Soon after Defence concluded support to flood-affected far-north Queensland on 29 December, it was called out again to provide assistance to flood-affected areas in the south-east of the state.
CAPTION: Australian Army soldiers and high -clearance vehicles from 11th Brigade assist in the cleanup at Coomera, following recent violent storms. Story by Captain Cath Batch. Photographer unknown.
When Private Ronin Saunders looked at the devastation caused by the flooding in Cooktown following ex-Tropical Cyclone Jasper, he didn’t hesitate to provide emergency support to his local community in nearby Wujal Wujal.
After securing time off from his civilian employer – local farmer Dave Webber – Private Saunders joined other reservists from 51st Battalion, Far North Queensland Regiment, Privates Coleridge Scotford and Keenan Yale Pearson, under the guidance of Lance Corporal Bowen.
With areas cut off from road access, Private Saunders spent four days flying in an Army AW-139 helicopter to nearby towns, checking on residents and providing essential supplies.
“We were really busy working with the Queensland Police doing welfare checks in Wujal Wujal and making sure people were okay,” Private Saunders said.
“With damage to roads, it made it hard for them to get places, and many were without power and showers.
“We took them food and water, and helped where needed.
“A few Chinooks arrived in Cooktown with pallets of water, Sultana Bran, Weetbix, bread and potatoes.”
Lance Corporal Bowen believed the reservists’ work really helped where most were locals and had connections to the community.
“It was great to have a team on the ground in Cooktown supporting surrounding areas with essential supplies,” Corporal Bowen said.
“About 30 people came from Wujal Wujal on the Chinook, who needed medicines and other essential items.
“We were lucky to have Queensland Ambulance here to meet those people.”
Down south, members of Brisbane’s 11th Brigade were met with smiles and gratitude from local residents, and had a chance meeting with the Queensland Premier, while assisting state agencies in clearing access to essential infrastructure following storms across the Gold Coast region.
Following a request from the Queensland Police Service on 2 January, about 50 ADF personnel, along with high-clearance vehicles, were deployed to assist with recovery efforts in the Gold Coast, Logan and Scenic Rim areas.
On 3 January, ADF reconnaissance and coordination teams worked with emergency authorities to prioritise tasks for ADF personnel.
The region is strewn with damaged buildings, infrastructure and fallen trees.
Army personnel are enabling workers to restore key services, including electricity networks, communications, water supply and sewage-treatment plants.
About 80 ADF personnel with high-clearance vehicles are working with the Queensland Police Service and Energex during recovery efforts in the Gold Coast, Logan and Scenic Rim areas after storms caused widespread damage on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Sappers Cameron Gough and Claire Lowe were on the ground with chainsaws clearing roads when they crossed paths with Queensland Premier Steven Miles and Federal Minister for Emergency Management Murray Watt, who thanked them for their hard work.
“It has been a very busy day responding to requests,” Sapper Lowe said.
“The chainsaw has not stopped as we have moved from location to location to clear debris from roads and power infrastructure.
“We were busy at work and were surprised to meet the Premier and the Senator, but had a good chat with them and they even offered to help.”
Commander Joint Task Group 629.3 Brigadier Richard Peace said he couldn’t be more pleased with the way personnel were helping a community in need.
“Often our soldiers are stepping into their own community or places they have previously resided to provide assistance,” Brigadier Peace said.