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Brisbane Catholics look back on the highs and lows of the 2011 floods

Unforgettable disaster: It’s the 10th anniversary of floods that brought widespread devastation to South-East Queensland in January 2011.

MEMORIES of nine families taking refuge under one roof and the tide of community spirit that rose after South-East Queensland’s 2011 floods loom large for Ravina Waldren as the 10th anniversary of the disaster comes around.

Ms Waldren, co-ordinator of Murri Ministry, was among the first to rally supporters to respond to the desperate need of flood victims across Brisbane and Ipswich, from Goodna to Grantham.

It’s been 10 years since the floods in which 35 people died and which ruined houses and businesses in dozens of suburbs.

Murri Ministry’s effort was part of a community response that swept through the suburbs during that January in the wake of the devastation.

For the Centacare agency and its supporters, it was a lot of work and lasted long after the floodwaters had receded.

“During the floods we were taking out clothes, we were taking out food, (and) we ended up applying to the council to get a grant and we were able to provide families with washing machines,” Ms Waldren said.

“We were providing household items – you name it … we were collecting them, and people here in Brisbane in the parishes were dropping off (donated goods) to Murri Ministry …”

Ms Waldren remembers how Aunty Narella Simpson, of the Aboriginal Baptist community at Ipswich, welcomed into her home nine families whose houses had been flooded.

“Aunty Narella, she just welcomed everybody into her home,” she said.

“Even though they had nothing to give but everybody needed a roof over their head and a dry bed at the end of the day …

“And some of the families, they’re good friends and their souls just connected. It’s beautiful to see – that loving support.”

At the height of the recovery effort, Murri Ministry was supporting about 50 families across a wide area including Ipswich, Grantham, Bundamba, Riverview, Goodna, Fairfield and West End, as well as Cherbourg.

“(The floods) had a devastating effect on people all over, everywhere,” Ms Waldren said.

“It was just devastating; it really was.

“… We were continually supplying food, meals. We were cooking meals for (some people).

“They had lost everything.

“We hope that we never see that again – it was just horrible.”

But the way people responded inspired Ms Waldren.

“It was wonderful to see how everybody just rallied around and helped, and even though a lot of people had nothing, they still gave something to help their neighbours out,” she said.

“It was nice to see the Brisbane community come together and helping each other out in that spirit, and the churches were very good too in donating what they could.”

People remembered that at a recent Christmas lunch for the Murri Christian community at Goodna.

“We met the elders that we had helped a long time ago,” Ms Waldren said.

“It was just lovely to catch up with everybody.”

Conversation automatically turned to the floods, and one of the memories that came up was curtains.

“Sewing machines were taken out there to help a couple of the sewers to make curtains, and that’s (one of the things) they remember,” Ms Waldren said.

“It’s good to be able to be friends in need.”

That was especially true during the long period after the floods when the provision of insurance money was slow.

“We had one beautiful family in West End, they had lost everything and then their insurance money came through for them, so they wanted to give $10,000 to the community out at Bundamba who’d really suffered, to buy them white goods …,” Ms Waldren said.

She said some of the flood victims Murri Ministry helped hadn’t fully recovered.

“I guess it’s just that worry for them every time we’re going to have a bit of a rainfall because it was just incredible the amount of water (that came with the floods).

“But, the people are just so glad for anything and everything you give, and that’s the beautiful thing of giving and I think as Christians that’s what we do.

“Everybody who works within the Church we’re forever looking after each other, and I think that’s beautiful.

“We’re so blessed to be able to do that and have the freedom to do that for each other, and I think that’s the wonderful thing of giving.”

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