
The strength of Eureka’s Future, says the cooperative, is in the way it has formed partnerships with local organisations, including the trade union movement and customer-owned credit union BankMECU, to support a collective market for solar hot water systems and to facilitate low interest loans with which to buy them.
The Earthworker Cooperative says it will maintain a strong focus on forging such alliances through its development, through which it intends to build a social sector market for their products and lay the foundations needed to ensure the future viability and stability of the cooperatives.
Its mission is to revitalise local economies, address climate change, and assist a ‘just transition’ to clean renewable energy.