I want you to think of the most beautiful place you’ve ever been….
A Myrniong teenager has spent a sleepless night typing an emotional letter to Scott Morrison – pleading with the Prime Minister to ensure a proposed transmission line over her family farm is put underground.
Annabel Muir (pictured) fears the lines – and their 60m-plus easement – will carve up most of their farm, making it virtually worthless and destroying her parents’ livelihood.
The Ballarat Grammar Year 11 student said she had heard her parents talking deep into the night about what could happen to their property – and she had to act.
“I got up at 3am and the words just flew out of me,” the 16-year-old said.
“I typed it out straight away. The whole letter is almost 2000 words.
“It was a spur of the moment thing. No one prompted me, I just thought it was a way I could do something.”
The letter was emailed – and sent via post – to ScoMo’s office on July 22.
It’s now been two-and-a-half weeks and she is still waiting for a reply.
“The letter’s emotional. It’s about how the (500kV Sydenham-to-Bulgana) transmission lines will impact our family and other families.
“It’s also about how we feel neglected in country Victoria.
“I guess the main message I wanted to get across was that we want the community to support green energy, but not if people’s livelihoods are being ruined.”
The proposal includes pylons up to 85m high and about 400m apart across 190km stretch of western Victoria. Proponents Ausnet Services and Mondo have told locals that putting the lines underground would be too expensive.
“My cousin in Germany has never seen a powerline. They’re all underground over there,” Annabel said.
“I really wanted to question the Prime Minister about why this was happening.
“We really feel like the underdogs.”
Annabel’s parents have been campaigning against the proposed lines, with her father carving a giant message into a paddock. Her mother is President of the Moorabool and Central Highlands Power Alliance.
The family – plus others – featured on a 10-minute A Current Affair segment on August 1 with The Castle actor Stephen Curry.
RELATED STORY: Blunt message carved into Myrniong paddock
READ THE FULL LETTER HERE:
Dear Prime Minister,
I want you to think of the most beautiful place you’ve ever been.
Is it the beach?
A tall cliff looking out on the ocean?
Or is it just simply your home among the gum trees?
Now, think of rusty, tall metal blocking the view.
How do you feel?
What if I say this is in your own backyard instead? How would you feel if your suburban home became refuge to an 85m pole?
You have no say.
How are you feeling now? I’m going to say not good.
My name is Annabel Muir. I am 16 years old, a friend, cousin, sister, daughter and a 6th generation descendent on my family farm in Myrniong.
All my life I have lived on one farm and in one house. Never have I known any different and it wasn’t until attending secondary school that I realised there was more to the world than just me and my family on our piece of paradise.
Twelve years of ‘obliviousness’ I guess you could call it, before things got complicated and those times spent out in the paddock with dad became valuable memories.
I got busy, I went away to school, but every single day I longed for the minute I could get home and look down the driveway and feel as if there is only us – a place where school dramas couldn’t follow me or simply a place of peacefulness.
For me maybe this is what the farm is: a sanctuary, a place of rest and above all a place of hard work and happiness.
In contrast, for my dad it’s a place that can go from beauty to rubbish in a matter of minutes. A place where one minute the rain grows the crops for harvest and the next moment kills half of his lambing season. A place of constant worry and constant work but still the place he has been his whole life.
Earlier this year, my English class had to write an essay about a job that we couldn’t live without.
Without even second guessing I knew farming was going to be my focus and so did three quarters of my class.
I knew that instantly I would focus on my dad, a man who inspires me, teaches me and helps me to become the best version of myself. In such a demanding job it’s hard to always be positive but somehow 365 days a year he continues to get out of bed to just keep on going even through the worst of times. I asked him that if the job was so demanding why on earth does he keep doing it.
You know what he said?
He said that there was nothing more satisfying than knowing that you are providing people with their meals, helping them to survive.
To me this was just incredible. A man who doesn’t care for the money or the spotlight does his job just to feed you. Such a selfless man deserves nothing more than a life full of happiness.
As it seems however his contribution to society hasn’t been recognised by others.
His life has been stripped to nothing, it’s been burnt to the ground because of one word: powerlines.
It has been a month since that bomb was dropped on my family and can I tell you that this last month has been the hardest I have ever been through with my family. I have never seen my dad be so quiet or for that matter, be so constantly distracted.
This plan for 85m tall powerlines from AusNet is a 190km electricity transmission line from Melbourne’s north-west to Bulgana near Ararat.
We have been under consulted, told false information and been given only two years notice of something that will force my family from the farm.
Can you tell me what’s going to happen to my family?
Are we going to be forced from a place that we have owned for six generations?
Are these other hundreds of people who are affected going to be forced from their livelihoods too?
Tell me, what is my dad going to do?
He dropped out of school at age 17 for the sole reason of farming due to the illness of his father. Dad has no other training or qualifications. And of course he has a pure knowledge of farming.
But what does this even mean if we have to sell the farm and get nothing because the land is worth nothing, because these powerlines ruined our piece of paradise?
Tell me who in the world wants to buy a place that in front of every view is a silver 85m tall tower that makes a constant buzz? If you can answer that let me know so we can be in touch but I think you may find it just a little hard.
I also want to ask a little bit more about this “green energy”, while this is all and well I wonder if you actually understand the impact of these powerlines.
Did you take into account the farmland you are ruining by placing these powerlines?
What is produced on our farm and on others from the corridor is what is on your plate.
This is not just any farmland.
This is the real deal.
This is the richest soil in the state and some of the most productive of that too. Everywhere you look somebody is going on and on about the importance of buying Australian produce but I can tell you right now that if these powerlines go ahead produce will become much more expensive in Victoria because it will become much harder to come by.
I personally think it’s ridiculous that a person sitting behind a desk could call (I know didn’t even have the decency to personally tell) and shatter the world I and so many other regional Victorians live in, to produce some rubbish about green energy being more important than the food on your dinnerplate.
I just don’t think you understand the mistake that has been made. Yes green energy is important but so is agriculture!
I wonder if the people who proposed this have ever been outside of an office or just look at maps and go “ah very nice – an easy cheaper way”.
It may be cheaper for them but this is not the case for us farming families.
We need to survive some way or another and for us farming this land in Myrniong is surviving.
As I said earlier my Dad has been distracted and upset and he is not the only one engulfed by this project. Other people along this corridor are awestruck.
The disbelief I have seen from my parents spreading the word just underlines to me the confusion of this sort of thing. Luckily for my dad – his wife – my mum has done an absurd amount of work in doing every possible thing to spread the word.
Not only has she done this but she also has a job, she also looks after my brother and myself as well as being the rock for my Dad in a situation that has turned his life upside down.
Mum has done an incredible amount of work for not just us but every single community involved in the corridor.
Her phone hasn’t stopped ringing.
She has talked to every single person you could imagine but still the phone keeps ringing and she continues to pick it up, do research, write letters, speak on the radio and meet with news broadcasters.
She is committed to stopping this not just for the sanity of her husband and all the farmers alike but for the future generation that will continue to provide food on your plate and the roof over your head.
You might even go so far as to call her the modern-day Supermum.
There is not a single thing she wouldn’t do for my brother, my dad and I, but also there isn’t anything she wouldn’t do for her community and their livelihoods.
While being a super Mum, she is also just an ordinary lady. While she has been this amazing rock to my Dad, so many other people have been there supporting her along the way.
Without these farmers, community members and friends, Mum would not be able to function. The communities must come together and support a plan that says yes, we are all for green energy, but no, we will not support it if livelihoods are destroyed.
Mum’s job is to get people together and so far she’s done a darn good job with over a thousand people supporting the Moorabool and Central Highlands Power Alliance.
However, there are always going to be people in opposition.
I understand everyone has a different opinion. Hell, I wrote a speech at school about diverse opinions. But I’d like to politely correct the opinion of the people who are for these powerlines.
Powerlines are the way of the past.
My cousin, lives in Germany in fact – and we asked about the powerlines there. He said not ever have I seen one powerline above ground.
Not only are they outdated, but how can I be at home feeling safe in the summertime with these powerlines knowing that AusNet, the company building these lines started Black Saturday.
Just wondering if you would feel safe living up to 100m away from something that might kill you. I didn’t think so.
At school I do legal studies, an interesting subject that I thoroughly enjoy.
Now if I’m right, within both State and Federal governments there is an upper and lower house. This lower house is designated to represent the people, but at present I feel this is not being done.
If we are to be represented or our voices to be heard, right now the only voice we farmers are hearing is the depressing voice of AusNet answering questions only that they have prepared for.
This is instead of questions like: What will the compensation be for the mental implications for the people whose livelihoods you’ve destroyed?
It’s questions like this that must be answered and at present the government seems almost unsure who and what will help us.
After being amongst this unfairness to the livelihoods of honest hardworking people, I feel that if our farm is destroyed and farming cannot be a prospect for me any longer, I want to get a law degree, study politics and become a political voice for people in these situations.
I want to show that they are cared about, their livelihoods do matter, and above all show that their leadership takes an interest in all issues – from COVID19 to refugees – and especially in smaller community towns that feel distraught and worthless.
I ask you now to take a moment and place yourself in a farmer’s boots.
Please make the right decision for our environment but also for the people who have put their blood, sweat and tears into providing a roof over your head and a meal on your plate.
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