After the clean up

The pictures of volunteers lining up to help in flood-devastated Brisbane are wonderful and say so much about the generosity of spirit within our communities. RWA has a book appeal running. So many other organisations including ARRA are staging fund-raising events. It’s wonderful to see and every cent will be vital.

But these communties will need support long after the media spotlight has moved on to the next story. I was in South East Queensland during the 74’s stuck, along with my family, on the Gold Coast which was also devastated by the same weather system. As  a ten and a half year old, my most pressing concern was whether the primary school I attended was going to be inundated.(It sat at the top of Kangaroo Point so I really didn’t need to worry…)

Areas over the border in NSW were also affected as the low pressure system moved south. Murwillumbah was inundated by the Tweed River with the water up to the awnings in the main street. Several weeks later, after the initial clean-up was over and businesses were starting to re-open, my dad bundled us all into the car and we drove down to Murwillumbah. At the time it seemed like a weird thing to do. We  could have had a perfectly good lunch at home rather than a milkshake and toasted sandwich in a deserted main street. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why my dad wanted to buy something from a hardware store in a country town. In his words, ‘businesses need shoppers.’

In hindsight, what he was doing was spending money in a community that needed a little kick-along. It was something I remember happening many times over the years, tracking as far south as Casino and Lismore on occasions. I still have bowls I bought from a supermarket in one of those main street, the tangible reminder that long after the tragedy is over, we can still help those businesses get back on their feet.

The Coles or Woolies or Bunnings in your major shopping precinct will still be there tomorrow, but businesses in country towns or suburban corner stores might not be. Give them time to open their doors and then go for a drive or a stroll and inject a little bit of cash into their economy. Lean on the counter and have a yarn with them. For most of us talking about hardship is cathartic. Let them know they aren’t forgotten. It’s easy to make a difference in so many small ways.


18 thoughts on “After the clean up

  1. Hi Sharon, thanks for dropping by. I’m sure when you and your hubbie are venturing around the countryside on your motorbike the small towns along the way appreciate the business.

    And I have to say it’s fun poking around shops in country towns – they always have something unique that makes me stop for a closer look 🙂

  2. Cathy, I know what you mean. I flew out of Brisbane the day the river was rising wishing I could stay and do something… Hope you’re safe and dry in Victoria. It’s been such a wide spread weather event.

  3. Helene, I’m late to come over to say hello but I wanted to say how much I loved your post. It’s so true what your dad said – businesses need shoppers! And what a great way we can make a practical contribution.

  4. We have donated, of course, yet I wish I could do more. I can’t even help with the cleanup here in Victoria. Bett is not well with the humidy and her Congestive Hear failure, so cannot be left or I would

  5. Hi Suzi, the day the rain poured down on Brisbane I was flying shuttles between Brisbane and Bundaberg. The weather was atrocious in Brisbane and the sun was shining in Bundie. Surreal. It was easy to forget that many of our passengers had already seen their own town inundated. They knew first hand exactly what the people of Brisbane were going to be experiencing.

  6. Helene,
    great post,
    And yes, it will be in the coming weeks and months that the people of Brisbane and all the other Queensland towns will need the most support,

  7. And I’m remiss in thanking Kylie for suggesting I post a blog about this. I’d recounted the story on her blog and she thought it would make a good topic on its own.

  8. It sounds like a similar system that we have in place in the airline, Kylie, in the event that we have an inflight emergency. Thankfully I haven’t had to use it…

    Your tip about kids and drawing is excellent. It must be so very hard for them to comprehend.

    Bron, so lovely to see you here on my blog. I hope your health is going from strength to strength! Let’s hope the La Nina cycle winds down a little bit. We may not want the El Nino back, but it would be good to dry out a bit…

  9. Helene, what a great blog post, and a timely reminder of effective, direct ongoing action that we can all take. G and I have been talking about a trip to SW Queensland later this year – some of those communities have been isolated by flood waters multiple times in the past 12 months. (We had a small taste of that a few years back when we got stuck in Innamincka for a week.) When we get to planning the itinerary we’ll probably aim to include some of the towns hard-hit by flooding, so that they can benefit from our spending. We’ll wait until this La Nina cycle is over though – there may not be much travel through those areas until the rains slow down!

  10. Too right about the books and needing them for comfort but seeing them as a luxury. Lots of great RWA volunteers doing bits to help out – organisation, collection points, distribution etc. Go, RWA’ers!

    Helene, the SES (and to some extent the RFS) have procedures in place to deal with critical incident situations. We formally debrief after such incidents as often as we need to and have access to counsellors 24/7.

    Sometimes we call in the chaplain during a debrief, particularly if the event has involved fatalities. We can call on the CI support team 24/7, months or even years later. Mostly though our team is close knit enough to know each other well enough to recognise the signs of CI stress and we trust each other enough to be able to talk these things over, even the blokes.

    Just as an aside, kids affected by stress (such as traumatic events like fire/floods) may or may not want to talk. If they don’t drawing is a great outlet and talking about the picture is a way to get them to unload.

    That’s advice from a school counsellor – I’ve had a couple of kids in my time of teaching who suffered the loss of both parents, or lost their home to fire.

    Of course, it’s no substitute to calling on professional help but it’s a good stop gap.

  11. Louise, it sounds like you are out there supporting those communities already.

    It might be deemed too parochial, but I reckon 2011 might be a good year for Australians to holiday at home. The flood waters from Qld are going to keep on tracking the full length of this wonderful country and a lot of places will need support.

    Unfortunately, Dad passed away almost five years ago, but at 93 he’d stopped for a chat in a lot of towns 🙂

  12. Kylie, I’m always in awe of the SES and Volunteer FIre Brigades who do so much for their communities. I also wonder who they turn to after they’ve helped out in sometimes very traumatic events. You’re so right about the Anglo bloke mentality that says you just get on with it…

    Rachel, you are already doing great things with the book drive! Well done to RWA.!! Things like books become luxuries and in times like this there’s no money left for them. As readers and writers we know the comfort we can all get from a story that takes us away from the harsh reality.

  13. Helene,
    Thank you for reminding us. Great post! We’re inner city people but we love to travel this great country of ours. We always buy diesel and groceries and have drinks in the outback/country local pubs wherever we stay. We need to support these communities to get back on their feet and the best way, once things are up and running, is to patronise their businesses as much as possible. I reckon I would like your Dad!

  14. Helene, that is such a great post. And yes, such a powerful thing to do – spend money in the small businesses that will be struggling.

    Maybe I’ll even take a drive somewhere like your dad did…

  15. Helene, what a fantastic story! Your father’s acts of generosity have stayed in your mind – thanks for sharing them.

    The last paragraph of your post made my throat tighten, especially the part about having a yarn and how cathartic it can be.

    Our culture can be so stoic, particularly the blokes – “stand up under hardship, I can make it on my own” mentality. Talking about how something has affected you isn’t something they’ll seek professional help for.

    One of the things you quickly learn in the SES, after a critical incident, is the power of talking with someone, whether they went through exactly what you did or not.

    The “good” thing bout floods is that everyone has a flood story to tell and that can break the ice. Talking and sharing heals, and there will be many who’ll need that friendly ear in the months to come.

    Thanks again, Helene, for sharing this.

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