So, I’ve written this post late. These images were taken in January, just weeks before the devastating Victorian fires. Here we are a month later, and a town which has had its share of ups and downs is now in crisis.
Burning since February 9, the fire in the Hazelwood open cut coalmine is now a serious health and safety concern for the entire town. Many residents have evacuated, staying with relatives out of town, or waiting, after weeks, for a resolution.
Morwell will always be a special place for me. It was where I saw my first movie, where the “good” shops were and where my grandmother would go to buy her Polish imported food.
I saw live bands play there as a teenager (the 60 year old Karma Theatre burned to the ground in 2005), and at Christmas my father and i would make a special trip to buy all our seafood for the feast ahead. These memories are a far cry from the reality of 2014.
It was a town of affluence, culture and roses - all watched over by the Hazelwood power station in the South.
Time has not been kind to Morwell. Developments outside the township, the growth of neighbouring Traralgon and an upsurge in government housing has meant many business have struggled to stay open, and others have been left to rot.
The Village twin Cinema on Buckley Street closed in the late 90s, has sat mosty dormant ever since. A Google search showed a company known as WonderWorld Games offer the venue for hire, though appearance suggests patrons are few and far between.
Gudes Arcade, also on Buckley, was once a popular shopping destination. This site has been left to decay, with the mark of vandals all too clear.
On Church Street and Princes Drive whilst businesses seem to have fared better, the vacant shops are a reminder of how much trade in the town has declined.
The Merton Rush, a family hotel in the 80s and 90s, now sits abandoned, the tables and chairs still in residence.
Morwell is a piece of living history. Now, as the coal mine fires continue to rage, who knows what will next be in store for this former "Rose of the Valley."
My dear friend Louise who helped me on this shoot grew up and works in Morwell. She works closely with the community and has been my touchstone since i left almost 8 years ago. I thank her and her amazing family for more than 15 years of support.