At age 70 Kevin Bennett sees the irony in the fact that he left Loy Yang on an ‘Early’ Retirement Package.
He maintains a presence on site, currently working two days a week with a contractor.
And the truth is: he doesn’t want to leave.
‘I love my job, I still enjoy coming to work every day, I like the people I work with,’ said Kevin, affectionately known throughout AGL as ‘KB’.
After 52 years in the power industry, starting as an apprentice electrician in the State Electricity Commission of Victoria (SECV), KB can see some benefits in retirement – including spending more time with wife Minke, their three daughters, and their grandchildren.
‘I’ve been on the availability roster since 1980, so effectively on call for nearly 40 years. What’s that like? You’d have to ask my wife,’ KB laughed.
KB has an impeccable safety record: only one medical treatment for dust in eye after entire career working in open cut coal mines.
‘I’m very proud that I never had an incident,’ he said.
‘I have a healthy respect for electricity. I’m not friendly with it and if you forget to respect it, electricity will remind you.
‘I nearly made it to 20 years without taking a sickie and at 19 years and 9 months I crashed a beach buggy outside work and had to take time off.’
KB’s hobby is refurbishing beach buggies, which have featured as Santa’s transport at the Loy Yang Christmas picnic for many years. He also has a passion for motorbikes and cruises into work every day on his BMW R75/5 motorcycle.
KB started working for the SECV as an apprentice in 1967.
‘I finished Form 4, I got good marks and considered going on with school, the opportunity came up to apply for an apprenticeship, so I pursued that instead and got offered a trade,’ he said.
‘Back in those days you did training at both power stations and wired houses. SEC owned many houses in Yallourn and Morwell which the bosses lived in, and the general service gang wired up the houses.’
KB applied for a role in the power station but was offered a job in the Morwell open cut, which upon reflection he sees a pivotal moment in his career.
‘I love working in the open cuts as there is so much variety of work and you’re outside and there is not much noise compared to in the power station,’ he said.
‘One day I could be working on a dredger and the next a conveyor. Some days when it’s cold and you’re out in the weather and up to your knees in mud, it’s not so good – but mostly, it’s good.’
He worked in the Morwell open cut for 12 years as an electrician before coming to Loy Yang which was being built in 1980.
‘It was exciting, a honeymoon period where everything was brand new and we had an open budget to set up the workshop,’ he said.
‘I put power in to every one of those dredgers and was there to watch the cables go into the ground in the coal mine.’
‘Once we started producing coal and creating stacks and the dredger was in full production, that was monumental.’
Another key milestone was sale of Loy Yang in 1995. It was part of the privatisation of the SECV by Premier Jeff Kennett.
KB has been with Loy Yang through various changes in ownership and has a tear in his eye when he thinks about the closure date of 2048.
‘I really wish I was going to be around to see what the energy future looks like.