Lifeline Community Recovery team instil hope and healing to flood-affected communities
Speaking from the Queensland town of Maryborough, one of the areas severely impacted by flooding caused by Ex Tropical Cyclone Seth, Lifeline Community Recovery Service Lead, Judy Finlayson said the community remain in the early stages of rebuilding.
“That rebuilding is about counting the losses and working out what help is out there in order to start the recovery process—and that’s where Lifeline’s community recovery workers play such a big role,” she said.
The Lifeline Community Recovery team were activated in 11 January to support the flood-ravaged areas surrounding. Maryborough, Tiaro and Gympie, with 12 crisis supporters on the ground providing psychological first-aid to more than 39 locations covering 3 LGA's.
Out of Maryborough and Gympie, the crisis support workers undertake letterbox drops, checking in on people at their homes and other locations, while having a local presence at community events.
As of 1 February, 2,370 instances of psychological first aid assistance have been provided, while more than 3,000 calls have been made to the Community Recovery Hotline.
Mrs Finlayson, who has been undertaking community recovery work for over a decade, said the community is trying to come to terms with a combination of losses.
“It’s a tragic situation and the emotional impact of this particular deployment has been massive because it’s the immense feeling of loss and grief here,” she said.
“While resilient, these people have lost their homes, the farmers have lost their crops and cattle and then all of this is compounded by loss of life and unfortunately that grief is being experienced by entire communities."
“Everyone has been touched by this disaster in some way, and that’s where Lifeline’s Community Recovery team plays such a vital role in this particular scenario because we’ve actually brought the probability of hope to people’s front door.”
Instilling hope to communities in times of need is vital in the rebuilding phase.
“It’s about building hope for the future, as without it, you end up in a crisis,” Mrs Finlayson said.
“Our crisis support workers give people help today, for hope tomorrow. Our team try to find out what it is today that they can do to address the thing that is upsetting people the most—it could be providing a phone number for counselling, or to help them fix a fence.”
A smaller team of two community recovery workers will continue to provide on the ground support up until April 22, with Mrs Finlayson noting that longer-term emotional support was also critical following a natural disaster.
“When you first get a disaster like this it’s the adrenalin and the fight for survival,” she said.
“Then that panic starts to settle down, and the reality of what’s gone on around them sets in, and the emotional toll of the impact is the part of recovery that will take time.
“You can repair fences with help, and you can apply for emergency financial support grants, but it doesn’t take away the moments of trauma you experienced during the natural disaster event. And that’s our role—to provide psychological support to members of the community impacted by disasters and the trauma they have experienced as that’s what helps us really recover.”
Going forward, the Lifeline Community Recovery team will continue to provide hope and support to the communities in need.
“We receive referrals from different government and community organisations that allow us to provide targeted and individual support to those community members who need it most. Lifeline remains involved in providing support to individuals until they are ready to walk the journey without us”.
“It has been an extremely difficult time for everyone in this region, but anyone at any time can reach out to our crisis support workers for help by calling the recovery hotline or phoning Lifeline.”
When asked what stood out for her the most in these trying circumstances, Mrs Finlayson said it was the kindred human spirit visible in every impacted community.
“We recently talked to a guy who during the floods, was providing clothes and feeding twenty people who were isolated and stranded around his property. These are the unsung heroes,” she said.
“And these are the types of stories we hear repeatedly. It’s the generosity of other people and the giving back to one another to get us through in the face of a disaster that is truly inspiring.”
The Community Recovery Hotline (1800 173 349) is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week. To speak to a Lifeline Crisis Supporter, phone 13 11 14.
For more information, please contact:
firstname.lastname@example.org, 0423 652 588