Deep in Queensland’s coal country, one community is grappling with what the future holds – by Jess Davis (Australian Broadcasting Corporation – June 7, 2021)

As you drive south-west from Mackay towards the small inland community of Clermont, you pass through stunning burnt-orange sorghum crops and past rock formations bursting from the ground before entering deep into coal country.

Convoys delivering giant machinery that takes up both lanes slow the trip down. The machinery is heading towards the open-cut mines that are the lifeblood of these communities. And seemingly never-ending trains rattle on the tracks that skirt the road, carrying the precious black cargo to the port and out to sea.

Some stereotypes hold true; the roads are full of men and women in high-vis orange shirts driving white utes. For the past 35 years, Rhonda Bleakley and her husband have been keeping those utes going from the helm of a petrol station and fuel distributorship in Clermont.

“We only planned on coming out here for a couple of years when we first moved out here,” she says. “But it was such a lovely community, we decided we liked it and it was a great place to raise our kids.” Rhonda’s livelihood depends on the fossil fuel industry, as do many of her customers’.

She used to think it would take a long time for the industry to wind up, but now she sees the future speeding up to meet her. “I’m sure there’s no two ways about that. How long it takes, I think, is the big question that everyone is sort of trying to deal with now,” she says.

For the rest of this article: