It was a solemn moment. This wasn’t just the end of the mine but possibly the end of Wonthaggi, a town created in 1909 to supply the manpower to dig the coal to power Victoria’s steam trains.
The Deputy Commissioner of Victorian Railways, E. P. Rogan, spoke a few words. There is tension in the faces of the miners who stand listening. Coal mining has been their life. What lies ahead?
The writing had been on the wall for many years before the mine finally closed. No new employees were taken on after 1956. At its peak, the mine employed some 1800 men. By 1968, there were just 104 miners left and 25 of those were eligible for pensions.
The miners would survive but the question hung over Wonthaggi for many years: could the town survive without the mine?
Fifty years later, we know the answer to that. With no large-scale industry, you could hardly say Wonthaggi prospered, but it survived. In recent years, it seems to have reached a critical mass and has gone from strength to strength.