Community stories: 12 March 2019
During Cyclone Debbie in 2017 the Pioneer River in Mackay, Queensland, broke its banks, flooding surrounding homes and businesses. The local Western Suburbs Clubhouse, spared from flooding, was used as a recovery centre after Cyclone Debbie at the request of local Police.
Over 17 people located along Scrubby Creek came to the Club seeking shelter and assistance after their residences were decimated by water. In addition, aerial rescues were conducted on the 30th March 2017 with 18 Eton families flown by helicopter to the Club for safety. The grounds of the Club provided the ideal landing area for the rescue helicopters. The Mackay Salvation Army Emergency Services Team were on site to provide catering and support to the evacuated residents.
During this period the Clubhouse lost power along with the rest of the Walkerston district. The surrounding communities of Koumala, Calen, Eungella, Finch Hatton, Walkerston, Marian and Mirani did not have power restored for up to eight days. 70% of Mackay Region or more than 61,000 homes across the Mackay region were left without power.
With the power down, communications services were restricted and support and assistance for evacuated residents was limited. Limited contact was available between local Police, SES, Salvation Army and Club members/staff. The community was unaware of any further weather events that may impact on them and did not know when it was safe for people to return to their homes. Catering services were limited to the use of a BBQ to provide warm drinks, sausages on bread, cereal and juices. The club has bathroom facilities for showering but without power, hot water was not available. With people staying at the Club House for multiple days, functioning bathroom facilities are essential.
At last when the Cyclone Debbie had passed and recovery could begin, the Mackay community knew that disaster preparedness was crucial to the recovery effort. The Western Suburbs Rugby League Football Club received a $15,000 Repair-Restore-Renew grant funded by the John T Reid Charitable Trusts to install a power generator at the Clubrooms. Since the installation the community experience a number of electricity blackouts and local residents evacuated from their homes with the worst recorded bushfires in history devastating the Pioneer Valley. Having the new generator meant that the club were in a position to provide a comfortable and safe environment, and access to meals and local services to local residents and emergency services.