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Salvos teams serve hundreds of evacuees in Northern Territory

The Queensland Emergency Services team serving in the evacuation centre. (From left) Elsa Stibbe, Allen Stibbe, Tealamisu LiLi (cleaner extraordinaire in orange shirt), David Johnson, Rob Smith and Zane Haupt.

For the past six weeks, Salvation Army Emergency Services (SAES) teams have prepared breakfasts for more than 700 people in Howard Springs, just south of Darwin, after they were evacuated from three remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory being devastated by floods.

Tropical Cyclone Ellie, which crossed the Western Australia coast just days before Christmas last year, started a monsoon trough that isolated and devastated towns from Broome almost to Alice Springs, including the Indigenous communities at Kalkarindji, Daguragu and Pigeon Hole.

The evacuees, from communities 10 hours south of Darwin, have been accommodated in a government-built centre since their evacuation on 1 March. The building was originally designed for fly-in-fly-out workers and then used as a national resilience centre during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Over the six weeks, the local Northern Territory SAES team, as well as support teams from New South Wales, Queensland and WA, joined the Red Cross, St Vinnies and government personnel to work together to meet the needs of the evacuees,” said Major Zane Haupt, Strategic Emergency and Disaster Management Coordinator for the Northern Territory. “There was great collaboration. If one area needed an extra volunteer, there was always someone ready to help.

“The Salvos took care of breakfasts. The government arranged for a caterer to prepare lunch and dinner, and we served the food coming in, including taking it to those who couldn’t come to where people were eating. We served 45,000 meals over six weeks, not including morning and afternoon teas or random cuppas and snacks.”

Zane says over the past six weeks he has seen humanity both at its finest and “at its not so finest”.

“Serving food to 720 plus evacuees is no easy task!” he said. “Even though the days have been long – 13 to 14 hours – the rewards have been even greater. Bringing smiles to kids’ faces, lending an ear to hear concerns, and just being a servant to those in need, have been the richest blessings I’ve received.

“Yes, I am exhausted. But also, what a huge privilege it has been. Many thanks to all the volunteers who have helped, both local and those from Queensland, New South Wales and WA – too many to mention individually.”

The work of the SAES in Howard Springs has now finished, although the evacuees remain in the centre. Plans are in place to return them to their communities once roads are fixed and rebuilding and repairs have been made.


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