President's 2023 Report

MD 2023It’s hard to comprehend how we got here, with less than seven years from the 2030 cut-off for setting the trajectory to halt runaway climate change, and Australia still approving coal mines, subsidising fossil fuels and exporting coal. Not healthy for humans, the environment or any life-form on the planet. As a wholly volunteer-run not-for-profit, BREAZE Inc. work continues to be firmly grounded in the region, our focus on grass roots activities – think global, act local – aligned with others elsewhere who are doing this too.

The City of Ballarat’s endorsement of the community-wide Ballarat Net Zero Emissions (BZE) 2030 Plan in October 2022 gave BREAZE a welcome new platform for advocacy and community engagement. The target is ambitious, which is good, and the Plan outlines five broad community outcomes with fifty specific actions. The BREAZE Board began this year with a January planning meeting at which we agreed to make the implementation of the BZE Plan our key goal for the year. 

In 2023 we also continued our various ongoing activities: monthly chats on Radio 3BA with Ballarat Today host, Brett MacDonald. Topics covered included the problems in communicating climate change in the media, green investments, CoP28 in the UAE, household electrification programs and more. We thank 3BA for this opportunity to reach the wider community and for confirming our fourth Friday of the month slot in 2024. Both our free monthly talks programs were also ongoing throughout 2023 and returned to in-person mode: Smart Living Ballarat, hosted by Ellen Burns and funded by the City of Ballarat on every fourth Wednesday of the month, and Ballarat Green Drinks, now being held every third Thursday of month at the Bunch of Grapes Hotel in Pleasant St South. We also continued our Social Solar program, undertaking project management of the installation of 58kW of rooftop solar across five properties owned by Woodbine Inc. a Warracknabeal NDIS provider, co-funded via a Victorian government New Energy Jobs Fund, Round 6 grant from late 2022. And the final output of the Grampians Community Power Hub (G-CPH), the BREAZE Regional Guide to Community Energy, was delivered, produced by our G-CPH partner Hepburn Energy in consultation with BREAZE. It’s worth checking out online if you haven’t already done so.

Overall, 2023 kept our Board volunteers quite busy with events, projects and submissions – detailed in chronological order below. 

In February BREAZE participated in the Buninyong Smart Living Expo which made a comeback after Covid lockdowns. In March we joined a Climate Action Network Australia (CANA) campaign in advocating for a stronger Climate Safety Mechanism, via our social media and  meeting with the local Federal Member for Ballarat, Catherine King, who is also of course the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. Following our presentations to her we gave the Minister a copy of The Big Switch by Saul Griffith. While we don’t claim responsibility for them, it should be noted that some changes were subsequently negotiated to the Climate Safety Mechanism with an emissions cap added which means that it does now actually reduce emissions.

In March and April we partnered with Hepburn Energy (formerly Hepburn Wind) in a Hot Water Heat Pump bulk buy offering Ballarat locals the opportunity to upgrade to these new super-efficient hot water systems at discounted prices. We learned there are a few myths that need busting locally – about Ballarat being too cold for this technology – please note Heat Pumps are good for temperatures down to -10C. Also in March the second of the Building Better Homes for the Future forums – Achieving 7 Stars and Net Zero Homes was held at the Ballaarat Mechanic Institute with Jeremy Spencer, Director of Positive Footprints and founding member of Builders Declare, discussing the new National Construction Code 7 star energy rating for new buildings and what that will mean.

In May we partnered again with Hepburn Energy in their EV bulk buy via the Good Car Company, holding the key event, the ‘Show & Shine’ day at the Ballarat Neighbourhood Centre in Tuppen Drive, Sebastopol, drawing about 120 attendees. In May we also made a formal submission to the City of Ballarat’s Draft Budget, calling for an investment of at least 5% of the total budget in climate mitigation polices, and implementation of the BZE Plan via a City Council sponsorship of a Home Electrification program among other things.

In June we were involved in four projects: the City of Ballarat’s inaugural Sustainability in Schools program, presenting on the benefits of renewable energy to students at St James Primary School; the BZE 2030 Check-In at the Ballarat Soccer Centre, reporting on what BREAZE was doing to help to cut emissions, along with 11 other organisations and businesses; in Powercor’s Rural and Regional Electricity Distribution Summit at the RACV Goldfields, advocating for energy equity across the region; and the BREAZE Children’s Writing Competition to celebrate World Environment Day now in its sixth year, which drew 126 submissions from six schools, with Ballarat’s Mayor, Cr Des Hudson kindly officiating at the awards ceremony at Sebastopol Library on June 5. 

In July the third of the Building Better Homes for the Future forums, the All Electric Home forum was held at the Mercure Ballarat. Yarra Energy Foundation member, Lloyd Heathfield presented on the many benefits of an all-electric home and how to plan for it, to 117 Ballarat locals. BREAZE also began a workshop pilot series of How to Make Your Home Energy Efficiency, led by Victorian Energy Scorecard assessors, Dale Boucher and Tim Drylie, and funded by the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA). The pilot ran for eight weeks at the Ballarat Tool Library in Barkly Square. You can read the final Report here.

In August BREAZE took up an invitation to participate in Commerce Ballarat’s B31 Business Festival, holding a How to Make Your Business Energy Efficient workshop at the Mercure Ballarat, hosted by local business woman and Smart Living Ballarat host, Ellen Burns and led by energy consultant, Dale Boucher. Energy audits were judged particularly beneficial for businesses with high expenditure for refrigeration and water and space heating.

In September/ October BREAZE was invited to participate as an Expert Community Partner in the Electrify My Communityprogram being run by Rewiring Australia, the national organisation established by Saul Griffith and Dan Cass. Thinking nationally and acting locally, this program offers great networking and resource sharing possibilities, being very much focused on grassroots sustainability groups. In October BREAZE also made a submission to the City of Ballarat’s Draft Housing Strategy 2023-24

In the same week I started writing this report, the journal BioScience published The 2023 State of the Environment Report, which begins with the ominous words: ‘Life on planet Earth is under siege. We are now in an uncharted territory.’ It’s the news we have all being dreading as we watch climate events unfold and wait for authorities to take the level of action needed to address the climate emergency. With an El Nino weather pattern now confirmed, and continual news of record temperatures and extreme weather events wreaking havoc across the globe, and fires already raging across Queensland, we know another terrible summer is coming. It’s natural to want to turn away, but as those committed to acting on climate we mustn’t. The propagators of disinformation are still very much at large with conspiracy culture continuing to thrive both online and in the mainstream.

From time to time BREAZE Board discussion has touched on the personal benefits of climate activism in addressing the psychological stresses of climate change. On the matter of ‘how to stay out of shock during moments of collective trauma,’ Naomi Klein advises: ‘Gather together, find your footing and your story.’ Certainly, BREAZE now has a strong footing and a pretty good story, thanks to the vision of founding members, the hard work of successive boards and ongoing community commitment to climate action and sustainable living. I know my own involvement on the BREAZE Board and as President for the past four years has really helped me to cope in this bizarre business-as-usual world, where surprisingly few engage with what lies ahead. Community activism definitely beats crawling back under the duvet. If you’ve been thinking about getting involved, take the leap. You won’t regret it. 

Finally, a few thanks are due: to the BREAZE Board for their efforts this year and particularly to our Treasurer, Paul Tant who manages not only our accounts but also those of our affiliated groups, Ballarat Tool Library and Ballarat Repair Café; to Patrick Hockey, BREAZE membership officer who also puts out the e-newsletter; and to our community of BREAZE members, whose support is vital to our work. I wish you all a relaxing break over the holiday season.

All the best


Dr Mary Debrett
President, November 2023