Residents of Muswellbrook and the wider Hunter Valley are being encouraged by local advocacy groups to join a series of online workshops aimed at better preparing their communities for future changes in key economic sectors including mining and energy.
Hosted by the Hunter Jobs Alliance and Hunter Renewal groups, the workshops will ask community members how they believe the NSW state government should allocate proposed funding for coal mining communities as part of the government's Royalties for Rejuvenation Fund.
Hunter Jobs Alliance organiser Erin Killion said the views of communities across the Hunter would be gathered and compiled into a report to be delivered to the NSW government.
"We know from the experience of other regions where power stations and other industries have closed, that community involvement is crucial to planning for the future," Ms Killion said.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said earlier this year that while he believed coal mining had a strong future in the state, a minimum of $25 million would be set aside each year as part of the Royalties for Rejuvenation Fund to ensure long-term stability and the ability to plan for future opportunities in mining towns.
"It makes no sense for Government to tell these communities how and what the future should look like, it is communities and their leaders that are best placed to do that and the NSW Government is here to listen and deliver on those community expectations," Mr Barilaro said in a statement in May.
"We will work with mining communities to establish the Hunter Expert Panel and ensure it is given the independence it needs to design the terms of reference, policy, direction and guidelines for investments from the Royalties for Rejuvenation Fund."
Hunter Renewal coordinator Dan Coleman said the success of workshops held for Cessnock and Singleton in previous weeks had shown people wanted to be involved in decision making for their communities.
"There have been numerous reports written on the region already, hundreds of ideas have been put forward.
"It's only locals, with their lived experience and knowledge that can judge which ones will work and which ones miss the mark," Ms Coleman said.
The group's next workshop will focus on Muswellbrook and will be held via Zoom on Wednesday, September 22 at 5:30pm.
Ms Killion said the Muswellbrook workshop was the next chapter of a long process of organising the wider Hunter community to self-advocate.
"We can continue to have secure work with decent pay and conditions, we can protect and repair the environment and our communities can thrive, but it won't be handed to us on a platter, we need to work together and speak up," Ms Killion said.