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Jason Alexander – On Australia

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Iconic American actor, Jason Alexander, best known as George from Seinfeld, said this about his love of Australia, during an interview, he did on Channel 7’s Sunday Night program.

"Here's the easiest way for me to feel, tell you why I love the country.  "MATE!" It is spectacular! The notion that the guy that serves you your coffee is your mate. The guy that runs your banking account is your mate. The guy on the sporting team is your mate and the prime minister of the country is your mate. That you're all mates, that you're all in it together. That there's a sense of, we're Australians. We may have differences between us. We're Australians. That sense only happens in America, for me, when we have a disaster. But you guys propagate it every day just by going "hey mate", "good morning", "good day mate". It is, I love it. I love it. And it is so welcoming and so embracing and so human and to me that is the character of the country and I think that is why I respond to it".

Mate, you got it spot on. I’ve never heard anyone articulate it so well, exactly what it means to be Australian and it took an American to remind me.

I think sometimes we forget that as Australians.  Let’s never lose our ability to be mates with everyone. To be neighbourly. To lend a helping hand whenever it’s needed. To show the world exactly what being mates can be. How free we feel and friendly it is to be Australian. Whether you were born here or brought here, everyone is mates.

I’ve always called people mate, and not just because I didn’t remember their names. Let’s keep the word ‘mate’ front and centre and keep our country friendly and welcoming to all.

Thank you, Jason, for the reminder.  We’ll see you on our friendly shores in July. You can catch Jason’s show, Jason Alexander And His Hair, around Australia. Click here for more details for his Brisbane show.

It Was The Worst Of Times….

…but it was also the best of times.  The Great Flood of Queensland 2011.

How can anyone possibly say that anything to do with the flooding of Queensland during last summer can be described as being the best of times?  There was so much tragedy.  So much death.  So much destruction.  So many sad stories.

Yet there was also stories of inspiration.  Tales of heroism.  Examples of courage and resilience and bravery.  But most of all there was the famous Queensland spirit which was on show for all the world to see, and see it they did.

The news was dominated by the flooding of regional Queensland in towns such as Emerald, Dalby and Gympie. Unfortunately over the years, the flooding of regional Queensland towns was not a new experience. Weeks of solid rain and a torrential downpour unleashed a flash flood in the elevated town of Toowoomba which ultimately cost 21 people their lives when it went down stream and destroyed the small town of Grantham and others along the way.  The images of this flash flood, caught on the screens of amateur photographers were beamed around the world.  For all the wrong reasons, Queensland was the top news story on the planet.

Who can forget the story and heroism of 13 year old Jordan Rice? Caught in the flash flood with his mother and brother, this young boy, not able to swim, demanded his 10 year old brother be rescued first from the rapidly rising water surge coursing through the centre of Toowoomba.  A few seconds later, he and his mother were both dead after the car they were trapped in was inundated and flipped in the raging waters.  His brother was saved and will grow old knowing his brother gave his life for him.

Jordan became the human face of this tragedy caused by Mother Nature’s fury.

The night before the Grantham tragedy and with the rain continuing to fall, a call went out across the media and social networks for volunteers to help make sandbags at Brisbane City Council sites across the city.  People pulled on their gum boots and headed out in the pouring rain to assist.  Twitter was alive and active and there were people tweeting and retweeting vital information.  The community was in full swing and answering the call.

I was transfixed in front of the TV throughout this disaster which went on for days.  All of the networks had 24 hour coverage of the unfolding tragedy.  It was must watch TV.  Seeing how Queenslanders were reacting to the crisis made it even more the best of times.  The Wally Lewis statue at Suncorp Stadium now equipped with floaties, goggles and a snorkle.  People playing cricket on Coronation Drive, one of Brisbane’s busiest roads, in the middle of the day. Yes the Queensland humour and spirit was on show and it was badly needed.  Australian’s have a great way of laughing at ourselves and not taking life too seriously and it was light entertainment in a dark time.

I was inspired and proud of our rescue services.  They risked their own lives to save strangers.  Time and time again rescue helicopters flew over the fast moving waters in the Lockyer Valley, plucking stranded residents from the roofs of homes and cars.  Swift water rescue teams from the police, fire brigade and SES saved countless lives from raging torrents.  Their actions and selflessness and bravery and humility made me very proud of them.

As Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh delivered a speech capable of bringing a tear to a glass eye it brought us closer as a community.  No matter what your political persuasion was, it was hard not to be moved by her speech.

“As we weep for what we have lost, and as we grieve for family and friends and we confront the challenge that is before us, I want us to remember who we are. We are Queenslanders. We’re the people that they breed tough, north of the border. We’re the ones that they knock down, and we get up again.” Anna Bligh.

After the water receded came the best part of all.  The mud army mobilised.  Volunteers from around the state kicked into action.  Armed with shovels, mops, buckets and a cheery attitude, they got to work and drove into the carnage and began to clean up the mess and sludge and rubbish.

It made me proud to be a Queenslander.

It made us all proud to be a Queenslander.  I suspect that even non Queenslanders, watching from a far wished they were Queenslanders.

Then TC Yasi came to town.  Well not Brisbane town, but our cousins up in North Queensland.  Tropical Cyclone Yasi was a mean bitch.  A category 5 system with winds able to inflict major damage and cause damage she did.

The media that had set up camp in Brisbane for the floods had packed up and headed north to cover the imminent disaster there.  Some brave journalists locked down with locals in community halls as the giant storm powered over head.  They were the first on the scene as a new day dawned, broadcasting images of widespread damage to homes and buildings and crops.

But yet that Queensland spirit wasn’t broken.  Who can forget this sign outside a NQ Hogs Breath Cafe.  This is the Queensland spirit which saw us through this terrible period.

And here we are 12 months later.  The clean up continues.  Homes are still being rebuilt.  We remember those who died and pause and reflect on the sad and tragic loss of life. For those taken before their time.

I hope that people drew inspiration from the Great Flood of 2011.  I hope that when times get tough, that they look back at this time and see the courage of many.  They recall the heroism of people young and old, friends and strangers. That they remember that Queenslanders never give up and no matter the odds, no matter the trials and tribulations before them, that there is a spirit within this state and of course this great country of Australia, which is unbreakable, even in the face of adversity and struggle.

I hope, that like me, others are also remembering how Queensland united 12 months ago.  I hope they also remember that in the midst of disaster, that the worst of times was also the best of times, when that famous Queensland spirit was on display and it is that spirit which is still with us today.

For my post about the Floods as it happened last year, click here.

Working Wonders at the RCH

Sick kids are a fact of life but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.

Kids are so brave and strong and such fighters. Quite often it is the child who is sick who is holding up better than their friends and family. Is this because they don’t fully understand what is happening or could happen to them? Who knows. I think it is more likely that kids have a spirit which is unbreakable. They are tough and resilient and have a great attitude.

I also think it is because of places like Working Wonders at the Royal Childrens Hospital in Brisbane.

Working Wonders helps not only the sick kids, but their families by keeping them entertained while in hospital. I’ve gotten to know a few of the people who work there and they are terrific people all.  Click through to their Facebook page for more info on them and all the awesome work that they do, but also how you can assist in fundraising or volunteering.

https://www.facebook.com/workingwonders?ref=ts

I visited the hospital today, thankfully not because I was visiting someone I knew who was sick, but to drop off some stuff for the Musical Therapy Dept at the hospital that helps the kids recover through music.  It is an amazing program. 

I took this photo inbetween a rain storm and while I have seen the sign before, it dawned on me that this is the first thing most of the sick kids will see as they pull up at the hospital. What a great way to be greeted with a friendly and colourful sign. The friendliness and the colour continues inside too. They are very well looked after.

I wish for a world with no sick kids. In the meantime I am glad there are places like Working Wonders to help look after them.

The Fev


Wayward Brisbane Lions full forward, Brendan Fevola has been sacked by the Brisbane Lions after a courtship of just over a year.

I want to look at this from two angles.  The first being from a humanitarian point of view and the second from a football only point of view.

First off we have to remember that Brendan Fevola is a human being and like most of us, he has his failings and flaws. The problem is that his are right in the eye of the public with the media eager to pounce onto any indiscretions.  That makes it hard to begin with.

When I make a mistake, mostly I make the mistake in anonymity to the public and only answer to my friends and family.  Professional sports people answer to the public, media, sponsors etc.  You could argue that if it wasn’t for the media broadcasting these stories that hardly anyone would know about them.  Other than a select few who saw Fev arrested would know so perhaps the media sometimes make a story somewhat bigger than it actually is.

Fev is in this trouble due to football.  I don’t think there is any doubt about that. Of course we don’t know if he wouldn’t have had similar issues if instead of being a professional footballer he was a chippy or a real estate agent or a doctor.  Football pays and pays well.  This contributed to his gambling issues. Plus the drinking and the Lara Bingle issue where an everyday Joe who looks like Fev, would have no chance of picking up someone like her.  Ok, that’s a stretch but you get where I am coming from.

So if football caused these issues, then isn’t up to football to also fix these issues?  It starts back at Fev’s first club at Carlton.  They had a very loose leash on him and more often than not, he got away with so much.  They finally had enough and orchestrated a trade to Brisbane.  Brisbane knowing the troubles Fev has had, still signed him to a 3 year deal with no behaviour clauses in his contract.  That means Brisbane either thought that Fev would behave or they would work with him when he didn’t.

As history now shows us, he didn’t behave though it could be argued that a lot of his issues in Brisbane were not his fault or were sins from the past.  Lara Bingle happened years ago but the photo in question appeared last season.  The gambling addiction began in Melbourne.  The lewd charge was dismissed due to a lack of evidence, and I doubt he did it anyway. His passport and other documents were found in a park and the kind guy who found them also thought it best if he called Channel 9 and have them broadcast him returning it.  It was the lead story that day!  He was drunk on New Year’s Eve, made a dick of himself and got arrested.  Probably along with 100 other drunken fools that night anyway, but due to his high profile his arrest ends up as the top news story for the day, again!

So Fev goes into rehab for seven weeks and within days of coming out, the Lions sack him.  If football caused all of these issues, then the Lions should have kept him close to the club.  Given him a goal to return to footy after round 8 or something but placed very strict conditions on him doing so.  They should have continued his counselling and given him the tools to overcome his addictions and troubles.  They should have done a lot of things but instead they chose to sack him, but with the promise they will continue to support him.  What rubbish!  They have washed their hands of him and will be glad to see him board a flight to Melbourne and never come back.

Football caused the issue and it appears as though football won’t solve the issue.

Now from a Brisbane Lions football point of view I have some issues.

I am a long time Lions fan and have supported them since day one.  I am a Lions tragic and when Fev was being offered up for trade and Brisbane threw their hat in the ring, I was pissed.  Really pissed off because I didn’t want him to come here.  We already had a good forward line with Brown and Bradshaw and I thought that his off field dramas would cause issues, which of course now has proven to be right.  The trade which brought him to Brisbane initially involved a Lions legend in Bradshaw and quality mid fielder, Michael Rischitelli being used as trade bait.  The deal never happened with both Bradshaw and Rischa refusing to go to Carlton but it left a dirty taste in both their mouths and Bradshaw quit the club immediately and went to Sydney while Rischa played out his final year and couldn’t get to the new Gold Coast team quick enough.  We also lost the up and coming forward Lachie Henderson and an early round draft pick for Fev.  We paid a HIGH price for Fev and we got 17 games and 40 odd goals from him in one season.

The issue with sacking him is that the Lions will still need to pay out his contract, believed to be about $1.5 million over the next 2 years of Fev’s contract.  The 2011 list is complete and therefore we will be without a quality forward for the entire year. So essentially $750,000 for season 2011 of Fev’s salary is gone. Poof.  Up in smoke.  We get zero return on investment for it.

Sure we can trade again after the end of this season and pick up another forward if that is where the list manager wants to go, but we will still have $750,000 less to spend next year paying out the third year of Fev’s contract.  So chances are we won’t be targeting a high profile forward for 2012 either.

It gets worse.  Due to the high value placed on Fev’s contract it is likely we will not be able to afford to keep some off contract (2011) players such as Daniel Rich and Mitch Clark.  Both were in the media during the last trade period about leaving Brisbane due to not getting the money they are probably entitled to, so due to having $1.5 million dollars already accounted for in the salary cap, we will most likely lose these two quality players as well.

It is likely this decision to sack Fev and indeed recruit him in the first place, will have team and results ramifications for a few more years yet.  It might be 5 years before we can recover from it.

Brisbane should have stuck with Fev.  They should have put him out on the paddock and trained his arse off.  They should have given him all types of conditions, which I understand Fev asked for on Sunday anyway.  If he screwed up again, then sack him.  Get him into the 2nds for 6 weeks to get him some match fitness and then around round 8, bring him into the team and let him do what he does best.  Kick goals!

He would have too I reckon.

Seven weeks in rehab is a long time to do a lot of thinking.  He had never done that before and I reckon he would have weighed it all up and worked out that he loved footy.  I reckon he would have pulled his shit together and finished his career on top.  Now unfortunately his AFL career is over and he will always be remembered for the negatives, not for the freakish ability he had as a footy player.  He deserved better and I expected better from my footy club as well.

Queensland has shown this year how it responds to natural disasters but when it became to hard to deal with Fev, none of that Queensland spirit was on display.  He was punted and abandoned and we will never know if Fev was ever worth the price we paid to get him.

I’ll always love the Brisbane Lions but my pride in them has been dented in the last two seasons.  Firstly by how they handled the whole trade period at the end of the 2009 season which got Fevola to the Lions in the first place, but also by how they have kicked a mate while he is down.  There is no Queensland spirit in this decision and that makes me sad.

I wish Fev the best of luck and hope he sorts out his issues soon.  His young family needs him to.  Fev needs to for himself as well.

Please rate this post out of 5 stars and leave a comment if you feel compelled. Thanks for reading!

Floodageddon 2011 – Through Jack’s Eyes

As I write this post, over 28,000 homes in South East Queensland have been severely damaged or destroyed in the worst flooding to take place in Queensland in over 30 years.  In fact, over 75% of Queensland has been declared a disaster zone. To put this in perspective for my northern hemisphere mates, that is the size of Texas in the United States or the combined size of Germany and France.  That’s a whole lotta area, under water.

That’s all I will write about the actual problem.  Queensland flooded and flooded in a bloody major way.  It’s like someone forgot to turn off the world’s biggest shower and 3 months later realised it but by that time, the bath was full and the water was flowing over the sides and flooding the entire bathroom.

Yep, stupid analogy but you get the gist.  It rained a lot and it kept on raining.

You’ve all seen the footage and seen the news and read the papers and online about what happened in the South East corner of Queensland which has so far claimed 20 lives, not including those who died in December in the central parts of Queensland.

No, what I want to write about in this post is my own personal experience.  Of what I have felt and seen and witnessed since 10th January.  My story is an easy one.  I am nowhere near the Brisbane River or the Bremer River in Ipswich.  I am a couple of hours away from the Lockyer Valley region decimated by the Toowoomba inland tsunami.  I know only one person who came close to having their house flooded and he avoided that by living on the second floor of an apartment building in West End.  I have suffered no loss and no one I know has suffered or loss either.

So why do I even care?

Well I hope that question will be answered in the following words.  Join me, won’t you?

Along with millions of other Aussies, I watched the devastation of the floods in central Queensland.  Towns I have visited such as Emerald, Rockhampton, Bundaberg, were all being inundated by a brown, liquid monster.  We looked on as our country brothers and sisters dealt with the disaster the way we know Queenslanders do.  With humour and good grace.  Images of people, always blokes actually, walking waist deep in water with the pub slowly receding behind them and a carton of beer on their shoulder and a smile on their face was common.  A pub with a hastily built dirt levee built around it and renamed the Flotel instead of Hotel.  Kids on esky lids swimming in crocodile and snake infested waters without a care in the world.  Humour is a big part of our society and we would need to call on it many times to get through the days and weeks ahead.

Queenslanders love their beer and so of course you save the pub before saving the schools! It doesn’t matter if the school goes under anyway. It’s the school holidays and there’ll be plenty of time to dry it out and get it up and running again before school resumes.  But we must not run out of beer!  This is a crisis and the only good way of handling a crisis is by looking at it head on – through the bottom of a brown stubbie that is!  That’s Queensland and we wouldn’t change it for anything.

Yes it is fair to say that Queenslanders handle things with a relaxed attitude but don’t let that fool you.  The job still gets done.

Not understating it but there were thousands of people displaced and evacuated.  Hundreds of homes and businesses were flooded and after weeks of vision on the news and websites and newspapers, Channel 9 decided to hold a telethon to raise money for the regional centres of Queensland.  It was hastily arranged and broadcast live from Brisbane’s Southbank Piazza on Sunday, January 9.  The piazza is open air to a certain degree and the millions of viewers across Australia could see the monsoonal rain that was continually pelting down over Brisbane as entertainers such as David Campbell and Tina Area sang their hearts out.  I am sure the sight of this never ending curtain of rain contributed to the telethon raising over $10 million that night alone but no one knew that night, that the following afternoon would see a terrifying flash flood hit the towns of Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley towns of Murphy’s Creek and Grantham which would claim at least 18 lives.

This wall of water which destroyed whatever was in its path was still speeding down the range and Ipswich and Brisbane were in its way.  With the Wivenhoe Dam, built to prevent Brisbane from flooding as badly as it did in 1974, releasing two Sydney Harbours worth of water daily to avoid it collapsing and joining together with the water from the flash flooding in Toowoomba, Brisbane and Ipswich and all suburbs in between were about to get wet.  Very wet.

Then the call went out for volunteers to help the council and SES fill sand bags.  A lot of them!  On the Tuesday night, it was still pissing down in Brisbane.  It hadn’t let up and by this stage the governments had advised that low lying areas of Brisbane were going to flood and we were warned that the devastating floods of 1974 were nothing compared to what we were going to see in the coming days.

One of the many sangbag volunteers. Here is Erin Louise Tate from Brisbane’s Southside getting ready to volunteer. @erinlouisetate via Twitter

I love Twitter.  People knock it for whatever reason and they can but a call went out across Twitter (as well as other mainstream media) on that Tuesday night and boy didn’t the people respond.  People who I follow on Twitter, who I have never met but legends still the same started to head out into the rain and the dark of the night to fill up sandbags.  People were heading out at 10pm to lend a hand.  Let me make a comment too that these people were in no danger of their houses being flooded, so they weren’t making sandbags for themselves but for total strangers!  My wife was not home that night so I couldn’t head out but I was on the Twitter #qldfloods feed trying to send out as much information as possible.  What else could I do?  I felt a strong desire to help.   Earlier that day I was out and about and had my journey north to Morayfield interrupted by rising flood waters in Burpengary.

Another flooded road which is damaged at Burpengary. Flood waters at Burpengary. Photo by Jack McClane.

So while watching the news and my Twitter time line I saw the volunteer army that was about to take over SEQ takes its first steps.  I was about to say, first, tentative steps, but it wasn’t tentative.  It was absolute.  It was brilliant and I felt a sense of pride in my fellow Queenslanders that was only going to multiply over the coming days.

I updated my blog to try and centralise the mammoth amount of information that was out there.  Information on how and where to donate, road closure links, emergency services links, how to volunteer etc as well as links to videos and some photos as well to show the people of the world what Queensland was up against.  It was only a small thing but if one person got the relevant info from it and if someone else donated because of it, then good, it did its job!

Wednesday came around and residents in the low lying areas were still packing up their houses as quickly as they could and get their possessions to higher ground.  Sandbag volunteers were still in full force throughout the day and the media kept us up to date with what was happening in Ipswich as the Bremer River neared its peak of 20 metres.

The Brisbane River peak was coming Thursday morning at 4am.  So predawn, the morning news shows fired up their cameras and lights and went to air with the on air guys such as Channel 9’s Karl Stefanovic, himself a Queenslander, crossing to reporters at places where the water was already overflowing the banks of the river.  The river didn’t hit the predicted peak but still thousands of homes and businesses had been destroyed.

Then we saw an image of a 300 metre, 1,000 tonne section of the famous Brisbane Riverwalk which had broken free, floating down the river towards the 12 lane Gateway Bridge. Well the Sir Leo Hielsher Bridge to be accurate but the newly renamed bridge was back to its former moniker for the duration of this crisis.  The Riverwalk was travelling at a very fast speed and who knows if it would have caused any real damage to the bridge but one man and his tugboat didn’t want to take that risk.  While listening to his radio and hearing of the runaway piece of Riverwalk, Tugboat skipper, Doug Hislop and the smallest tugboat I have ever seen called Mavis, headed out into the fast moving Brisbane River just in time to manoeuvre the Riverwalk into a parallel position and guide it through the massive pylons of the Gateway Bridge and to safety at the mouth of the river.  Doug and Mavis gained instant fame and hopefully fortune and a new hero was unearthed.  In his interviews afterwards he was very humble and said that he just did what anyone would do.  I thought that Doug must have been on standby with orders from the government to intercept anything that could be considered dangerous.  He wasn’t.  He just stepped up when he was needed and joined the long list of volunteers that Queensland has seen over the few weeks.

The waters started to recede.  Brisbane had been spared the consequences of a peak equal to or higher than the disastrous 1974 floods.  While thousands were affected, many more thousands were spared.

But still people needed help.  A lot of help.

With the receding water levels, the images started to emerge from the murky brown water.  We at home, and when I say we, I mean all viewers, were shown images of houses completely devastated.  Water had gone over the roofs of many homes and to the ceilings and beyond in most others.  Whatever the water touched, it destroyed.  These poor, poor people. Most are uninsured because most insurance companies will not cover for flood damage, were re-entering their homes to find nothing left.

The clean up was going to take a huge effort.  The army was called in by the federal government but a bigger army formed.  The volunteers!  50,000 of them registered online to assist.  Many more just hit the gridlocked streets to lend a hand.  That Friday afternoon I asked my twelve year old daughter, Michaela, or Mick as I like to call her, if she wanted to help out on Saturday.  Before the words were out of my mouth she said yes.

Saturday morning we prepared for a hard day’s work.  We went to Bunnings to get some supplies.  Top of the list was gum boots.  Driving into the carpark I saw an awesome sight.  People!  Everywhere!  Bunnings is normally always busy but this was nuts.  People were walking out of there with gumboots in hand.  Brooms, shovels, gurneys, scrub brushes.  There was the usual sausage sizzle and it was doing a roaring trade.  The sign on the BBQ said that all proceeds were going to the flood appeal.  We quickly found what we needed and headed to the checkout spending about $100 on what we needed knowing that I would have spent double that if I had to.

A mate of mine, Mark was organising a BBQ in Graceville and asked me to assist with getting some bread rolls.  Working for Bakers Delight I was able to quickly get a stack of bread rolls donated.  Thanks to Bakers Delight at Windsor and Aspley for the kind donation.  We picked up the Aspley ones and headed to the western suburbs of Brisbane.  This area of Brisbane is my old stomping grounds.  I grew up in Toowong and I know the back streets. We’re taking the back streets because the radio is advising us that the roads are packed.  They’re packed not only because of the volunteers and general commuters but also because of the bloody rubber neckers or flood tourists as I called, them heading into the flood zone to take some pictures to put on Facebook and to tell their grandkids that they were there for the great flood of 2011.  Idiots.

Mark rang me and said he was almost out of sausages and could I get some more.  We made our way to Woolies at Toowong and bought all of the snags we could – about 88 – and a slab of bottled water and some ice and proceeded on the journey.  Taking more back streets after seeing the gridlock we eventually couldn’t avoid the congestion as the tiny bridge that links Chelmer to Indooroopilly, the Walter Taylor Bridge, was struggling to cope with the volume of cars.

We couldn’t go the way I wanted into Graceville thanks to a couple of police roadblocks but eventually I found a way in and after explaining to another police officer that I was in fact there to help and not a rubber necker he waved us through.

A typical scene in flood ravaged Graceville. Photo by Jack McClane

That’s when we saw the destruction for the first time with our own eyes.  By this stage we had been on the road for about 3 hours and it was near 1pm.  A lot of work had happened.  The kerb was full of rubbish.  Well rubbish now.  Prized possessions a few days earlier.  It was stacked so high and as a wide as each house.  It was endless.  Then I saw a sight which filled me with so much pride.  The street, a normal suburban street was a hive of activity.  There were people everywhere.  Covered in mud and yuk.

We drove up the street and found Mark.  We dropped off the supplies. Our original plan was to drop and run and head to Goodna, one of the worst affected areas but the struggle it took to get into this flood zone was enough for us, so we parked and donned our gum boots and gloves and with buckets and spades and brooms and sponges we set foot down the road to help where we could.  We went house to house and asked if they needed a hand.  Each house said no thanks, we have all the help we need.  I shit you not, each house had heaps of people in them.  They weren’t kidding, they did have all the help they needed.  One man told us to go and find an elderly gentleman who kept on walking past with a wheel barrow full of rubbish.  He wasn’t sure where he lived but it appeared that he was doing plenty of hard yakka on his own.  We searched for him but couldn’t find him so we eventually returned back to the BBQ area and it was there that a dump truck turned up and we just started loading it with the debris on the side of the roads.  There must have been twenty people loading those trucks each time.  A truck would pull up and get filled and leave.  No one was in charge.  No one needed to be.  Everybody knew what they had to do.  We got filthy dirty and we tried to be careful not to scratch ourselves.  We avoided the nails hammered into now unrecognisable pieces of furniture.  We picked up big pieces and small pieces.  Everything went into the truck.  There was no discrimination there in the streets of Graceville.  Everything was destroyed.

This one bloke, Joe, was up in the back of the truck pulling the rubbish into it as the people below lifted it to his position.  The truck filled quickly and Joe, with his long straggly hair caked in mud and sweat just kept on lifting heavy objects into place.  At one stage he slipped and his side went thundering into the side of the dump truck.  You could tell that it hurt him. He grimaced in pain. I was sure he had cracked a rib such was the force of the fall.  He gave it a rub, took a deep breath and got back to it.  Later on while waiting for another truck, Joe came over and got an ice cold can of coke from Mark and I asked him if he was ok.  He said he was but I doubted it.  I asked him which house was his.  He said none of them.  I asked him if he knew anyone in the street.  He said he didn’t.  He said he just couldn’t watch anymore of it from home and that he had to do something.  His wife was watching the kids and he came here to help out.  Like so many others.  He was willing to crack a rib for total strangers.  He wouldn’t have cared if he did.  None of us would have if we were hurt.  A cracked rib is nothing compared to those who lost their lives in this flood or the loss of treasured possessions.

We helped load debris into the back of trucks. Photo by Jack McClane

Mick and I went for a walk around the corner and we found ourselves next to the river.  We were that close.  We saw many people working in their homes.  Using hoses and gurneys and brooms to get rid of the muck. This one guy was sitting out the front of his house gently cleaning old number plates which a few days earlier, probably adorned his garage wall.  It seemed strange to me at the time that his efforts were being utilised on a mundane item but then I realised that while it was a mundane item to me, it meant the world to him and that is all that matters.

People everywhere were doing the best they could to clean up.  There is no instruction manual or pamphlet to tell you what to do and what order to do it in after a flood.  There also didn’t need to be.  Judging by what we were seeing, people were getting the job done.  It didn’t matter if they started with the smaller stuff first.  If that is what it took them to get the job done, then so be it.

We came across an army roadblock.  There was a group of soldiers clearing a shitload of mud off the road to try and reopen it.  There were about four cars waiting to get through.  They wouldn’t for a while.  I heard one of the soldiers tell one of the other soldiers that a couple of girls a couple of houses up and made them an offer.  If the soldiers washed their cars for them they could also wash their boobs!  It made me laugh.  There was that Queensland spirit.  Even in times of crisis, the chicks just love the Aussie soldiers and they were cracking jokes about it.  I was about to ask which house and was getting myself into car cleaning mode when I remembered that Michaela was with me still.  Bugger!  I’m kidding!

The Army was called into service and assisted with removing debris in their Unimog’s. Photo by Jack McClane

I asked the soldier how long the road block was going to be in place.  He said he didn’t know. So I told him I would tell the now considerable long line of cars that it was closed off.  So we started walking back to our position and I told each car to do a Ubolt.  There were no complaints other than one dickhead who argued with another army jeep that pulled up alongside him.  I said to the guy that it wasn’t their fault and we continued to walk back and tell each car.  There were probably 20 cars that went back in the direction in which they had just come.  No probs.

During this walk we also came across many different volunteers who approached us and asked us if we would like a sandwich or a cold drink or a biscuit.  It was incredible the amount of people who were offering food.  We declined each time as we had brought our own food and drinks and the stuff they had was better suited to all of the other volunteers.  It’s strange, even though we had worked hard as well, I didn’t feel like I was a volunteer.  I wasn’t a victim.  I was just me and that people who really needed that stuff were inside their homes doing it tough.

Mark and Annette fed the masses all day. You can see a destroyed Convenience store behind with the sludge and mud all over the front area. Photo by Jack McClane

Mark who had a smile on his face all day while feeding hungry volunteers had set up the BBQ with his beautiful girlfriend, Annette.  Their spirits were high, even being out in the hot, humid sun and as another volunteer or helper walked past, they offered them a sanga on bread or an ice cold drink.  They had coke and lemonade and water and juice and poppers.  They catered for everyone.  They also had sunscreen and hand disinfectant so that people could wash their hands and kill off the germs before eating.  They thought of everything.

Next to their car I noticed a whole heap of supplies including toilet paper, tissues, long life milk and assorted tinned foods.  It turned out that the council had dropped off these essential supplies so that residents could take some if they were needed.  I thought how good was that!  The different governments involved in this crisis, being the federal, state and local had performed brilliantly throughout this whole crisis.  The information was unbelievable and the fact that council had organised for these emergency supplies to be made available was unreal.  As it turned out no one really wanted the supplies as most people were not staying in their homes.  Most of the homes were unliveable and therefore these items would just be sitting in empty homes.  Annette had a great idea to make up some care packages and hand them out.  So we did and with the last few we loaded them into my car for when we were leaving and found some people who would take them down the street.  Michaela handed them out with so much empathy.  I am so proud of Michaela as well.  She didn’t hesitate to volunteer when I asked her and during the cleanup she turned to me and said, “Dad I am so happy I came.  I feel like I am helping”.  She was helping and doing a bloody good job too!  She’s only 12 but she showed that kids of today care about their world and their neighbours.  She asked if we could come back and volunteer as well.  What a special kid she is.  I thought she would get a valuable life lesson from this and that is why I asked her.  She’ll never forget and I am sure it will make her an even better person, if that is at all possible!

Michaela delivers a care package to a local resident. Photo by Jack McClane

There are so many sad stories in that street alone.  One resident was telling me that he had no insurance and that he lost everything.  Luckily he was only renting but as his lease was almost up he would not be returning.  He was upbeat and positive and would just get on with starting again.  Similar stories were being told up and down that area.  There were no tears or arguments.  In fact it was just the opposite.  There was plenty of laughter.  People were upbeat.  There was an air of confidence in the street.  Yes they were down but they weren’t out.  They would start again.  They would rebuild.

I mentioned earlier that the governments have been terrific in this crisis.  During the height of it, Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh conducted bi-hourly press conferences to keep the public informed.  Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman was front and centre with shirt rolled up to his elbows, not a tie in sight, and informed the people of exactly what was coming.  Our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard nodded and agreed with what was being said and promised to provide money where needed but she really didn’t have much to offer as the lower levels of government did that job superbly.  Only a few short weeks ago Anna Bligh was on a hiding to nothing and would likely lose the next state government election.  Now she is Superwoman and infallible in the eyes of the Queensland public and while I am no fan of hers, she has been bloody brilliant.  At one stage in a press conference she stood before the cameras and the journalists to give another update and to inform us of another confirmed death. She said while holding back tears:

“As we weep for what we have lost, and as we grieve for family and friends and we confront the challenge that is before us, I want us to remember who we are.  We are Queenslanders. We’re the people that they breed tough, north of the border. We’re the ones that they knock down, and we get up again.”

I had a lump in my throat and held back the tears.  She was 100% right.  We are Queenslanders and we are tough.  What a speech to say to her people who have relied on our leader to LEAD and she has done that in spades.  Congrats to Mrs Bligh.  Unlike your namesake, you will not be the subject of a mutiny and I hope that when the finger pointing undoubtedly starts, that people will realise that this was an act of nature and that the government isn’t to blame.  I know there are people who will argue that Wivenhoe should have been released earlier and I am sure the inquiry will determine whether that is what should have happened or not but if it was, the fault is in procedure but not in a person or people.

I am so proud to be a Queenslander!  I wasn’t born here but moved here from Adelaide when I was seven in 1979.  I’ve been here long enough to call myself a Queenslander and I am damn proud to do so.  I have welled up plenty of times over this last week or so.  When I saw people like Erin, volunteer to go out into the rain and fill sandbags was one time.  Another was seeing the long lines of volunteers at the Brisbane City Council registration points, ready to go into battle to fight for Queenslanders. I’ve welled up seeing images of people sandbagging and helping each other out.  I cried when I saw a sign some young girls were holding at the T20 cricket match at the MCG last week saying “We are with you QLD” even as flood waters began to encroach into Victoria.  I welled up when I saw a couple in Brisbane CBD, the day after the peak had damaged inner city businesses, they were walking down the street, covered in mud but walking hand in hand.  Despite the damage to their business, they still had each other.  It was a beautiful moment but one I wished had never had to happen.

An exhausted couple, walk hand in hand in Brisbane’s CBD during the clean up. Photo by Jack McClane

Yes, there is a spirit in Queensland.  I can’t quite tell you what it is.  It is something you need to experience yourself.  As our mighty State of Origin team has shown over the past 30 years, you can never write off a Queenslander.  And when Billy Moore proudly called out that iconic call of ‘Queenslander’ during a State of Origin match in 1995, a new rally cry was born and when Queenslanders are down and fighting, just hearing that yelled out will add strength to any given situation.  I am proud to say I have heard that call a few times this last couple of weeks and every time I do, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I know that everything will be ok.

We still need plenty of help. There is still work to do.  Please continue to talk about it and donate and volunteer where possible.  I still have the information on my blog and you can access that here.

I want to thank Australia for giving a damn about Queensland.  Seeing my great country pull together has been awe inspiring.  We certainly do live in the lucky country!  I also want to point out the great work that the QLD Police Service has done providing timely information to the citizens of this great state.  Their Facebook page is great and the inclusion of their Flood Mythbusters has been invaluable to quash rumours and not cause a panic.  Of course a special thanks to the SES and emergency services who risk their lives to save ours.  Well done.  And of course to the many volunteers either directly in the flood zones or in the many evacuation centres or those who are baking or cooking or behind the keyboard sending out vital information via social networks like Twitter and Facebook.  A special mention to @meshel_laurie who has been an awesome provider of information.  She wasn’t the only with so many of the Twitterati pitching in. I won’t mention you individually because I don’t want to offend anyone by leaving them out.  You know who you are and a job well done.

Normally the media need to sensationalise to make a story more interesting than it actually is.  This story was so big that for once they didn’t need to invent stories.  I think the media reported this story brilliantly.  Most of the networks had rolling coverage throughout the day and night.  They did a great job.  Well done to the media for once, telling it as it had to be told.  Truthfully!

As I finalise this post, the time is 9.40pm, Thursday, 20 January 2011 and it is absolutely bucketing down outside.  With a king tide due tomorrow there is more risk of flash flooding.  Mother Nature can be a total bitch sometimes as she has demonstrated in Queensland over the past couple of months.  She can destroy homes and property and roads and buildings and cars and trucks.  She can come screaming towards you with nothing but destruction in her eye but there is one thing she cannot take and that is the resilience and the strength and the attitude of Queenslanders and Aussies alike.

Queenslander!

p.s.  The fundraising continues.  With a damage bill likely to top over $30 billion we need all we can get.  There are plenty of celebrity auctions on and every street corner has a fundraiser going.  The Barnes family have released an album on iTunes call Floodlight for only $4.99 and you can also buy “Love You Queensland” for $1.69 at iTunes.  It’s a great song, re-recorded just for this occassion.  Check it out.  Those goosebumps are back!

UPDATE:  12 months later, I wrote again about the floods and the now famous, Queensland spirit. I hope you enjoy it. Click here to read it.

Floodageddon 2011

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The following information is supplied by myself as a one stop shop for information.  It is correct at the time of publishing but please do not rely on this info fully.  It is intended as a guide only.  Please refer to official channels such as the Queensland Police Service Facebook page which is listed below for more accurate and up to date information.

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Queensland is facing its worse ever natural disaster as flooding causes wide spread havoc which is affecting most of the state.

The Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh has launched the Queensland Premiers Flood Relief Appeal to help raise funds for Queenslanders, many of whom do not have flood insurance.

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Here is how you can donate:

Donate at any QLD branch of:

Bank Of QLD

Commonwealth Bank

NAB

Westpac

ANZ

Suncorp

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or donate online here

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or call 1800 219 028 and use your credit card

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or donate at Coles or Woolworths Supermarkets at the cash registers

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You can also make a direct EFT payment

Account Name: Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal
BSB: 064 013
Account number: 1000 6800

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If you wish to volunteer to assist people in their time of need, you can do so by registering your interest here

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Friends and Relatives can call 1300 993 191 for info on missing loved ones

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The number for the State Emergency Service is 132500

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Follow the QLD Police Service on Facebook  for up to date information here

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The Brisbane City Council site shows road closures due to floods here

Moreton Bay Regional Council road closures here

Logan City Council road closures here

Redland Council road closures here

Gold Coast City Council road closures here

Sunshine Coast Regional Council road closures and other info here

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Brisbane City Secondary Flood Maps click here or if that page is down the archive is here

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Click here to for general information.

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For those with hearing difficulties here is special video for you.

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Sandbags are available (at time of inputting):

  • Guyatt Park, Bryce Street, St Lucia
  • Botticelli Street Park, Botticelli Street, Fig Tree Pocket
  • Hawthorne Park, Cnr Park and Oak Street, East Brisbane
  • Perrin Park, Josling St, Taringa
  • Darra Works Depot, Shamrock Rd, Darra
  • Morningside Works Depot, Redfern Street, Morningside
  • Newmarket SES Depot, Wilston Rd, Newmarket (in carpark off Erneton Street)
  • Zillmere Works Depot, Jennings Street, Zillmere
  • Stafford Works Depot, Turner Road, Kedron

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QLD Health Disaster Management Plan is available here

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I’ll add more info as I get it.

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Please be safe everybody.

Videos showing the floods:

This shows the force of the flash flood in Toowoomba

A rescue in Toowoomba

A river of cars in this 5 mins of footage in Toowoomba

The water is gone in Toowoomba and this one example of the destruction

This is where the cars ended up from the flash flood in Toowoomba

A tour of the flooded streets of Brisbane at boat level

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Some pictures of the devastating floods taken by me or credited to others.

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If you have a video or photo you want posted here, please email me jack.mcclane@bigpond.com