The Kimberley is currently experiencing its worst floods in living memory. That is the fallout following Ex-Tropical Cyclone Ellie and this is only the start of the wet season. The prospect of more cyclones to come is very real. We have seen the graphic images of the catastrophic damage caused. Essential infrastructure has been destroyed, an enormous inland lake forming with rivers stretching kilometres wide. It has left countless livestock, wildlife, communities and pastoralists stranded.
The government are in the process of assessing the damage, pouring resources into the critical incident. This is helping to ensure isolated people and communities are brought to the safety of evacuation centres or motels. The Department of Communities, Department of Fire and Emergency Services, Red Cross, Youth Care and Salvation Army have also deployed resources to the region to support people in a coordinated relief effort.
There have been harrowing stories; beloved family pets swept away in the floodwaters as their owners watch on, unable to save them. These are images that will stay in the memories of those who are now witnessing the worst floods in living memory.
Some chaplains from other organizations living in the region have been sent to communities to provide support on the ground where it’s needed. Displaced families and individuals have been taken to evacuation centres or motels in places like Derby where many will likely stay for some time.
In WA we are also dealing with a number of bushfires ignited by dry lightning from storms that hit on Tuesday morning 10 January. These have been burning out of control, threatening homes and livestock in and around Donnybrook, Albany, Denmark and Bridgetown shires. Most have now been contained but the prospect of what could still happen worries some people.
The Uniting Church Disaster Relief and Community Recovery working Group Duty Officer is keeping the church informed of the situation and reaching out to congregations in the affected areas offering support. Through the WA Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network there are trained Disaster Recovery Chaplains ready to deploy if called upon.
Disaster Recovery Officers may be required to work in communities for months or years after the crisis is over, particularly in response to the floods in the Kimberly. They will provide support to communities and individuals similar to those now operating in the Mid-West of WA following Tropical Cyclone Seroja.
Frontier Services and the Uniting Church have a number of these chaplains across Australia. Those in the near vicinity of the Kimberley region are monitoring the situation closely. I expect more will be needed in the future as disasters become more frequent and more intense. This will have lifelong consequences for people in remote and isolated communities, affecting their mental health and wellbeing.
Frontier Services also has a willing group of volunteers who can be deployed following disasters to help people in the recovery phase in a variety of tasks. We are always looking for more volunteers to join this intrepid group known as Outback Links. If you would like to know more you can register your interest here.
The Uniting Church National Assembly, Frontier Services and The Uniting Church Synod of WA all have appeals for funds that people can donate to. This will support the meaningfully work done to provide relief to disaster affected communities.
– Rev. David Jackson, Frontier Services Disaster Recovery Chaplain, Mid-West WA
[Photo credit: The Great Northern Highway at Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia. Photo: AAP/Andrea Myers]