Hospital pays tribute to coal mining foundations


Wonthaggi’s coal mining heritage has been honoured in the front foyer of the new Wonthaggi Hospital building.

A piece of black coal sourced from Wonthaggi’s State Coal Mine 22 years ago by former miner Luciano Storti, has been inserted into a glass box within the desk at the new main reception.

The coal was delivered to BCH by Board Chair Don Paproth and painstakingly cut to size to fit the box by BCH Facilities Officer Ken Reid.

“Coal is the heart and soul of Wonthaggi, as are people like Luciano, and we at BCH think that it’s really important to recognise that,” Don said.

“Wonthaggi is here because of coal. We had the richest deposit of black coal in Australia. People like Luciano built this town. They worked in appalling conditions to produce coal in the only state-owned town in Australia.”

Don was a student when he heard the original mine whistle blow for the last time and recalls with pride how Wonthaggi defied predictions the town would die after the mine closed, only to expand and become the thriving rural centre that it is today.

The $115 million Wonthaggi Hospital Expansion reflects the substantial growth of the town, and gives further confidence in the town’s future, especially with further hospital expansion on the way.

“Bass Coast Health has more than 1200 employees and it’s the largest employer in our catchment,” Don said.

Mr Storti worked in the State Coal Mine from 1949 until its closure in 1968. His father Giovanni Storti worked in the mine’s Number 20 Shaft during World War Two.

“It’s fantastic to see the coal mining heritage of Wonthaggi reflected in a modern building,” Mr Storti said.

Mr Reid removed 80mm from the base of the coal to ensure it would fit in the glass box. He cut slits using an angle grinder with a diamond blade and then chipped away at the coal using a chisel and hammer in a delicate operation.

“It was a relief to get the coal in there in one piece,” he said.