Salvation Army Emergency Services reflect on the Queensland high-risk weather events
By SIMONE WORTHING
Salvation Army Emergency Services (SAES) response and recovery teams and volunteers have been catering in evacuation centres, conducting assessments and providing access to financial assistance in recovery hubs, packing hampers and essential supplies, and being a listening ear and supportive presence in Queensland for over a month.
In Far North Queensland, where Tropical Cyclone Jasper crossed the coast on 13 December 2023, SAES teams have been active from Cairns to Cooktown. In South East Queensland, where a severe storm and rainfall event has been impacting the area since Christmas night, multiple sites were set up from Mt Tamborine to Mudgeeraba on the southern end of the Gold Coast.
“Our response teams located in Cooktown and the South East concluded their services after 87 staff and surge personnel (staff from different Salvation Army departments) gave over 1382 volunteer hours and provided 4644 meals and refreshments,” said Daryl Crowden, General Manager - Salvation Army Emergency Services.
“The Queensland Government (Department of Communities) ‘contracted’ the SAES to attend recovery centres and partner in the provision of recovery funding for Tropical Cyclone Jasper and then soon after for South East Queensland flooding on 20 December 2023. With the contract they also released $350,000 to The Salvation Army as a contribution to our program.
“Over 26 days (20 December – 14 January), SAES recovery team members and Salvation Army surge staff booked over 3577 hours and provided just under $2M in direct community grants to over 17,600 individuals.”
The SAES teams are keeping a close watch on “intensifying activity” in the Coral Sea that could develop into Tropical Cyclone Kirrily early this week. Storms and heavy rain that could lead to flash flooding is forecast across Kimberley, Northern Territory and much of Cape York peninsula.
As impressive as these numbers are, they do not tell the whole story.
“These numbers … do not capture the outstanding and exhausting work of the corps (Salvation Army churches) in the areas impacted,” Daryl shared. “At the same time as dealing with the personal impact of flood waters, Cairns Corps delivered over 640 Christmas food and toy hampers, supported countless people, cleaned out homes and provided additional financial and material support, and acted as a focal point for local churches and community.
“As outstanding as all this is, it still does not tell you the story of the people involved – both our own people and those they have sat with, listened to and served. The stories of life impact continue, and we are privileged to hear these and to know that once again SAES, the corps, local mission expressions (including Doorways emergency relief and Salvo Stores) and those who have joined us, have contributed to The Salvation Army’s vision of transforming Australia one life at a time, with the love of Jesus.”
Just one example comes from a family in South East Queensland:
“We are a family on the northern Gold Coast that lost power and our water supply during the recent storm,” said Suni. “There was also damage to our trees. We applied for relief from The Salvation Army at the Coomera Community Hub and received a generous gift voucher - such a relief at what has been an expensive time with all the little unexpected costs as well. We just wanted to thank the organisation for the generous support of the community in a time of need. A special thank you to the people at the pop-up tables in the Coomera Centre who did their best to serve all who came and showed kindness and caring even under pressure. We are so grateful for your services and will show our support in return when the time comes.”
Daryl explained that the SAES is aware that many people need ongoing assistance. “The Queensland Government’s estimate in the South East is that 130,000 people were impacted by loss of power or other storm affects, and as of Sunday 14 January, about 100,000 people have sought help of some sort. And these numbers do not include the Far North.
“Unfortunately, our government contract concluded on 14 January and the SAES will no longer be present in recovery centres, providing Tier 1 (immediate need) grants.”
However, The Salvation Army is aware that more people need help.
“The SAES is developing a concept for additional assistance for those that suffered major damage through the provision of Tier 2 and 3 grants,” explained Daryl. “We have the mechanisms in place for this and will apply to the government for funding to employ staff to manage the increased workload.”
Daryl shared his thanks to all involved in helping those impacted by these challenging events.
“I want to express my gratitude, and that of my team, for the support provided by divisional and territorial leaders, and especially to all those Salvo staff that gave their time, away from home at a very special time of the year. We can’t do it without you.”
Major Leanne Stevens, Recovery Team Leader, SAES – National, summed up the extremely busy but rewarding last four weeks:
“As we draw to a close in assisting people from Cyclone Jasper and the Gold Coast storms, I would like to give my appreciation and thanks for each one that has assisted in the background and at the frontline.
“You have been absolutely amazing in representing The Salvation Army in your space.
“I have heard many great stories and comments from the public, for how grateful they have been for the help from the Salvos. You have sat and listened when people needed to be heard, you have shed a tear with people who just wanted to know someone cared, you have sat with the lonely when they truly needed a friend. You have reflected exactly who we are – people of compassion and our love for all humanity.
“It has been challenging but rewarding. Tireless but invigorating. Long days and lots of conversations. With all that, I want to say a heartfelt and grateful big ‘thank you’. I have valued and appreciated all you have done and who you are in such a demanding and chaotic space!”